Terri, Bindi, and Robert Irwin on Crikey! It's the Irwins
Robert Irwin has always been a television star—even before he was born.
As the son of Terri Irwin and the late Steve Irwin, Robert's life has always been a little bit on display. His dad, the effusive star of The Crocodile Hunter who passed away in 2006, even brought the cameras into the delivery room.
"It's been my upbringing. It's been part of what I do," he says of the cameras enduring presence in his life. "I'm super comfortable with it."
Irwin currently stars in Crickey! It's the Irwins which airs on Discovery+ and follows Robert, his sister Bindi, Terri and their adventures at the Australia Zoo. The family continues his father's message of conservation.
"My dad really wanted the Australia Zoo to be a hub for conservation not just this beautiful wildlife sanctuary that you can come in and experience the animals but also to support wildlife projects all over the world," he explains.
Many of the crew on the series are the same people who filmed his parents two decades ago. "There's members of the crew here that I've known as long as I've been alive and I love them like my family. it's like hanging out with my mates."
The third season of the reality series shows the family reacting to the global pandemic. "It was definitely the most challenging but also the most rewarding season yet," Irwin said. "It was hard to put into words. The Australia Zoo, we've been around for 50 years. We opened in 1970. It's been in the family for five decades. We've never had to close. We've never endured anything like this before."
"We all sort of felt this responsibility to dad to make sure all this work that he started continues," he said. "It's the most challenging time that we've really ever been through since we lost dad but it was so great to finally reopen. Looking back at it now I'm so happy that we caught all that on camera and I'm so happy that we can share that with people. Because we aren't the only ones going through it."
It's only recently that Irwin, who will turn 18 at the end of this year, has started to grasp the full breadth of his position. "I feel like even at this young age I already have a platform," he says. "I have a voice and I have an ability to reach a lot of people. I feel like that is such an important responsibility. I think especially for young people you need to hear that they have a voice. I feel like I'm in a very fortunate position to make positive change."
His family has always been supportive of him branching out beyond the family business. One of his passions is photography and spreading the conservation message through images of the natural world. "I definitely want to forge my own path but absolutely still make sure that my dad's legacy continues and that this family legacy that we have goes on forever. It's what I love. I think it's who I am more than what I do for sure"
Part of forging his own path is taking on new projects that increase his platform and maybe even expose him to a whole new audience.
Irwin can also be heard on a recent episode of the popular children's show Bluey which airs on Disney Junior. The series about the adventures of a Blue Heeler dog family is a huge hit both in Australia, where it emanates from, but also in the United States where children have come to love Bluey, her sister Bingo and their parents Bandit and Chilli.
"The thing I love most about it is it's a real local success story," Irwin says. "Bluey is based in Brisbane and the production is based in Brisbane my hometown so it's really cool to see this amazing local production that's now breaking through to the United States."
Irwin didn't hesitate when he was approached to be on the show. "The thing that I love is that it's positive fun family viewing but it's also something that everyone can enjoy, anyone can relate to these characters in Bluey," he says. "Their fun adventures remind me of what I get to do with my family and all the crazy antics we get up to so I was really thrilled to be part of it."
Irwin voices the character of Alfie, a helpful store clerk, in an episode entitled "The Quiet Game." Irwin, who shares his father's bubbly, cheery personality, says his biggest challenge was containing his excitement.
"I was constantly on the phone with the producers and directors and really talking to them about their thoughts for the character and my thoughts for the character," he said. "It's a cameo role but we still wanted to make sure it was something that was really really fun and exciting for us all."
And someone who has devoted his life to caring for animals had the chance to play one. "I had a great time trying to get into the mind of a Blue Heeler dog," he says. "That was my challenge how would a young Blue Heeler treat this situation because they're a very excitable and absolute bundle of energy. They're such a cool breed of dog. Ther're such an iconic Australian breed so it was really fun to step into those shoes."
Irwin is particularly cognizant of the fact that young children may need a show like Bluey now more than ever.
"Bluey fits with our ethos of positivity," he says. "It seems like every day you turn on the news and there's some new drama happening, and it's a scary time especially for young people. It's a hard time to navigate. Bluey really is teaching kids that family and community and fun are a part of everything and you've got to have people who love you, you've got to keep them around."
Irwin, who was not yet three when his father passed away, and his family recently launched a brand-new YouTube channel which will feature never before seen footage of Crocodile Hunter.
"The most special thing I can ever experience is when someone will find old archive footage of us as a family with dad that I haven't seen before. It's amazing and it feels like every time I see a new piece of footage that I haven't seen before it's like I get a piece of dad back. It's really really nice," he says.
"I feel really lucky that our entire lives have been captured on camera. It's incredibly special for me and I feel very lucky in that respect. I was very very young when he passed away but I feel like he's still a big part of my life."