IN 2008 when Kate Ritchie won the gold Logie for her performance in Home and Away as one of the longest- serving cast members, the whole country cheered for the little girl who grew up to be a big girl right before our eyes.
But all the while, in the background, was a man who was stoning the flamin' crows and strewth'ing before Kate was even a twinkle in her daddy's eye.
Ray Meagher is now officially the longest-serving actor in a serial: it says so in the Guinness Book of Records.
During that time, he has seen many changes to the show – from set changes to cast changes to theme music changes – but one change he hasn't liked is the direction the show has taken over the past few years.
“I think over the last three or four years, we have strayed to too many balaclavas, too many bank hold-ups, too much blood,” he said.
“We have strayed away from the straight and narrow in the past, but give us another go in a month or two; as storylines come through, the old values come through.”
Meagher promises that the core values of what Home and Away and Summer Bay are really about will become the key focus of the program in coming months, with producers looking at what made the show so successful in the first place and bringing that back in.
“It's a show about teenagers who grow up in a coastal environment, so we want to get a bit more humour back into it,” he said.
“We want to give audiences a broad smile each quarter hour of the show.”
Along with darker storylines and a slip away from family values in the actual show, the cast members have been getting up to no end of mischief in their personal lives, with many of their own stories making headlines that could have been torn directly from the script of Home and Away.
Jodi Gordon was found cowering in the bedroom of a bikie after calling police about mysterious home invaders that never actually materialised.
Earlier this week, Todd Lasance pleaded guilty to drug charges after he was found with a small amount of cocaine in a Kings Cross nightclub last year while celebrating his last days of filming.
And Queenslander Lincoln Lewis caused a stir when he allegedly showed castmates a mobile phone video of him having sex with a “starlet”.
All of these indiscretions have dragged the Home and Away brand through the mud and Meagher thinks it could be bad for the show in the long run and, on a personal level, he is left rather disappointed by it all.
“This is a product that you have been a part of for all that time and, if handled properly, it could give a whole lot of work to actors and crew for another 22 years,” he said.
“I have never had a day off sick in my life. I have never missed a call time. I have never turned up not knowing my lines.
“I don't think that's saintly; that's a requirement of doing your job.”
But with producers determined to rein in the wayward cast and re-establish the wholesome Home and Away brand of old, cast members will have to rein in their behaviour or they might find their characters making a dramatic exit from the show.
For Ray, who has 35-40 years of experience as an actor (he appeared in Prisoner and A Country Practice and movies such as Breaker Morant and My Brilliant Career before starting on Home and Away in 1988), the change is a welcome one.
“I was in the UK doing a panto and I was talking to a uni student who was studying to be a story-liner. He said what he really liked about Home and Away was the sense of community in households who weren't related in any way,” Ray explained.
“I am currently living in the caravan park house and the characters there now are Miles (Josh Quong-Tart), Marilyn (Emily Symons), Romeo, who is a delightful young man, Luke Mitchell and Tessa James, who plays Nicole.
“There are three adults and two kids – none who have a relationship to anyone else, but there is a genuine caring for the well-being of the other people in the house.”
The storylines released by Seven indicate that Alf may be distancing himself from the Summer Bay community after the events of this week, so does that mean that his epic run on the show may be drawing to an end?
“It's not the end of his stay in the bay,” Ray said. “He will be around for a while yet. “He is disappointed with the community over these things, and if this is the way the community is going, he doesn't want to be a part of it.”
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