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Illawarra Mercury

Testing time for Home and Away actor

Author: DENISE EVERTON
Date: 26/03/1999
Words: 450
          Publication: Illawarra Mercury
Section: Applause
Page: 3
A soap opera is not the first place actors look to find testing roles but Home and Away's Alex O'Han is an exception to the rule.

The 18-year-old is coping with his most demanding storyline to date, playing a teenager learning to live with schizophrenia.

While determined to portray the mental illness accurately and without sensationalism, O'Han is revelling in the opportunity to prove his worth as an actor.

``My main concern when I heard about (the storyline) was I wanted to do it accurately," he said.

``I didn't want to insult people who have it, their families or the people who work with them and I think it's been done well according to the feedback.

``The storyline is also refreshing for me. It's a big challenge because it's so far from the norm in Summer Bay."

O'Han admits he knew little about the mental illness before tackling the scripts but feels he is not alone in the community.

In a small way he says he has already experienced the stigma mental health patients are confronted with regularly and hopes the extended storyline will help change public perception.

``It's a very valid issue to take on especially for the younger (viewers) because schizophrenia affects them the most," he said.

``We will reach a younger audience that wouldn't normally be reached like if the story was done as a documentary on television. Teenagers just wouldn't listen.

``With Home and Away it's much more palatable for the 16 to 25-year-olds. They're most susceptible and need to be educated about it."

As Joey Rainbow, a kid raised in a commune who has struggled to cope with his father's death and an on-off relationship with a girl, O'Han has discovered a love of acting only as a hobby.

Now completing his HSC and determined to head for university, O'Han enjoys the expression of acting but not the lack of security.

He's keen to start his own business (although he's shy to say more) but is open to many possibilities for a long-term career.

One thing he doesn't have is regrets.

``Lots of people criticised me for going ahead with Home and Away, not my immediate family but friends and distant relatives," he said.

``I was always conscious of both sides of the coin, taking it on in the middle of my school years but I don't regret anything."

Certainly not his latest, on-going storyline which has given him something to sink his teeth into.

That is something he considers to be a rare opportunity.

Home and Away screens week nights at 7pm.

 
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