he cast of Neighbours finishes the year on a high with their milestone 8000th episode. But when they were filming it was just another day on set for Stefan Dennis, who plays businessman Paul Robinson.
“It was just another day at the office, but I say that with tongue in cheek,” he says. “Every episode is a milestone.
“It certainly has been a milestone event as a production team and we’re well aware we have yet again made Australian TV history.”
While he hasn’t been on Ramsay Street for all 8000 episodes, Dennis is the longest serving original cast member.
“I was out for 12 years, and I’m not in every episode, so I’m stabbing in the dark but I’ve done 4500 or 5000 episodes,” he says.
“I think Ray Meagher (who plays Alf on Home and Away) might just beat me on overall number of episodes.
“We’d be running neck and neck anyway.
“As I said to him at The Logies, ‘there’s the other stalwart’ and he said ‘you mean the other old fart?’.”
To celebrate the milestone, Ten will air Neighbours through December and January for the first time in its 33-year history.
Some of the dramatic storylines viewers can look forward to include a former Ramsay Street resident returning from the dead, a cheating scandal and shock pregnancy and the devastating death of a fan favourite.
“It’s one of the biggest events in Neighbours history. We have not just one but four big storylines culminating in an event which is quite dramatic,” Dennis says.
“Something happens which will make the audience go ‘oh my God’.”
The soap made history earlier this year when it aired Australian TV’s first same-sex wedding.
“Neighbours is not new to same-sex relationships, but to have the first wedding so fast off the back of the legislation was terrific,” he says.
“My character, for example, was coming to terms with the acceptance of his son being gay, and not just wanting him to get married and to be happy.
“Paul changing his life to accommodate that was definitely a proud moment simply because we yet again made television history and we had massive ratings that week. People tuned in who wouldn’t ordinarily because of what it represented.”
After more than three decades, five wives and countless schemes, Dennis still revels in playing Ramsay Street’s resident villain.
“When I came back to the show in 2004, Paul started to become more malevolent and evil, almost sadistic … the producers went too far and it became too much of a caricature for a show trying to represent normal daily life,” he says.
“Then they gave him a brain tumour to create amnesia and he became squeaky clean and the audience hated it.
“I used to get people stopping me saying ‘when is Paul going to be bad again?’
“Why the character is so well loved is because one minute he can be diabolically bad – for his own self gain more often than not – and then he can turn around and be really upset about something quite moral.
“We have such a strong, loyal fan base. You can throw almost anything at them and they will believe it because they want to be entertained.” Neighbours’ 8000th episode airs tomorrow at 6.30pm on Ten Peach