Reference > Erinsborough News > Not Moving Anywhere
On March 18, 1985, we were introduced to our new Neighbours. Who’d have guessed that, two decades later, we’d still be playing daily visits to Ramsay Street? Original cast member Stefan Dennis helps celebrate the 20th birthday of an Aussie icon.
Stefan Dennis will never forget the way he was introduced to Neighbours viewers, when the series first hit our screens 20 years ago. And little wonder – the inaugural Neighbours episode saw Stefan’s alter ego, Paul Robinson, arriving on the doorstep of his family home looking rather under the weather, and wearing a nappy, baby bonnet and bib!
“That was my first episode,” laughs the popular actor, who recently returned to Ramsay Street after a 12-year absence to reprise his role as the villainous Paul. “Paul was delivered back to his dad after a buck’s party. He was very, very drunk and dressed up as a baby!”
As well as Stefan, the first Neighbours cast included the late Anne Haddy, Alan Dale (who’s currently starring in the popular US series, The OC), Elaine Smith, Peter O’Brien and Paul Keane.
According to Stefan, none of his fellow original cast members were overly sure that the show would become a success. “Being part of a brand-new drama serial,” he says, “we were all very aware that it might work and it might not work. I don’t think any of us had huge expectations of a great ongoing career within this show. I actually remember saying to my agent ‘I’ll do it for six months, because that’s probably as long as it will last’. At the time, quite a few other series had started up and failed within a year, so we were being quite realistic about it.”
“Saying that, we were also as optimistic as you could possibly be for a show to be ongoing and gain strength. It has certainly lived up to that, because it’s now one of the longest-running series in the world.”
Stefan, who had earlier appeared in other Australian drama series, such as Prisoner and The Flying Doctors, before landing the role of Paul Robinson, reveals that back then he didn’t look at the filming of the first episodes as a great milestone in his career.
“I don’t think any of us thought of it as a milestone then. It wasn’t until a few years on, when it had become an absolute phenomenon here and overseas, that we suddenly thought, ‘Hang on, this is a milestone in Australian television history’”.
However, something the cast was certain of from the word go was that they needed to get along and support each other if the show was to have a chance of longevity. “We all thought, ‘Let’s pull together and make this work’,” Stefan recalls. “And we did. Not only was it a different era, but it was a lot closer-knit. Nothing against the cast that is here now – everyone works together really brilliantly still – but, yes, there was something special about the original cast, and I really think that’s because it was the original cast.”
Stefan remains particularly close to Alan Dale, who played his father, Jim Robinson, in Neighbours.
“Alan really is a bit like my dad,” he reveals. “He’s like my closest mate. Whenever I need a bit of advice, he seems to give it to me.”
Asked why he believes Neighbours is still going strong two decades on, Stefan hesitates for a moment before replying.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” he says. “There’s a magic formula that I don’t think anyone can really put their finger on. If anyone could, I think we’d all be squillionaries!”
This article originally appeared in TV Week magazine, dated 25th March 2005 and was written by Jackie Brygel