As Neighbours draws its 35th-Anniversary to a close, RadioTimes.com caught up with the man who uttered the very first words on the show, words that were echoed as one of the many Easter eggs fans have been gifted during this celebratory time.
David Clencie played Danny Ramsay on the show from its start in 1985 until midway through 1986. Danny was the son of Max and Maria Ramsay and nephew to Neighbours icon Madge.
On what it was like to shoot that first scene, a dark and gloomy nightmare his character was having, the main thing he recalls is the heat. “It was as hot as Hades”, he said of that first-night shoot, the same night that he met many of his cast members- including Paul Robinson himself, Stefan Dennis (who arrived driving an impeccable classic car that Clencie went on to buy from him).
On seeing Dennis still working on the show today (11-year break accepted), he is pleased to see how comfortable he appears to be and how great it is to see him doing well – “he looks like he hasn’t aged,” he added with a chuckle, whilst saying how much admiration he still has for his friend and former cast mate.
For the 35th, Clencie has been prominent on social media talking about the show, something he has done to try and keep the memory of that first year on a different network alive; especially given that three cast members, Anne Haddy (Helen Daniels), Darius Perkins (Scott Robinson) and Francis Bell (Max Ramsay) are no longer with us.
Bell, who sadly passed away in 1994, is remembered fondly by Clencie. The two shared some powerful scenes together whilst they were on the show and Bell infamously left the soap very suddenly, something that Clencie feels led to his own departure a few months later.
“He was the complete polar opposite of Max,” he said, mentioning his soft English accent that was a far cry from the way his character spoke. “He was responsible for putting Neighbours on the map in my eyes.”
The unpredictability of Bell made him a joy to work with for Clencie. “I never knew what he was going to do next,” he joked while mentioning how the two of them used to enjoy ad-libbing on set.
“He had a bad back and he wasn’t silent about it,” he remembers of what led to his abrupt exit. “He was there in the morning and then wasn’t in the afternoon”.
The character of Max was swiftly replaced by that of his brother Tom, played by Gary Files, with early scripts having Max’s name crossed out and replaced by Tom. “That left my character nowhere to go,” Clencie said of his own exit in 1986, explaining that as he no longer had a best friend or a father on the show, his character became a little adrift.
The timing felt right though as he noted the changes behind the scenes made him feel it was time to try new things. He went on to have a successful career in real estate, even selling houses for two of his former Neighbours colleagues.
Neighbours may be celebrating 35 years now, but back in 1985 whilst it was on the Seven Network, the show was cancelled after only one year and it was an announcement that took many, Clencie included, by surprise. “They called us all into a room and said the show’s finished,” he told us of the day that could have been it for the long-running drama. “Dumbstruck” and “disbelief” are two words he used to summarise what the general reaction was to the news, something that he said he didn’t see coming due to the ratings being relatively stable in some key areas.
Clencie believes that it was the low ratings in Sydney that led to the axe falling, which he blames on poor scheduling as it was up against a highly rated show. A key scene between the two in what was nearly the final episodes was extra emotional as it came so soon after hearing the news, which is visible on the screen.
When the show was saved by Network 10, Clencie didn’t realise that his co-star Darius Perkins wasn’t making the move to the new network with them. He was of course replaced by Jason Donovan in the role of Scott. This led to a big change for his character as the two best friends began to share less and less screen time together- something that Clencie believes was due to Jason being four years younger than him.
On where he sees Danny Ramsay now, Clencie likes to believe that he is a successful businessman, rather than the pool builder we saw him as in 2005 which he doesn’t feel was quite true to the character.
He jokes that Danny was just helping someone out when that was filmed “he was just holding the spanner”. Having him be a businessman would be a good move should he ever return to the show, potentially setting up a rivalry with old neighbour Paul. Clencie doesn’t know whether a return would happen but if it did, he feels that it would only be right to have him turn up with on-screen brother Shane, played by Peter O’Brien. “He may be up for doing something” he teased. Over to you Neighbours writers.