He left Neighbours 25 years ago, but now Alan Dale is making a surprise comeback

“I did say I was never going to return…”
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When a heart attack killed off his Neighbours character Jim Robinson in 1993, the actor who played him, Alan Dale, swore he’d never return to the show.

But now, 25 years later, the actor is set make a special cameo in the soap’s Christmas episode this year.

“I did say I was never going to return…” Alan, 71, tells TV WEEK, “because I was dead!”

On screen, the stress of a family feud about his relationship with Fiona Hartman (Suzanne Dudley) pushed Jim over the edge. Having been on the show since the beginning, Jim’s death came as a shock to fans. But it was a shock for Alan too, who says his leaving Neighbours was a result of tension behind the scenes.

“I had some disagreements, so that’s how we parted ways back then,” he explains.

Flashback to 1988: Alan (centre) with the Neighbours cast.

A recent visit to the set – his first in 25 years – to see Stefan Dennis, who plays his on-screen son Paul Robinson, led Alan to have a change of heart.

“I try to get out to Australia and New Zealand most years to keep in touch [Alan lives in the US] and I’m still close friends with Stefan,” he recalls. “I went to visit him – and then a producer asked me if I’d be interested in coming on. I said yes.”

Much to Alan’s surprise, when he did return to the Neighbours set in Melbourne to shoot his scenes, he encountered more than one familiar face from his time on the show decades earlier.

“A lot of the crew were the same people I worked with back in the day,” he says. “It was fun to catch up with them.”

Stefan Dennis and Alan Dale.

Exactly how Alan will make his reappearance on the show remains a secret.

“I don’t want to ruin the story – you’ll have to wait and see,” he teases. “I just wanted to finish the circle and put all that stuff [the unhappiness behind his original departure] behind me.”

For more from our interview with Alan Dale – and to read our special Neighbours 20-page mini-mag – pick up a copy of this week’s issue of TV WEEK. On sale now!

TV WEEK on sale now!

Neighbours airs weeknights, 6:30pm, on 10 Peach.

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