Uncut neighbors: what the stars really did

Four decades and nearly 9,000 episodes later, one of Australia’s favorite villains is throwing mud and sometimes good, and the cult soap series Neighbors is coming to an end.

It was December 1984 when the then obscure Stefan Dennis stepped up to the sprawling Neighbors movies to take Paul Robinson’s place in high heels.

Four decades and nearly 9,000 episodes later, he is highly recognizable here and abroad and is preparing to say goodbye to one of Australia’s favorite villains when filming wraps up on the iconic soap on Friday.

The enormity of being the only cast member on set that very first and last day doesn’t escape the attention of the 63-year-old, but Dennis admits, chatting between takes on a very cold outdoor shoot, that he just there was no time for emotions.

“I just come to work every day and every day is busier than ever for a long time and very, very long hours,” says Dennis.

“So we’re just doing the gig we’ve been doing for the last 40 years because we still have to produce the show for the rest of the week. But… it will be quite emotional.”

He’s a big bitch – his own words – so Dennis is hinting that all tears will flow when the cuts are announced for the last time on Friday.

While it will be easy to convey all the feelings, narrowing down his most memorable moments is somewhat more difficult. Five years ago, when we were chatting, Dennis joked that it was a ridiculous question. Fair enough, considering he’s the only original cast member still in a fictional stalemate called Ramsay St, with a lot of TV magic to choose from. You name it, his character, the often nefarious Paul Robinson, has done it – been taken hostage, lost a leg, thrown into jail, amnesiac, or just heading down the altar on repeat.

He had six wives and nine weddings, two more than Jarrod “Toadie” Rebecca Ryan Moloney.

In the show’s final months, a cavalcade of stars have been announced including Daniel MacPherson, who played Joel Samuels, Melissa Bell, who played Paul’s younger sister, Lucy Robinson, Peter O’Brien, who appeared on the show’s first episode as Shane Ramsay, and Natalie Bassingthwaite. . who was one of Paul’s wives Izzy Hoyland.

Ian Smith was Harold Bishop for 21 years and was very pleased to be asked to reprise his role as the dirty stepfather for Charlene Kylie Minogue. Now, the 83-year-old actor still remembers his first day on set like it was yesterday.

“It’s creepy, I remember knocking on the front door on Ramsay Street and Kylie answered,” he says. “I think she was dressed like a clown. They were all there, throwing some kind of dress-up party.

“But look, you know what? I just somehow knew it was important.

“I had no idea why. I just knew this show would change my life.”

So it was.

“I spent many years on stage, both in musical theater and in regular theater,” he shares.

At the height of their power, the Neighbors stars enjoyed or tolerated near-Beatle hysteria. Smith had his very own Beatle moment at the Water Rats, a British exclusive party. He and screen wife Anne Charleston attended and were amazed to be included in such illustrious company.

And then one of the Fab Four, George Harrison, approached Smith and asked for his autograph.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” exclaims Smith. “I gave the Beatles an autograph.

“Well, that was my favorite story of the rest of my life. To be honest, I was numb… I can’t remember what he said, I was so amazed.

“I don’t know if all the Beatles are Neighbors fans, but I can tell you for sure that he was.”

While Harold’s return was a coup, the excitement came to a head when it was revealed that Minogue and Jason Donovan would return as Charlene and Paul’s younger brother Scott Robinson.

Dennis says it was amazing to be reunited with so many originals. After a few seconds of mild awkwardness, the years that followed simply melted away.

“Working on a show like this, you become such close friends,” he says.

“We were tense on screen and off. We worked and played together. I just remembered the pranks we used to play in the studio and on weekends.”

Prank – tell me? From skateboarding down the halls with on-screen brother Donovan to trying to sneak in front of the live news to wave to your mom (Tan’s news production office used to be Nunawading Studios), it was mostly harmless fun.

Though the regular setbacks to Channel 10’s The Early Bird Show with Darryl Cotton after a big Friday night on the town may have been pushing it.

“Maybe we hung out all night in clubs or somewhere else, and the next morning we came terribly exhausted,” recalls Dennis.

“We literally didn’t go to bed. Maybe have breakfast and then go to work.

“And then one of us would come up with a great idea to crash the Early Bird Show. You could see the horror on Darryl’s face as we entered the studio very loudly and then just took over.”

And boldness is still present in these last days. If viewers take a closer look at the refrigerator in Quill-Tanaka’s house, they may notice a few obscene words. It turns out that actors waiting for a scene to rehearse often rearrange the magnetic letters into all sorts of interesting phrases.

Dennis also noticed that letters were beginning to arrive at Paul’s office at the Lassiters Hotel – the last “S” arrived last week.

“Wouldn’t it be great if one more letter fell off every day, and all we had left was just three letters – ASS?” he laughs.

And ass is the perfect name for Paul. Or a bastard. Or a villain. And that’s what Dennis will miss the most about his longtime alter ego. This is certainly something audiences missed when he returned to Erinsborough in 2004 after 12 years in the UK. The producers decided to redeem Paul by writing a storyline in which a brain tumor was discovered and subsequently removed, as well as his villainous tendencies.

“It got very clean to the point of being squeaky, and I went along with it because it’s my job,” Dennis shares.

“But I kept saying, ‘Guys, audiences hate it when Paul is good.’ The producers said “Yes, of course”, probably thinking that I was simply not happy with my fate.

“A couple of months later, we held a charity event after the wildfires on Black Saturday in front of a huge crowd.

“I had the microphone, so I asked the crowd to raise their hands if they liked Paul’s good behavior. About three hands went up. I looked at the producers, who were also there, and glanced at them.

“Then I said, ‘Who likes it when Paul acts nasty?’ and everyone else in the building raised their hand.

“I turned to the producers with the audience as witnesses and said, ‘Here’s your answer guys.’

“And from that moment on, they slowly began to bring him back to what he is now. A little bit of a motherfucker

And while that bastard is retiring, Dennis has no plans for it in real life – “actors don’t retire, they die,” Dennis jokes, and he jokingly pleads, “Is there anyone who will give me job?

He pauses when asked what legacy he hopes the institution will leave behind.

“It’s funny – it’s not about what remains, but about what won’t remain,” he muses.

“Now I’m going to get into politics a bit. I seem biased, but it is common knowledge that we have done incredible things for Australian tourism and for the industry itself at all levels. In mentoring and training, and in giving people jobs. And set trends and fashion.

“I keep mentioning the fact that we were the first production to offer us a model to get back to work during that first Covid lockdown.

“Little old neighbors in Melbourne were in charge of getting all the production studios around the world back to work.

“(Executive Producer) Jason (Harbison) got calls every day from studios all over the world asking how we do it.

“At the end of the day, it’s just a TV show and TV shows come and go, but since this was such an iconic and historic event, it’s a shame we can’t continue what we’ve been doing for everyone. these years.”

Neighbors, 18:30, 10Peach until August 1

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