Stefan Dennis addresses historic Neighbours racism and sexism claims: ‘Out of proportion’
In a PinkNews exclusive, Neighbours veteran Stefan Dennis (Paul Robinson) talks about discrimination on set and making “iconic” gay Australian TV history.
Stefan Dennis reprises his role as longstanding Neighbours character and dastardly businessman Paul Robinson in the Amazon Freevee reboot of the 38-year-old and counting Australian soap. There are plenty of twists and turns for the cunning Lassiters owner ahead – including being at “loggerheads” with newly arrived mystery woman Reece (portrayed by Mischa Barton).
Now, Dennis reflects on the major Neighbours talking points that have made headlines, including historic allegations of racism, sexism and homophobia on set.
“We are an incredibly inclusive production company overall,” Dennis tells PinkNews. “If you walk into that building, anybody and everything is accepted, as it should be.”
In April 2021, former Neighbours cast members Shareena Clanton and Meyne Wyatt claimed that racism and homophobia were “rampant” on set. In the same month, series regular Sharon Johal (who played Dipi Rebecchi) spoke up about her own negative experiences while filming.
“We had a bit of a drama a few years back with some allegations which blew out of proportion to do with racism and sexism etc,” Dennis continues.
“Somebody said [to me] ‘how do you feel about people of this skin colour or this gender or sexuality?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’.
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“When I come to work I don’t see that colour skin, or that colour skin or that person or that gender or sexuality. I see people and that’s the way it should be. I work with a whole bunch of really great people.”
A few years prior to the allegations, in 2018, Neighbours made history as the first Australian TV series to portray a same-sex marriage after it was legalised in December 2017. The happy couple? None other than Ramsay Street residents Aaron Brennan (Matt Wilson) and Paul’s long-lost son David Tanaka (Takaya Honda).
“That was an iconic moment,” Dennis remembers. “We set a lot of precedence over the years, an unbelievable amount that Neighbours is responsible for. But that was really one of the biggest highlights as far as recognising something that should have been recognised and being part of world history.”
Although there is no word on whether David and Aaron will be returning to our screens, Dennis simply teases: “David’s my son so he’s got to be there somewhere,” before quickly adding: “I’m not allowed to give anything away.”
As one of the last remaining original cast members, Dennis has seen the series through plenty of eras –from Scott and Charlene’s (Kylie Minogue) 1987 wedding through to the emotional finale in July 2022 (before Freevee picked the series back up) which saw him and savvy business partner Terese finally get together.
Unfortunately, heartbreak awaits Paul in the reboot – set two years in the future – with audiences shockingly discovering in Monday’s (18 September) first episode that Terese has dumped Paul for another stalwart Ramsay Street resident, Toadie aka Jarrod Rebecchi (Ryan Moloney).
Neighbours airs Monday to Thursday on Channel 10 in Australia and on Amazon Freevee in the UK and US.
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