TV

Stefan Dennis looks back at a legendary career on Neighbours

The actor celebrates 34 years of playing Paul Robinson

By Maddison Hockey
Everybody needs good neighbours, or so the legendary Neighbours theme song goes.
But notorious Ramsay Street villain Paul Robinson must have missed the memo after spending the past 34 years meddling in their lives!
Just as Paul has etched his place in Australian television history, so too has his portrayer, Stefan Dennis.
Stefan celebrates 34 years on Neighbours.
The only remaining original cast member since the show began in 1985, Stefan has been there for almost every character's loss, tragedy, birth, wedding and joyous occasion.
In the process, Paul has become one of TV's longest-running characters, a badge of honour the Neighbours veteran wears with pride.
As the iconic soap celebrates its 8000th episode, Stefan, 60, reflects on the milestone occasion, fame, retirement and special moments.
Paul Robinson is arrested - not the first time we've seen him in trouble!
Neighbours has hit 8000 episodes – what a feat! How does it feel to be the longest-running cast member?
No different to anybody else on the show. I mean, I'm constantly reminded of it by the cast taking the mickey out of me, as well as people on the street and people in the industry.
We recently had Patti Newton on the show and I was like, "Wow, Patti Newton – she's a legend."
And she turned around and said, "Well, you are a real TV legend." All I could think was, my God, Patti Newton just called me a TV legend!
Paul has survived 34 years in Ramsay Street. Surely that's deserving of "legend" status?
I mean, it is… When you first lock into an ongoing drama, you tend to think, "Oh, God – this is my life on the show, I'll never do anything else."
But, these days, I'm immensely proud of it, simply because I've held down this job for the past 34 years.
I sort of pinch and remind myself that I hold the record for being the longest-serving ongoing character in Australian television history. That's quite an accolade.
Stefan during his earlier days on the show.
You ran into fellow long-time soap icon Ray Meagher, aka Alf from Home And Away, recently…
I saw Ray at the Logies. We sort of bumped into each other and shook hands and said, "Oh, here we are – the two old farts of TV." [Laughs]
We're such a rarity. Not just in Australia, but also worldwide. We're two actors who have been working consistently all these decades.
After so many years, does retirement ever cross your mind?
I recently said to my wife [Gail Easdale] that the morning I wake up and don't want to go to work is the morning I've got to stop doing this.
Luckily, that hasn't happened yet. Even if I go to work in the grumpiest mood, within half an hour I'm in a great mood again and having fun.
I keep thinking, "I must have been a Buddhist monk in a torture chamber in a past life, because I really landed on my feet in this one!"
Paul and Sheila (Colette Mann) trapped in The Waterhole.
Neighbours has fostered some great talent over the years. Do you ever find yourself giving guidance to the newbies on set?
I still kind of feel like I don't want to step on anybody's toes. I don't think Jackie [Woodburne], Fletch [Alan Fletcher], Ryan [Moloney], Colette [Mann] or I feel we're the teachers or mentors on the show, but we're certainly there if somebody wants it.
You must have so many amazing career memories – but are there any standouts?
They've probably not been moments on set – it's more what happens because of the fact I've been in Neighbours. For example, Pepsi invited me and [former co-star] Kristian Schmid to a Michael Jackson concert at Wembley Stadium [in London].
We were shown to these VIP box seats, and the next minute, somebody turned around and said, "Oh, my God – it's Paul Robinson and Todd from Neighbours."
Within 15 seconds, the entire stadium of 72,000 people were on their feet cheering and clapping because we'd walked in.
Then, about five minutes later, Prince Charles and his entourage came in and there was hardly a ripple!
Stefan and and co-star Gayle Blakeney.
You've been a part of so many big moments on the show, but what was it like to witness David [Takaya Honda] and Aaron's [Matt Wilson] same-sex wedding in September?
I talk about being proud, but we've set the bar for so many other shows, and not just shows, but ways of life.
It was a very significant thing for Neighbours to do, simply because it came on the back of the legislation changes in Australia. And it showed that Neighbours was up to date and not afraid to take that extra step.

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