Australia first met loveable larrikin Rob “Millsy” Mills 14 years ago as a contestant on the very first season of Australian Idol.
Since then, Rob has tackled a wide range of roles and enjoyed a successful career as a triple-threat performer.
“It’s a really great storyline,” Rob, 34, enthuses. “I’ve enjoyed playing kind of a villain because, in most of the shows I’ve done in theatre, I’m always a prince or nice guy. This time, not so much.”
Even though he enjoyed playing against type, Rob reveals he found the role emotionally draining.
“The other day I had a scene where I had to yell at Jodi [Anasta, who plays Elly], and I got quite emotional afterwards,” he says. “It was my last scene of the day, and I sat in the car and had a little cry, to be honest.”
Rob adds: “I don’t like yelling at people – especially at a woman. I’m so close with my mum and sisters and cousins, and it is really, really foreign to me. I don’t like it at all.”
For a long time after Australian Idol had ended, Rob struggled to shake his lingering persona as class clown.
Now, he finally feels he’s grown out of that role and is taken seriously as a performer.
“I still get nervous,” Rob admits. “But after eight years of stage shows, I feel a lot more comfortable within my skin.
“I’m more self-aware and have greater self-worth than I did a few years back.”
Without sounding arrogant, the actor knows he’s “good enough to be here”.
“It’s a weird thing to say that in Australia – to say you’re good enough,” Rob points out. “I think we have a real problem with that kind of thing, for some reason.”
Despite Finn’s more negative traits, Rob did see some similarities between himself and his character.
“He’s very charismatic,” Rob says. “And I like to think I am a little bit, too.” [Laughs]
“Plus, he’s honest and genuine, and he sees the good in people. He sees their potential.”
One aspect of portraying Finn that Rob particularly enjoyed was getting the chance to act as a teacher.
“I think in another life I could’ve been a teacher,” he says. “When I was growing up, I thought about becoming a schoolteacher, so it’s cool to be playing one now. It’d be great to work with kids.”
Playing the teacher comes quite naturally to Rob. In fact, while chatting to TV WEEK, he was en route to a primary school to teach the students some drama games.
“I often do workshops,” he says. “But this is the first time I’ve gone to my niece and nephew’s school. It’ll be fun!”
With a long list of TV cameos on some of Australia’s favourite shows under his belt, it’s no surprise Rob has made the move to Neighbours.
And he couldn’t be happier about joining such an institution.
“I absolutely love it,” Rob gushes. “It’s a great team – the cast, crew, even everyone in the office! It’s a joy to go to work every day. Even with the early starts, I get up and go, ‘This is great.’”
Rob adds: “Neighbours is such an iconic drama, and it’s particularly exciting for me, having grown up in Melbourne. I used to see all the trucks in the car park where I’d play baseball, which was right behind Ramsay Street. It all feels quite familiar.”
So what’s next on the cards for Millsy?
“I’m looking forward to doing more TV and film after this,” Rob says. “But I’m also writing another one-man show to follow up from the one I did last year.
“I’m not sure yet about the title, but I’m thinking maybe Cabaret Is Not A Dirty Word.”
Rob says his aim is to “get people to see cabaret and realise it’s not all jazz hands and burlesque”.
He adds: “But, at the end of the day, what I really want to do is tell stories that will make people laugh and cry.”