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Reference > Erinsborough News > Is His TV Role Taking Over?

Television’s Jim Robinson is a bit of a worry – at times it seems that the easy-going veteran of Ramsay Street is taking over the life of actor Alan Dale. In fact, Alan occasionally even talks in the first person about his alter ego Jim – “I was an engineer originally, but my partner went broke and I invested in this garage.”

And at home on the weekends, you’re likely to find Alan stretched out underneath his Mercedes – just like mechanic Jim on the set of the long-running Australian hit soap Neighbours. Yet after nearly 1100 episodes, New Zealand-born Alan can still remember that there was life before Neighbours.

At home in Auckland when he was 21, Alan was a car salesman who wanted to be an actor. At night and on weekends he would be playing roles in amateur theatre productions of King Lear or Macbeth. In 1978, he won a role in an early New Zealand TV production and began doing midnight-to-dawn stints as a radio announcer before deciding to try his luck in Australia.

Soon after his arrival in Australia, Alan was given the part of Dr John Forrest in The Young Doctors - a role he played for the next three years. Then there were reviews in Sydney hotels and turns as a stand-in for Ita Buttrose and John Laws on Sydney’s 2UE. But in 1979 a phone call from his agent was to change all that. The next day he auditioned for a part in a new Australian soap called Neighbours - and Alan Dale became Jim Robinson.

“You know, Jim is sort of the rock of Ramsay Street, the steady, hard-working fellow,” says Alan. “When I started, Reg Watson, the wonderful guru who designed Neighbours and other shows, said to me, ‘When you take this role, I want you to play it as we write it. The temptation will be there to play against that and make him more volatile, but remember that other characters will be doing volatile things and we want your character to stay steady in the middle, so that the other characters can ebb and flow around you.’ I’ve followed that advice pretty religiously, but yes, although Jim is a lot older than I am, there are parallels.”

Cars are clearly one of them. He loves them. “I tend to look at cars as being a work of art,” says Alan, who over the years has lovingly restored old Jaguars and Mercedes and swapped them for cars like his favourite – a Morgan sports car.

Alan laughs as he recalls the arrival of starry-eyed Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan on the set of Neighbours: “They were just out of school and we used to talk about the future and how it would be a good idea to get some money into property. That’s the way Australia is designed, really. Property seems the safest investment.”

“I suppose they thought I was a silly old chook – they certainly didn’t think I was some super guru, but I hope they did invest in some property.”

With two grown sons, Simon, 18, a budding actor and Matthew, 20, a musician, Alan is confident that his job is going to be around for a long time yet.

This article originally appeared in New Idea magazine, dated 13th January 1990 and was written by John Monks

Article submitted by Steve


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