Neighbours celebrates 35 years on air in March 2020 with game-changing plot twists, the return of some old faces and three high-profile deaths.
As well as providing over three decades of drama, Australia’s longest-running soap has become a launch pad for several stellar careers – so as we wallow in neighbourly nostalgia here’s a roll call of former Ramsay Street residents who went on to become global stars and a reminder of who they played. No prizes for guessing who’s top of the list…
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Kylie Minogue (Charlene Robinson, 1986-1988)
Neighbours’ most famous cultural export, Kylie shot to fame as tom boy mechanic Charlene in the early days, creating an iconic romantic partnership with Jason Donovan as Scott (see below) and became a singing sensation off the back of her role. She’s shifted millions of records, is Australia’s biggest-selling female musical artist ever, was made an OBE in 2008, owned the Glastonbury legends slot in 2019, and appears to have the secret to eternal youth. And it all started with a punch in the face…
Jason Donovan (Scott Robinson, 1986-1989)
Replacing Darius Perkins, who played original character Scott for the first year, heart-throb Jase made soap magic with his and Kylie’s partnership, despite him getting a shiner in their first scene when Scott mistook his future wife for a burglar. Jason followed Kylie’s TV-to-Top-of-the-Pops template with a string of hits, later becoming a musical theatre star in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He reached the finals of I’m a Celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing and still plays live to his legion of loyal fans. Donovan’s daughter Jemma is currently getting her big break in Neighbours as Scott’s great niece Harlow.
Guy Pearce (Mike Young, 1986-1989)
Scott’s motorbike-loving, brooding BFF was a lost soul taken in by kindly Ramsay Street couple Des and Daphne Clarke, lighting the fuse for Pearce to become the first Neighbours alumni to genuinely conquer Hollywood in big movies like LA Confidential, Memento and The King’s Speech to name a few. He was recently Scrooge in BBC1’s modern take on A Christmas Carol.
Russell Crowe (Kenny Larkin, 1987)
Four episodes as Henry Ramsay’s dodgy ex-cellmate gave the future Gladiator his first proper screen gig, and was the big break that set him on the path to Oscar-winning leading man. Crowe is famous for playing tough guys, but did you know he got beaten up by pint-sized Charlene during his stint in Erinsborough? Embarrassing.
Margot Robbie (Donna Freedman, 2008-2011)
The current darling of Hollywood can do no wrong, and owes it all to those years on Ramsay Street as ditzy teen Donna. Her alter ego followed her fashion designer dreams to New York, and a few years later the Big Apple was the setting for Robbie’s Hollywood calling card, The Wolf of Wall Street. Harley Quinn, Sharon Tate, Tonya Harding – is there nothing she can’t do?
Jesse Spencer (Billy Kennedy, 1994-2000)
The youngest Kennedy kid turned out to be the most high-achieving. Bagging a regular role on all eight seasons of US TV medical drama House opposite Hugh Laurie, Spencer stepped straight into another long-running telly job as a firefighter on Chicago Fire, now in it’s eighth series, giving him an unbroken run on US prime time for 16 years!
Alan Dale (Jim Robinson, 1985-1993)
Since getting killed off as Paul Robinson’s understanding dad, Dale has forged an impressive career stateside playing poisonous patriarchs and serious blokes in suits in everything from The OC to the MCU (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), not to mention Lost, Ugly Betty, 24… He came back from the dead in a Neighbours’ 2018 Christmas episode dream sequence, having concocted the crazy idea while on the lash with Stefan Dennis. What a ledge.
Liam Hemsworth (Josh Taylor, 2007-2008)
Big brother Chris got noticed on rival soap Home and Away, but the Hunger Games hottie’s breakthrough was a stint in Ramsay Street in the guest role of paraplegic Josh Taylor who had a doomed romance with Bridget Parker. Josh started out as a nice guy but showed his jealous true colours when Didge chose true love Declan over him.
Natalie Imbruglia (Beth Brennan, 1992-1994)
Ned Willis’s mum (yes, really) was one of Neighbours’ most popular stars of the 1990s for playing the world's most glamorous builder's mate Beth, and Nat became big news with a successful singing career (who doesn’t still hear her hit single Torn several times a day on the radio?) movie roles (Johnny English) and lucrative modelling contracts.
Delta Goodrem (Nina Tucker, 2002-2004)
Cannily signing up as shy songwriting schoolgirl Nina as she was releasing her first single launched teen musical prodigy Goodrem into the stratosphere, with Neighbours basically acting as a trailer for her first album as the songs were woven into the storylines. Delta/Nina left to become a global pop star, which worked out pretty well on both counts. The performer is a regular judge on The Voice Australia.
Holly Valance (Flick Scully, 1999-2002)
Kind of like a noughties Chloe Brennan, Felicity was a kooky cutie (‘Flick’ was a lovable nickname) who had a habit of finding herself in icky love triangles. Taking the Kylie/Natalie route she initially pursued a music career, starting with saucy debut Kiss Kiss, before bagging roles in US TV shows such as Prison Break, CSI: Miami and Entourage. She did Strictly in 2011 and now is settled in the UK with billionaire property magnate hubby Nick Candy and their kids.
Natalie Bassingthwaighte (Izzy Hoyland, 2003-2007)
Nat Bass made a huge impression as maneating minx Izzy Hoyland, the woman who stole Karl Kennedy from Susan, making her the kind of character viewers loved to hate. Immediately post-Neighbours the actress and singer had an international hit with Voodoo Child as lead vocalist of Rogue Traders (Kylie really started a trend, didn’t she?) and later became an X Factor judge in Australia and New Zealand, among other acting and presenting jobs that make her still one of the most in-demand TV stars Down Under.
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