Neighbours’ Stefan Dennis, Annie Jones & Georgie Stone

Over nearly four decades, the Australian soap Neighbours has launched the careers of countless stars while reflecting the complex and ever-changing culture of the country through its signature lighthearted lens. The series originally ran from 1985 to 2022, reaching broad success across territories, including the U.K. A few short months after its 2022 cancellation, Amazon Freevee snapped up the series for a reboot, with the new-but-familiar iteration beginning its run in late 2023. Heritage cast members Stefan Dennis and Annie Jones, along with newcomer Georgie Stone, give TV Drama Weekly a peek behind the curtain, sharing what it’s like to work on a series so entrenched in the culture and its own history and what has given Neighbours its broad appeal across generations.

TV DRAMA: What is the creative difference between working on a long-running hit that’s made a return versus other projects you’ve done that are new or breakouts?
JONES: It’s the history and the fact that we have such a wealth of [the show’s] history to draw on. Almost every character has their own family that is connected to that history or to each other in some way. If you come on the show and play a character, you’re bound to come back again at some stage.
DENNIS: And going with that history, it’s the fans. The difference between a new series or a film as opposed to [Neighbours] is that we had an audience that wanted us to come back as opposed to an audience that you have to educate into believing in you as a show. We didn’t need to educate the audience; they already knew about us. They were really eager. That makes it a lot easier for a company like Amazon to take it over and run with it, which they’re doing brilliantly.

TV DRAMA: Many key figures from the producing side have returned from previous decades. Tell us about what it’s been like as cast members to work under producers who are also very familiar and entrenched in this brand.
STONE: A lot of the producers from Fremantle who were there before also grew up watching Neighbours, and they’re fans of the show. It does feel like everyone in the building is really, really passionate about making the best stories and the best content possible. I know that Jason [Herbison], who’s our executive producer, has been in and out of that building for decades as a writer and a fan of Neighbours. Now, he’s the head honcho. He’s calling all of the shots on the story and steering us into the future. It’s really nice being around producers who are passionate about the show and the characters and about making the best stories possible. That’s a blessing.
DENNIS: It is tricky. I’ve seen a lot of producers over the decades. But Jason has been associated with the show as a writer since the ’80s. He’s got such an encyclopedic knowledge of the show, as well as being a passionate fan. You couldn’t get a better production team behind the show.

TV DRAMA: Georgie, how has it been to join such a long-running and iconic brand as Neighbours?
STONE: It’s been a real honor. Everyone in Australia knows about how wonderful and iconic this is. I felt a lot of pressure to do a good job. I didn’t want to let anyone down. I’m also really excited to be a part of the legacy of this incredible show. So many people I look up to have been through Neighbours. So, it was a real honor and privilege, and it still is really special that I get to be a part of this and to work with beautiful actors like Annie and Stefan.

TV DRAMA: What has made Neighbours withstand the test of time, and how has it evolved and been updated throughout the years?
DENNIS: I can sum it up in one word: entertainment. The thing about Neighbours—and I’m not being condescending toward any of the other soaps—particularly with the British soaps, they’re very dramatic, very dark and a lot of the time quite somber in their storytelling.
JONES: We have storylines like that. But we always have a balance.
DENNIS: We intersperse the heavy drama with lightness. There is comedy as well. Have you ever had a chance to watch episode 7,000? Do it. It’s absolute comedy gold. That’s the thing; the audience gets to breathe. It’s not like, Oh my, that’s over, let me make a cup of tea. It’s great.
STONE: Neighbours isn’t afraid to grow and evolve. It isn’t afraid to expand and tell stories it hasn’t done before. I think something that’s always been part of the mission statement of Neighbours from the beginning was that it represents real, domestic Australian life and real people. It’s a mirror of Australian culture and society at the time. As we as a society have developed, become more inclusive, grown and learned about how to better support people, so has Neighbours. That’s something that keeps people coming back and keeps multiple generations invested. There are aspects of it that speak to young people and to the different demographics that the show has. It’s always really honest. It isn’t afraid to be brave. That’s why it’s still relevant and an important show to have today. Almost 40 years into its run, it’s still relevant and has really important stories to tell. It’s one-of-a-kind. I’m really proud to be on it.
DENNIS: It’s interesting. Going back in the ’80s, when the show was quite young, even though it was very popular, you talked to some respected actors in Australia, and they’d say, One day you’ll get a nice job, a proper acting job. But now, those same actors would crawl over broken glass to get a gig on Neighbours. It’s a bit like The Simpsons.
STONE: That’s the bit that you should add: “We’re like The Simpsons.”