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Interviews > Aaron Jakubenko

Earlier this year, viewers were introduced to Robbo Slade, and he's been causing problems for the Turner family ever since. This week, UK viewers saw Robbo at the centre of one of this year's biggest plots, as he was knocked down and left for dead, in a mysterious hit-and-run. Here, actor Aaron Jakubenko chats to us about his acting career and what it was like to play Robbo.

Can you tell us a little about how you first got into acting, and some of the roles you played before joining Neighbours as Robbo?
I got into acting when I was almost 20. Mainly out of curiosity and a love towards the film and TV industry. I was also building at the time and very focussed on sport but due to an injured back, I stepped away from that and thankfully, I found acting! Since I started I've had some fun roles. The highlights before Neighbours would definitely be my first international role on STARZ Spartacus, playing Sabinus, a loyal Roman soldier, as well as sports drama Blinder where I played Ricky Dawson, the trouble maker on the footy team.

You had a couple of minor Neighbours roles in 2009 and 2011 - what do you remember about filming those?
Rhys Sutton was the first role I played on Neighbours, and actually one of the first professional roles I ever played. He was an AFL party boy who had a lot to do with Ringo, being his main competition on the team and may have helped lead him in to a bit of trouble. Brad Bain was the second which was a fun character to play, as he was just the relaxed uni type character who met Kate and Jade at the bar. Cracking jokes, playing pool and just generally having fun.

But something you may not know... When I first got interested in acting I actually started as an extra (someone in the background) and I did a lot of that on Neighbours too. Which was great, it really taught me the etiquette of being on set and just how it all worked.

How did the role of Robbo come about? Was it just a typical audition for you?
Definitely wasn't a typical audition for me at the time. I was over in Los Angeles and literally just stepped out of a meeting when I got a call from my Australian management saying that Neighbours were interested in me putting down an audition tape to play Robbo. So I had to film it in my hotel with a friend. Thankfully by the time I got back to Australia I was told that I had the role.

Did you enjoy playing Robbo? How would you describe the character?
I absolutely loved playing Robbo. After some discussions with one of the producers, Richard, and the casting director, Thea, we really tried to play against the typical bad boy image because his 'bad' side came through in his actions. So we decided to keep him as warm and almost as charming as we could. Which made him even creepier. One of the main reasons we wanted to play him like this is because it would make it easier to believe that Amber could keep falling for him. Every bad guy has to have a reason to be bad. Robbo isn't some crazy axe murderer, he's just a really lonely guy. He had a tough childhood and unfortunately he didn't find love or happiness. I truly believe that (somewhere very, very deep down haha) he missed his relationship with both Amber and Mason but he was too selfish to care about how his actions could hurt them, and eventually this rivalry that was created between him and Mason became the only way he could not feel lonely. It's a sad story really.

Were there any actors you particularly enjoyed working with?
Well one of my good friends off screen is James Mason who plays Chris, so any time we got a scene together we got way too excited and bounced around like little kids!! But honestly I loved working with everyone. I did most of my scenes with Jenna (Amber) and Taylor (Mason), and they were both great to work with. Jenna's absolutely lovely and a great actress and Taylor is one of the most passionate guys I've ever met.

How did it feel to be working alongside such an established cast?
It felt great working with the cast. Everyone was so in tune with the 'machine' of Neighbours. They knew how it worked, knew what to do and how to do it, and that made me feel so comfortable asking for help with anything. Colette (Sheila) was always giving me amazing advice, as was Josef (Matt). Their expertise really taught me how to perform my best under the often demanding schedules. And working with the cast members who have been there for such a long time was great too, it always made me want to do my absolute best. Working with Ryan (Toadie) and Alan (Karl) was great because I grew up with them on my screens.

Were you always aware, when you first joined, that the story would end in the hit-and-run?
No, I wasn't at all. In fact, I was only hired for the first few months at the start. And I guess they were happy with how it all went so they got Robbo back to cause even more trouble. When they brought me back I was told about the story then, but I was only told it was going to be a hit and run just weeks before filming it. And none of the cast had any idea who was driving the car until about a week before. They called us all in for a meeting and went over the story for everyone who was involved. It was exciting!

Robbo was a fairly unpleasant character - did you receive any interesting feedback or reactions from the public during your time on screen?
"Does Robbo ever shower?" That one made me laugh! But I truly received some of the most rewarding feedback that I've ever had. If you knew me at all, you'd know that I'm nothing like Robbo. I struggle to be mean at the best of times. So to hear how a lot of the viewers absolutely hated Robbo, it gave me a lot of confidence with my work on the show! I just hope that roles like Robbo can educate the world for the better. Teach people that aggression and hate gets you no where!

Have you ever been a viewer of the series yourself?
I have, it's a great show and it's always fun trying to keep up with the havoc thats happening in Erinsborough!

Where would you like to see your acting career go from here?
Well, it's been an exciting few months since finishing on Neighbours. I've been getting pretty close to landing some great international roles, so if that's where my career is starting to head then I'm all for it. But generally, I just love this form of art and entertainment. If I can make a living from it, playing some great characters and get to travel more with it, then that would be amazing!

Finally, as it approaches 30 years on Australian television, what do you think is the secret to Neighbours' success?
30 years..? WOW! I honestly believe its because it's a show that takes you through the every day lives of these characters. And as a result of that, the viewers form some sort of relationship with them. You get to experience life's ups and downs with these interesting characters. You've invested time in them. You feel for them when things aren't going great and you're excited for them when it is.

Interview by Steve. Added on 21st September 2013