Kate Ritchie plays Sally Fletcher on the show and is the longest serving cast member, along with Ray Meagher who plays Alf Stewart. She took some time off to answer our questions.
Interview conducted by Stephen & John in November 2001 for homeandaway.org — the site merged with BTTB in 2004.
How do you deal with emotional scenes? Do you think of something sad?
I try to put myself in Sally’s shoes. Imagine you are Sally. There are tricks – onions, they make you cry. In the make up dept, there is a blower which is a plastic thing. The method is to blow it in your eye and it makes you cry. It’s cheating! I like to have emotional scenes – a lot of scenes are H and monotonous. I like challenges, not going into Diner ordering milkshakes. Emotional scenes are more interesting.
When people leave, for example, Pippa – I miss her. I grew up with her. Debra, who plays Pippa, lives in Melbourne with Dennis – on Home and Away, Pippa and Michael were married, they are also married in real life. Every time I go for TV awards, the Logies, in Melbourne, I always see Debra and Dennis in Melbourne. They have two children now, one of them is Grace, whose birthday is next week. When Debra left, they were easy cos Kate and Sally were both upset. I felt upset as it was like a family. When people leave, it’s sad.
Have you ever had any embarrassing moments?
There is no point in being embarrassed, as there is nothing you can do about it. I was growing up on the show – it was just embarrassing. It was hard enough in the privacy of your own home, and even harder on TV with everyone watching. Do you remember when Sally wore her first bra?
Yes, this was in about 1991.
I was about 11, 12 years old. Embarrassing for me but good for the audience girls. I got letters from fans saying they grew up with Sally. Fans can see someone is going through what you are on your own – you are not alone.
You did some sign language in one scene in Home and Away this year – did you learn the sign language or just the signs for that particular scene?
No, I’m sorry to say. Before in one story line, the little girl I was working with taught me, I learned to spell my name. You know the school principal Judith, Edward’s mother – Anna taught Stephen and they know sign language.
I met Anna in Newtown and Stephen in Parramatta.
I would like to learn sign language, as it is a skill to use. It would be nice if children learnt it at school. Imagine being deaf, maybe feeling excluded, sign language helps to bridge the gap. I always talk with my hands anyway!
Have you ever thought about filming in Ireland?
We did go to England before: early this year. It is a huge thing to organise for us to move over there. Not a pain, but more money (more expensive). It would be nice to go over – I have been to Dublin in January 2000. I went with my boyfriend from Belfast to Dublin – it was very cold.
I was there for only one week – most of the time was spent on the train or on the bus. I did not have a proper look around. You know the stone you kiss?
Yes, the Blarney Stone.
Yes, that’s it – it’s beautiful. It was rainy there also. I would like to go back in the summer, blue sky, not grey sky!
How do you feel about being in the Guinness Book of Records?
It’s nice, and I am proud of it. I don’t feel like I have done something. You know there are people in it like people who have swallowed 100 nails or growing long nails. All I have done is just work on Home and Away. I did not set out to break any world records. When I heard, I did not know what to say. It’s an honour, I guess.
What are you going to do after your contract expires next year?
I don’t know. I am still on the show, cos I love the show and coming to work.
Do you work five days a week?
Yes, I usually work five days, sometimes on the weekend, sometimes long days. It changes all the time. It depends on the storylines. There are 24 of us. We can’t all have something to do. Everybody has their turn. If there is a big storyline, we have to be there all the time. Today, I was in the Diner during filming. As for your question about the contract, I don’t know. Fifteen years ago, I did not think I’d still be here. I take it as it comes. I don’t want to stay too long. Home and Away is special to me. I don’t want to leave and say I can’t wait to get out of here.
If you could work anywhere, where would it be?
I would prefer to work in Australia or UK. It would be nice to work in Hollywood – if someone wants me to work in a movie, then maybe. I have friends in UK, whereas I don’t know anyone in Hollywood. There is good drama and comedy in England – better drama. I love Father Ted and Cold Feet – I would love to have a role in Cold Feet.
How do you feel about people you have worked with before who are now in Hollywood?
When I hear of people doing well, I feel good. It is nice to hear. You know Isla Fisher, who played Shannon? She is in Scooby Doo movie with Buffy’s Sarah Michelle Gellar. It is good to hear she is doing well.
Are you looking forward to going to UK for panto?
I will be in UK next week. I am looking forward to going. Just before I go, I don’t want to go. When I get there I’ll be fine.
How long will you be there?
Eight weeks, about 7½ weeks. Not really a long time. I will be in Southhampton for panto – Dick Whittington. Jim Davidson and a few others will be there. I will be in the UK for Christmas – I will spend it with someone. I’m sure I’ll be fine.
It’ll be like a real Christmas!
When I go over to the UK, it’s cold, raining – it does not feel like Christmas.
You are used to hot weather Christmas in Australia.
It feels weird – it will be OK in UK.
If you could spend a day at Bondi Beach with anyone, who would it be?
Mel Gibson, a movie star. Oh, no, I don’t know. It would be Isla Fisher [Shannon]. She is like my best friend. She makes me laugh. She would be the person. Sorry, no juicy gossip for you!