ACTORS are, by and large, very protective of the characters they play.
Their stage - or screen - selves become someone to be nurtured, their
motivations to be examined, their background and "life", even though they're
fictitious, are something to be studied and remembered.
It's strange then, that many actors seem to take great delight in the moments
when their beloved characters are put through the emotional wringer.
This year two of the best-loved characters in Australian drama, Home And
Away's Hayley Smith and Neighbours' Harold Bishop, are about to have their lives
turned upside down after horrific incidents.
There will be pain, suffering, tears and worse and the two actors behind the
roles couldn't be happier.
"Oh absolutely!", said Rebecca Cartwright who plays Hayley Smith. "I know the
fans don't like bad things to happen to the characters they enjoy watching, but
the actors just love it because it's so much more fun to play.
"Things start getting pretty heavy for Hayley right from the start of this
week, then a few weeks in it leads to something that will change her forever and
definitely shock the audience.
"Without saying how or why, Hayley ends up pretty battered and although it
was tough to play it's been great for me to film, probably the best thing I've
done since I've been a part of Home And Away."
Over in Neighbours, Ramsay Street patriarch Harold is also getting knocked
about and when it's finished a completely new - and far different - man emerges.
"Harold has a stroke, and what emerges is a man as different as you could
possibly imagine," said Ian Smith, who plays Harold. "Think of everything you
know about him, then think of the opposite.
"I think it's a good area to explore, to see the person who's been the
yardstick of Ramsay Street essentially move into number 666. It's a great
opportunity to do something different."
Smith said one problem was that the "new" Harold was so different from the
"old' version that not everyone liked him.
"It's fun, but a lot of people in the street react to it. Harold offends a
lot of people with his attitude and language," he said.
"He can be as rude as buggery - even his lifelong friend Lou gets a bit fed
up - but it is certainly fun to step out.
"It's as though Harold's opposite has been trapped in him, giving the
two-fingered salute, and now he gets to come out."
This is the second rebirth for Smith's character, who disappeared and was
presumed dead for five years in the mid-1990s.
There's nothing like a disaster - even death - he said, to breathe life into
an old favourite.
"It was pretty damn weird being brought back from the dead, but I've been
playing Harold for so long I can just step into the role," he said.
"It's good to be challenged occasionally, it makes me sit down and think a
bit more about what I am doing."
Cartwright agreed that a good shake-up helped keep characters and their
series fresh, very important things when both can last for years on air.
Hayley has been a regular part of the Home And Away landscape for five years.
"We've seen Hayley grow up on screen and turn into a young woman and handle
various situations such as break-ups or similar," Cartwright said. "But from now
on that pretty much all goes out the window. "We're back to square one with
Hayley and it's great! When I go back into production, I'll pick up with new
Home And Away, Channel Seven, weeknights, 7pm.
Neighbours, Channel Ten, weeknights, 6.30pm, returns next week.