The Neighbours star talks about playing a bad guy, his backpacker fans and being the Aussie Hoff

The only remaining cast member from the first Neighbours episode, Stefan Dennis, aka bad boy Paul Robinson, is an Erinsborough legend. Away from Ramsay Street he has also been a world record-holding endurance kart racer, plus a fully-qualified chef. But enough of that…

You must feel a bit like an elder statesman on the Neighbours set now?
Yes and no. I sort of am, but you’ve got to remember there are people who’ve been there in time longer than me, because I was away for 12 years.

You’ve become a regular at the backpacker nights. How is it having travellers throw themselves at you?
It’s absolutely bizarre. My wife just laughs. These girls, down the front of the stage, gazing up longingly, some of them being quite open about what they say, if they knew. I just look down and think, “bless you darling, do you know how old I am? Have a think about it, I’m Elle’s father.” But hey, it’s a nice little ego boost.

You left the show back in 1993. Why did you return?
Originally I was asked to come back for a two-week guest appearance for the 20th anniversary. Five years later I’m still here. Freaks me out that I’ve been back five years already.

What did you do while away?
I was predominantly doing theatre productions in the UK. I had a very, very healthy theatre career over there, doing national tours as well as West End and then I took a sabbatical from acting for four years to put on a producer’s hat. I then got back into acting. I came back here in 2003.

Do you enjoy being a baddie?
I love playing the baddie. Particularly this baddie because he’s so colourful. The colouring of Paul is what makes him such a fun baddie to play. He’s not just a black and white bad guy, he’s a sneaky bastard. He’s the smiling baddie.

Your character has a fake leg. Do you ever forget to limp?
They made me a splint which actually makes me sort of limp, but keeps my foot rigid so it looks like I actually do have a non-moving piece. One time I did change my leg, as in I swapped it over and limped on the other one to see if anyone noticed. I just did it as a gag one day. Nobody in the cast or crew noticed. There was only one person. I got
a letter from someone in the UK.

Why do you think Neighbours is so huge in the UK?
If I knew that I’d be sitting in my yacht in the Bahamas because I’d have the golden knowledge. The only thing you can put it down to, [British soaps] were all gloomy in their approach. All of a sudden, out
of Australia, comes this bright, smiling, programme with beaches and barbecues. The Brits just went, “wow, fuck, is that what Australia’s like? We’ll have a bit of that.”

Your 1989 hit “Don’t It Make You Feel Good” is, er, legendary. How does it make you feel?
It was embarrassing for a very long time. Now I just think it’s funny. The irony here is that for the last 20 years people have been trying to take the piss out of me for that song, and more particularly the video, but I’ve been taking the piss out of it since day one. And it’s actually retro cool at the moment, it’s just bizarre. The David Hasselhoff of Australia is suddenly cool.

Is that how you see yourself… As the Aussie Hoff?
I try not to, but I think with that film clip I definitely was. The other irony is that I never really liked the song, but I now
sing it every Monday night.

Where do you like most in Oz?
I love tropical jungles, so most of Queensland really excites me. I love the Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday islands. I’ve just been living in the Dandenong Mountains, on the outskirts of Melbourne. It’s absolutely beautiful. Another one on a subtropical level is the Springbrook Mountains at the back of the Gold Coast. The other one which is an absolute highlight is the Great Ocean Road. One because it’s absolutely stunning seascape scenery, but it’s also one of the all-time best motorcycle rides in the world.

Neighbours is on Channel 11 every week day at 6.30pm