Cast and fans of Home and Away well on the way to belonging forever and ever
Author: MELISSA KENT
Publication: The Sunday Age
The soap's 21st birthday has shown how wildly popular it still is, reports Melissa Kent. "YOU know we belong together, you and I forever and ever" goes the Home and Away theme song - and it seems fans' devotion to the long-running soap has a matching eternity.But not even the Seven Network realised just how devoted fans were until last week when it issued a Home and Away collector's edition magazine to celebrate the show's 21st year on air.Within days of hitting newsagency shelves, sales of the magazine, which featured a nostalgic look at storylines and a "Where are they now?" section on former stars, had rocketed into six figures."I received five, which is fair for a new title, but sold out in two hours and now am waiting for more," one newsagent wrote on the Australian Newsagency blog.It was also the fastest-selling item ever at Seven's Sydney store, with 500 copies sold in one day.Seven admitted the demand had taken it by surprise, and a second print run has hurriedly been commissioned for distribution in Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Ireland."It did catch us out," Seven's head of programming, Tim Worner, admitted."The thing about your Home and Away fan is that they're hardcore and you can see that in the ratings. It's a testament to the show that after all these years it still has people hooked."Home and Away premiered on January 17, 1988, with the arrival of Pippa and Tom Fletcher and their five foster children in the seaside town of Summer Bay. Just over one year later it debuted on British TV, and it now screens in 174 territories around the world.These days the show averages 1.4million viewers in Australia, placing it consistently in the week's top 10 programs.Over the years, every type of catastrophe has hit the residents of Summer Bay."We've had bomb blasts, ferry disasters, mudslides, helicopter crashes, boat sinkings. We've had a fair range of accidents," Worner says. "But what actually drives the show day to day is the relationships and the conflict and resolution within those relationships."Thousands of actors have resided at Summer Bay over the years, including some of Australia's biggest film stars. Melissa George, Isla Fisher, Naomi Watts, Guy Pearce, Heath Ledger and Julian McMahon have all passed through Summer Bay High School or hung out at the surf club. Original cast member Alex Papps is still surprised at the loyalty the show attracts. Almost two decades after he left the show, he is recognised as Frank Morgan, a role he played as a teenager from 1988 to 1990. Papps is now a regular on Play School, with his former Home and Away love interest Justine Clarke."What's happening now is when I do Play School performances around the country, the kids are excited to see me, but so are the mothers," Papps said. "The mums ask, 'Can I get a photograph?' and I say, 'Oh, come on then.' They want a picture with Frank."Kip Gamblin, who played Scott Hunter from 2003 to 2005, said the acting apprenticeship so many had received on the set of Home and Away had paved the way for their success."All the actors I have spoken to who have been in the show always say that if you can survive Home and Away, you're prepared for anything," he said. "I'm not saying you could do Shakespeare at the Royal Shakespeare Company, but if you are going to work on a film or TV set, you'll never have to work that hard again."Where are they now?Melissa GeorgeAngel Parrish, 1993-96. Made a name for herself in 2001's Mulholland Drive alongside Naomi Watts. Guest roles on Friends and Charmed followed, but it was her role as evil Lauren Reed in Alias that propelled her onto the A-list. Films include The Amityville Horror, Derailed, 30 Days of Night and Triangle.Julian McMahonBen Lucini, 1989-91. Played a good-looking demon in the hit TV series Charmed before landing the role of playboy plastic surgeon Dr Christian Troy in the popular Nip/Tuck.Guy PearceDavid Croft, 1991. Found international fame as a drag queen in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, before moving to Hollywood and securing the lead role in LA Confidential. Films include Memento and The Time Machine.Isla FisherShannon Reed, 1994-97. Moved to London before landing her first Hollywood role as Mary Jane in Scooby Doo. It was her turn as an unhinged bridesmaid in 2005's The Wedding Crashers that secured her place in the A-list. Currently starring in Confessions of a Shopaholic. Engaged to Sasha Baron Cohen, with whom she has a daughter, Olive.Simon BakerJamesHealy, 1994. Landed his breakthrough role in LA Confidential in 1996, before being cast as rich boy lawyer Nick Fallin in TV hit The Guardian. Currently starring in The Mentalist.Heath LedgerScott Irwin, 1998. Ditched TV for films in 1999 with roles in Two Hands and the Hollywood comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. High-profile roles in The Patriot and Monsters Ball followed. Scored an Oscar nomination for Brokeback Mountain. Just before his death in January 2008, he completed The Dark Knight, for which he has a posthumous Oscar nomination.Isabel LucasTasha Andrews, 2004-06. Landed her first Hollywood role as Alice in Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.
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