Neighbours legend Stefan Dennis chats icons Kylie and Jason and turning 60

ARE you a bit of a card shark then, Stefan?

I love s**thead and rummy. My wife [actress Gail Easdale, 46] and I are real games people. We met over a jigsaw puzzle at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, when we were doing panto there in Christmas 1991. Our kids [Cameron, 16, Declan, 13, and Darci, 10] love playing Monopoly and Cameron is a brilliant chess player. My grandfather was actually the Australian chess champion.

Wow! Do you feel at home in the UK?

Yeah, I lived in London for nearly 12 years in the ’90s and in Glasgow for six months, which is where my wife is from.

I come back once a year and the first thing I do is go and see my friends.

DJ Neil Fox is my best mate over here – I see him every time I come back.

You had a break from Neighbours between 1992 and 2004, but how does it feel to be the only original cast member since it began in 1985?

It actually makes me one of the longest-serving characters in Australian television history. I beat Ray Meagher [Alf Stewart on Home And Away] by about 18 months – and I let him know it, too!

What would you be doing if you hadn’t got the role of Paul Robinson?

I guess I’d still be a struggling actor. Or I might have fulfilled my dream of acting in films.

And that still is my dream – that’s why I set out to be an actor, not because I wanted to be famous.

Do you ever think about leaving Neighbours?

Of course. The grass is always greener. But the grass is also really nice, crunchy and green right where I am.

When was the heyday for the soap, do you think?

The best time for me was probably the first two or three years at the beginning, back in the ‘80s.

Suddenly going from a two-bit actor to being on the international stage was so exciting.

Who’s been the biggest loss to the show?

Kylie [Minogue] and Jason [Donovan], because they were Neighbours during the years they were in it. It wasn’t until the freight train took off for them that we realised what was happening.

It just sky-rocketed for them. Also the demise of Madge [Anne Charleston] and the more recent leaving of Harold [Ian Smith].

You turned 60 last year, how was that?

Did I? Everybody says I did. Nobody’s got my age yet. Everybody thinks I’m hung up about my age, but I’m not.

When I was 27, one director asked how old I was and half-jokingly, he said: “If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have cast you.” It happened again and I lost a job because the casting director found out how old I was.

BTW

  • Stefan and wife Gail are re-doing the jigsaw puzzle they met over nearly 30 years ago! Aww.
  • He’s had several fans offer him their room key…
  • Stefan jokes that actors don’t retire, they die.

So from that point on, I said I’m never telling anyone my age again. Now, if I go to a casting my answer is: “I’m as old as you need me to be.”

But we’re not casting you today… Go on, tell us!

I can be 60 if you want me to be, I’m not telling! When I’m not working any more, then I’ll tell you.

  • Neighbours airs Monday-Friday on Channel 5 at 1.45pm and 5.30pm.
  • Thanks to BFI Stephen Street (Bfi.org.uk)

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