Laurie Foell first arrived in Home and Away in 2002, playing evil Angie Russell, secret ex-lover of family man Rhys Sutherland. Angie was killed by her son, Dylan Russell, in 2003, but even that didn’t stop Laurie from gracing our screens. She returned in 2004 as Angie’s cousin Josie, and continued to cause havoc. In a move which shocked many Home and Away fans, Laurie is now leaving the show for the second time. On the day of her departure from Australian screens, Laurie gives us an exclusive interview on her time in the show, and tells us what it was like playing two different characters.
Interview conducted by Dan in June 2005
What have you been up to whilst you’ve been over here in the UK?
Well we went to Edinburgh for a couple of days, and then we went to Dorset because my fiancé Richard’s parents live there and that was great. Dorset was absolutely beautiful. Then we drove to London (well I didn’t personally, otherwise I’d still be driving!). We got here yesterday and last night we went to see ‘Fame’ the musical as it was their 10th anniversary. I went with Chris, Izzy and Jason, who were exhausted as they’d just got off the plane. Mick Beckley also came along and it was great.
Then today I just did Inside Soap and some photo shoots around London, and then some radio interviews this afternoon. I’ve been extremely busy mate since I came over, I’ve had no time for shopping! The sales are on!
How did you get the part of Angie?
Well I auditioned for it, and generally what they do is they’ll audition you once and then they’ll break that down to recalls. There were quite a few of us recalling for Angie. We went in and tested again, this time with Mick Beckley. And I ended up getting it! Coral Drouyn the script supervisor told me afterwards that they had a great deal of difficulty casting Angie because she was such a difficult character.
Who did you enjoy playing the most? Angie or Josie Russell?
You know what, they’re so different! You haven’t seen a lot of Josie yet in the UK, she’s kind of building up to some major storylines now. They were completely different. I used completely different approaches for both of them, because I made up my mind that, as I was coming back as a different character, I had to use different ways of working, because otherwise it would have been just Angie running around in Josie dresses!
It was tricky; it was how to make a different person out of what Bevan Lee had suggested. I had a meeting with him before I started back, he said we’re going to bring you back as an ex-call girl. As it happened I managed to find three call girls working in Sydney! I rang around brothels, and they all thought I was a nutter. Finally the receptionist at one of the brothels was a huge ‘Home and Away’ fan and they set me up to have dinner with these three call girls – Josie came out of that!
Which do I prefer? I don’t really know! Angie was so mad and bad that you can’t not love her – I loved being that crazy! But Josie I love because she’s so human and she makes so many mistakes, and you’ll be seeing lots of her mistakes coming up in the UK.
What were your favourite/most memorable scenes to film as both Angie & Josie?
I think the better stuff, and I actually found it really hard and I got really upset once and I went home and cried, was all the stuff with Chris Egan (Nick). That was really interesting because I think there are people out there who do stuff like that and manipulate. It was really difficult and really disturbing to do.
My favourite stuff with Josie is probably what’s coming up on air in the next few weeks in the UK, which is her wedding – the wedding from hell! Although I don’t want to give too much away, but yeah probably the wedding stuff. There was also other stuff with Morag and Peter, the whole storyline where her past comes back, which was shown in Australia about 5 weeks ago, I really enjoyed all of that too.
Did you have any input into the script and what your characters were doing?
With Josie I did have quite a bit of input with Bevan, I gave him some ideas – which he didn’t take on board actually! (laughs) And with Daniel, who I admire and like very much, I put forward some ideas which he did take on board. So Josie was far more of a collaborative effort because it was a bit of an experiment, it had never been done before on ‘Home and Away.’ I chose to let them know what I thought was really important about the character and what was worth following up with the character.
Do you feel that Josie’s exit does the character justice?
Well not really, no it was a bit of a regret actually. I was so exhausted by the time that we filmed that, because Josie had had such big storylines, that the exit was a bit tepid. In hindsight, I would have taken that up with Dan, but I was just too tired at that stage because of the heavy storylines – I think I’d had about 6 of them in a row and I was just on the point of nervous exhaustion.
Well they’ve left it open for a return, and the relationship with Seven is a really good one, so I think the exit reflects that – it wasn’t dramatic. It doesn’t really do her relationship with Tasha justice, but I think that was what they wanted.
Was it your decision to leave the show, or did the powers that be decide that the character of Josie had run her course?
Ah well. I’ll tell you what, it ended really well and my relationship with Seven is really good. I don’t want to talk too much about it because it can jinx things. It was always going to be a short term thing – that was my decision initially, so that’s fair enough. And they pretty much invented someone for me, Bevan was kind enough and creative enough, as he’s so good at his job, to come up with a completely different character. So from that I’ve been really spoilt. But if I tell you anymore I’ll jinx stuff!
So if you were asked to come back, would you do it?
Mate I don’t know! I love Josie with my whole heart, I think she’s great and I feel we could have gone a lot further with her. I think that, understandably, because it is the demographic of teenagers, they may have shied away from some of her character elements, which I think is a shame. I think they could have gone much further with what she is, to do with her line of work etc. But then I was blessed with the storylines that I had in the space of 12 months, I mean I probably had more storylines than some characters have in 2 years! Yeah I think we could have gone further, so it depends on that. The challenge obviously to play someone different, on the same show – I didn’t think I could do it. But I thought I would try because it’s always better to try to do things that are really difficult.
After leaving the show, who from the cast do you plan to keep in contact with?
Yeah I’ve kept in contact with lots of them, I think I’ve seen all the girls since I’ve finished. So in the space of 5 weeks I’ve managed to fit in lunches and dinners with the cast, who I’ve become really good mates with. It’s good to be here with Chris, Jason, Izzy and Ada. They’re good mates and that relationship is a strong one.
Now that you’ve left Home and Away what are your ambitions for the future?
I’ve been blessed with ‘Home and Away’ to play two great birds, so if I can continue to do so in Australia, or here in the UK, I’d be delighted. But you’re as good as your character, you’re as good as the writing and you’re as the people you’re working with, so obviously another great female role on a TV Drama would be great!
Any ambitions for Hollywood?
I’ve done quite a bit of American stuff in New Zealand and Australia. It’s better if Americans come to you, otherwise you should go to Hollywood when you’re 21, which obviously I’m not. Otherwise it’s better to be invited over when they’ve got you in mind for something, I’ve always been cast for American stuff out of Australia and New Zealand anyway. I’m happy to go wherever there’s an interesting role, and if that’s Oz or New Zealand or even England then yeah!
Have you ever considered doing panto in the UK?
Yeah mate I have, there haven’t been any takers as yet! Angie obviously would have been a great thing to follow up with some Wicked Stepmother and Josie’s not as bad – she could be like the funny little milk maid. It’s a possibility but I’m not sure yet about that.
Well Laurie it’s been a pleasure speaking to you and we hope to see you on our screens again in the near future!
Thanks Dan! And you know what, it gives me so much strength that thought, and the good wishes that the people give to me, it just gives me a big feeling of strength! The next character that I get (god willing!) hopefully will be one that you’ll enjoy! It’s just amazing to be able to have that support, it really helps to becoming a better actor, without a doubt!