If Ryan Moloney had stuck to his early habit of recording all his appearances on Neighbours, he would have filled a large library by now.
Two decades on from his first scenes as Jarrod ‘Toadie’ Rebecchi, the layabout younger brother of school troublemaker Kevin ‘Stonefish’ Rebecchi, the 35-year-old is now part of the Neighbours furniture. But that wasn’t always the case.
In for the long haul
“I was only meant to be there for one scene,” says Moloney, who was just 15 when he was introduced to Ramsay Street. “Then I got a couple more scenes and a few more episodes, and bit of time off in between… So when I went past the first couple of years, I was like, ‘Ok, I don't think I need to record this any more’,” he recalls.
While he still remembers his first day on the famous set, he remains unfazed by some of the challenges the script writers have thrown at him over the years.
One memorable scene, for the 7000th episode, had Toadie strip for a nudist dinner party - and unexpectedly find himself entertaining a naked Karl Kennedy!
“I had undies on for that scene,” laughs the actor, who has a son and daughter with wife Alison Hayward. “Alan, who plays Karl, stripped down and had what was a little sock [to cover his privates], which didn't really leave much to the imagination. That's probably why it stuck in my brain. It’s probably the funniest storyline that I remember.”
Being a long-standing member of the case means he’s had to get used to being recognised by viewers – not that it’s something he think he’ll ever really get his head around, and Moloney admits he still finds it “weird” when people do a double-take when they see him.
“I don't expect anyone to be in awe of me,” he explains. “Every now and then, a new cast member will come in and they'll go, ‘Geez, someone from Neighbours just told me this…’.”
But he does get a kick out of helping younger cast members find their feet.
“When someone new comes on set, we all try very hard to make them feel as comfortable as possible and get the best performance out of them,” he says. “We teach them and train them as they go along. I’m always there for people to ask advice, which happens on a daily basis.”
And while Moloney, who came third in the 2013 series of Celebrity Big Brother, has always tried to keep his feet on the ground, he wouldn’t mind a few special guest stars on the show. “It would great to have Lily Allen,” he says, laughing. “Or Jessie J. She would be a pretty cool 20th anniversary present.”
At the moment though, life is set to get tricky for Toadie, who is about to leave hospital in a wheelchair after a shock accident on a bouncy castle.
“The truth of it is that if he wants to go home, he has to go home in a wheelchair,” explains Moloney, who counts flying and fishing among his hobbies. “In the foreseeable future, he's going to be in a wheelchair. It's not how he envisioned things at all. On top of that, he can't work, the money side of things is a mess. He's got big bills coming in, his company bills haven't gone away. There's a lot of stress on him.”
Laughs on set
Despite the dramatic storylines, when the cameras stop rolling, Moloney can often be found in stitches with his colleagues. “I do love turning up and just mucking around and having a good time,” says the actor, who reveals that he is toasting his soap anniversary with a meal and an “absolutely huge” cake.
“We get down to business, we're serious when we have to, but most of us enjoy just a really good laugh.”
Neighbours continues on Channel 5 on weekdays.