> Robinson Syndrome - Re-casting on Ramsay Street
by Steve and Moe
in long-running soap operas, a character is so essential to
a storyline or family that re-casting the role is the more
viable option when an actor decides to leave. Neighbours
has been no exception. Over the years, both central and more
peripheral characters have been recast and here, we take a
look at the phenomenon that at times, could almost be dubbed,
Neighbours was cancelled by the Seven Network in 1985 after
only 170 episodes and picked up by Channel Ten, it gave producers
an opportunity to re-cast the role of Scott Robinson. Darius
Perkins had proved to be a problematic actor, and it was decided
that it would be best for all concerned if Scott was played
by a different actor when it returned on Channel Ten. The part
went to Jason Donovan, who had previously auditioned for the
role of Danny Ramsay in the original series. In order for the
changeover to be less noticeable for viewers, Scott wasn’t immediately
seen on screen when Neighbours began on Channel Ten, and by
the time he finally did turn up - in a hospital bed after going
missing on a school trip - Darius Perkins had been forgotten.
Indeed, Jason Donovan - and Scott - went on to become so successful
and beloved by viewers in the late 1980s, it was hard to imagine
the character being played by anyone other than Mr. Donovan.
young actress Kylie Flinker decided to leave Neighbours to concentrate
on her schoolwork in 1987, the producers opted to send her character,
Lucy, youngest member of the Robinson clan, off on an extended
trip overseas. While Lucy was supposedly travelling around Europe,
Neighbours casting directors were busy searching for a new actress
to play Lucy. They found their new Lucy in the form of 14-year-old
Melbourne born Sasha Close. Lucy returned to Erinsborough after
a few months away looking taller and a couple of years older
than when she had left, but before too long, Sasha had made
the role her own.
However, further changes to Lucy’s physical appearance were
about to occur. Although Sasha reappeared as Lucy on a semi-regular
basis in later years, Lucy was re-cast for a third time in 1991
when producers decided to bring the character back permanently.
And so, when Lucy was expelled from her prestigious boarding
school and showed up on the Robinsons’ doorstep, she arrived
with blonde hair in the shape of Melissa Bell. Melissa played
the part of Lucy for over a year, before leaving to join the
cast of E Street. The character of Lucy did return to Neighbours
on two more occasions - in 1993 and in 1995 - and luckily, Melissa
was available, meaning a fourth face for Lucy wasn’t necessary.
Robinson re-casting, Dr. Beverly Marshall had been tending to
the medical needs of Ramsay Street residents for two years when
actress Lisa Armytage decided to leave the series to spend more
time with her family. But because Beverly had only recently
married Jim Robinson, it was decided the character should be
kept in the series. And so, dark-haired Beverly was packed off
to Perth for a medical conference before returning to Erinsborough
several weeks later sporting a blonde hair do, courtesy of new
actress Shaunna O’Grady.
children in soaps has always been a much easier and less noticeable
practice. So when young actor Finn Greentree-Keane left Neighbours
to concentrate on his studies, his character Toby Mangel was
sent off to Darwin to live with his mother. Off-screen, however,
casting director Jan Russ was busy auditioning young actors
to take over the role. She didn’t have to look far, as Ben Geurens,
who had previously appeared on the show as a stunt double for
Lochy McLachlan, turned out to be perfect for the role. Only
weeks after leaving for Darwin, Toby returned, played by Ben,
after the death of his mother. Ben remained in the role until
1992, although with Toby’s younger sister recently revived on
the series, surely its only a matter of time before Toby will
be receiving a new face for the third time...?
the time Julie Robinson returned to Ramsay Street with a new
face in 1992, poor old Jim Robinson must have been well and
truly immune to his children’s physical transformations. The
remarkable thing about Julie’s transformation was that the new
actress, Julie Mullins, had an astonishing grasp on the character,
who had last been played by Vikki Blanche in the early days
of the series in 1985. Julie Mullins resembled Vikki, had similar
mannerisms and played Julie almost exactly as she had been played
back in 1985, thus meaning this spot of re-casting was possibly
the most effective ever seen on a soap.
Willis was the first member of the Willis family to be seen
on Ramsay Street, when she began dating Todd Landers. After
the Willis clan moved into the street and became more central
characters, it was ironically Cody who didn’t hang around for
very long. Amelia Frid, who played her, wanted to concentrate
on her studies and quit the role - leading to Cody jetting off
to the States as part of a student exchange programme. Cody’s
siblings Gaby and Brad took her place at the Willis dinner table
for the next few years, and it was only after they began to
fly the nest that Cody returned home. However, dark haired Cody
had now become flame haired and husky voiced - Peta Brady had
taken over the role.
ever would have thought a larger than life character like Cheryl
Stark could be played by anyone other than Caroline Gillmer.
But Prisoner legend Colette Mann stepped into the role full
of gutso and energy when Caroline was suddenly taken ill as
filming of the 1995 season finale episodes was taking place.
With Cheryl featuring in one of the major end of year storylines,
it would have been impossible for the character to be written
out while Caroline recuperated and so, Colette happily stood
in. Although she was only around for a few weeks, Colette’s
interpretation of Cheryl was widely acclaimed, as she perfectly
captured many of the character’s well known traits.
several years without any main characters being recast, 2002
saw the Scullys welcome their son Jack home from England. Paul
Pantano had played the Scully’s only son the previous year for
a five week stint, largely to cover several cast absences during
the annual pantomime run in the UK. When casting director Jan
Russ was in New Zealand at the end of 2001 holding auditions
for the role of Max Hoyland, she also stumbled upon up and coming
Kiwi actors Jay Bunyan and Michelle Ang. She immediately signed
them up for roles on Neighbours, with Jay being cast in the
role of Jack Scully and Michelle as his girlfriend Lori Lee.
characters, usually minor, have been re-cast over the years.
They include Todd’s villainous dad Bob Landers, Drew Kirk’s
little brother Dougal, Lassiter's receptionist Prue Watkins,
Lance Wilkinson’s old flame Julia Burrows, Tad’s mother Coral
Reeves, Tad’s half-brother Tim Bailey, Stephen Gottlieb’s parents,
Dave and Sally, and Dee’s mum, Magda Bliss.
Young characters are normally played by a variety of babies
or child actors. Jamie Clarke was played by S.J. Dey, Ryder
Susman and finally, twins Nicholas and James Mason. And in late
2003, he briefly returned to the series played by Angus McLaren.
Sam Cole was played by Scott Wealands and Thomas Hamston, and
Louise Carpenter was played by Tessa Taylor for the first two
months of her life before Jiordan Anna Tolli made Lolly her
own for the next seven years.
When it’s decided to bring back previously seen supporting or
minor characters for a permanent residency in Ramsay Street,
its often necessary to find a new actor for the role. While
in the case of David Bishop, Kevin Harrington was available
to reprise the role he had played 14 years earlier, the likes
of Philip Martin, Debbie Martin, Darren Stark and Sky Mangel
all had to be recast, with Ian Rawlings making Christopher Milne’s
Philip his own, Marnie Reece-Wilmore becoming Mandy Storvik’s
Debbie, Scott Major’s Darren being brought to new heights by
Todd MacDonald and Stephanie McIntosh taking over the role of
Sky from Miranda Fryer.
character set to be recast is Libby’s son Ben Kirk, who has
been played by little Noah Sutherland since birth in 2001.
With Kym Valentine (Libby) on maternity leave, Neighbours
producers have decided to take the opportunity to re-cast
the role of Ben, with a new young actor, Sean Berends in the role. And so,
we can look forward to a more central and talkative Ben in
the next few months...