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Neighbours

EXCLUSIVE: Don Hany spills on his Neighbours debut and taking over from Tim Robards

''It was like walking into someone else’s life.''

By Clare Rigden
He's one of Australia's highest-profile acting talents, best known for taking on gritty, intense roles in some of the country's most acclaimed films and TV series.
But this week Don Hany makes his debut on Neighbours – stepping into a character last inhabited by ex-Bachelor star Tim Robards!
It's a strange fit, but we have to say – we're loving it!
"And so am I," laughs Don, who is chatting to TV WEEK at the tail-end of Melbourne's brutal four-month second lockdown.
"I actually had an awesome time. It's not really something I ever thought I'd get to do, but I'm really proud of it, and I feel very lucky I got a chance to do it."
Stepping into the role of Pierce Greyson certainly wasn't on Don's '2020 Bingo card'. But then, getting caught up in a global pandemic wasn't either.
After COVID-19 struck, the 45-year-old Logie-winning actor suddenly found the projects he had slated to film in 2020 were suddenly cancelled.
When Neighbours approached about the possibility of stepping in for one month to replace Tim Robards – who had to leave the show four weeks earlier than scheduled due to lockdown and the impending birth of his first child – his slate was surprisingly clean.
Tim has taken over from the Bachelor star. (Channel Ten)
"I never really came close to working on the show for so long," he explains. "And then suddenly being in the middle of it, when all this [COVID] weirdness was going on around it – it was surreal.
"It was almost like I dreamed the whole chapter!
"Now I'm on the other side of it, it's like, I feel so grateful I had the chance."
So spill – was it as fun stepping into the shoes of a character like Pierce, Ramsay Street's resident philandering billionaire?
"It was the best job I have ever had!" Don laughs. "First of all, because Tim had done all this work for me – it was like walking into someone else's life for a month.
"But also because there were so many people I knew there."
Don became a household name on Offspring. (Channel Ten)
Though he says he was busier "playing cricket" as a kid than watching episodes of the iconic Aussie soap, Don admits he was very familiar with many of the characters.
"The thing is, whether you watched the show or not, the characters are just tattooed in everyone's mind," he says, adding that he was as excited as anyone to be meeting some of them on their home turf of Ramsay Street!
"It was really great to meet some of the cast that had been there so long, like Stefan (Dennis). And I have been a huge fan of Annie Jones since the early days – and Fletch (Alan Fletcher) and Jackie (Woodburne)," he says.
"Also, I was so impressed with the talent of the younger cast. Ben Turland (who plays Hendrix Greyson) – he was such a joy to work with; such a lovely guy and such a great sense of humour, but so talented as well."
WATCH BELOW: Bonnie Anderson sings the new Neighbours theme song. Post continues below...
For several years, Don's wife, Strike Back actress Alin Sumarwata, also appeared on the show, playing regular character, Vanessa Villante. During her time there, Don got to know many of her co-stars.
"It was like going to work at an old friend's, because I knew most people already through her, or through other jobs I'd done," he explains.
"It surprised me, on one hand, to see just how close everyone was. Even though I knew people separately, I hadn't seen everybody together like that, and I didn't realise just what a tight family that group of people is – much more than it would normally be (on a set), simply because of the hours they work.
"They work all week, and all year – and they just don't stop!"
"They just don't stop!" Don says of the hard working cast and crew. (Channel Ten)
Stopping is not something Don has done a lot of these past few years. In fact, it took a global pandemic to get him to slow down a bit.
During both Melbourne lockdowns, Don spent his time pottering around at home with his wife and two daughters, getting stuck into all those household jobs that had been piling up.
"We had the opportunity to get on with all the things we said we would do one day," he says.
"I think if you are lucky enough that you weren't working with an airline or working in a restaurant where your life literally changed overnight and you stopped working, it was Ok – I can't imagine how many lives have been turned upside down because of that."
With 2020 suddenly unexpectedly quiet on the job front, his short one-month gig at Ramsay Street came along at just the right time. Neighbours was one of the world's first TV series to resume filming – with strict social distancing guidelines in place – which meant it was business as usual. Sort of.
"Everyone was being incredibly safe and responsible, and there were temperature checks and COVID testing," he says of the rules in place.
"Where it's practical, there is social distance everywhere, and it's all about limiting the possibility of contact – there are as few people during scenes [as possible], and they are sanitising props everywhere and everyone is squeezing sanitiser onto their hands during scenes.
"Everyone knew all the measures are in place to ensure that production can keep rolling."
Don also starred in medical drama Heartbeat. (Supplied)
Don says it's testament to the resilience of the show that it has been able to endure during these tricky times.
"And even before this, that it has survived so long without really any local money," he says.
"It's been sort of taken for granted, and assumed that it's always going to be there. But if you think about how many big industry people literally started on that show, or on one of two shows in the country – Home and Away and Neighbours – and then gone on to become huge, huge industry role models, it's something to be proud of."
Now Don can count himself amongst that esteemed company.
"I really did have an awesome time," he says. "I feel lucky I got the chance to do it."

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