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Moment of truth (Jessica Tovey/Belle Taylor)

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Moment of truth

The West Australian

28 June 2006

Starlets come and go from the sunny shores of Summer Bay, some by choice, others at the hands of scriptwriters with hyperactive imaginations. A hot babe one week can be the victim of a stalker or freak accident the next; or both in the case of Home and Away star Jessica Tovey.

Tovey joined the show in February as Belle Taylor. Belle arrived in the Bay to look for her biological mother after learning she was adopted.

In the aftermath of the stalker wreaking havoc on Jack and Martha's wedding last week, Belle packed her bags and was ready to leave the Bay. Then she learned the incredible truth that her mother was none other than town vixen Amanda Vale.

Amanda was just as horrified, having always believed the daughter she had when she was just 14 had died at birth.

The long-kept secret came unstuck last week when Morag worked out that Belle's grandmother was also Amanda's mother.

The short-lived and not entirely pleasant family reunion was cut short when Belle ended up on the medical helicopter that crashed in the bush.

Whether Belle lives or dies we'll have to wait and see, as will the newly maternal Amanda.

Tovey was just as amazed as viewers when she learned Amanda was Belle's mother. "When I went to the final call back, all the girls were brunette, so I thought it had to be Leah," said Tovey. "Amanda's blonde and doesn't look anything like me.

"Something I thought wasn't believable, once we started working together the characters really moulded and you could see so many similarities."

Seven publicists have likened Tovey to an Aussie Mischa Barton but she takes the comparison in her stride, having heard it long before she joined the show.

"That's a pretty hard comparison to live up to and I think if you get too concerned with what people think about your body and what you have to be, then it will terribly affect your work," she said.

The refreshingly grounded 18-year-old attended the Newtown High School for Performing Arts in Sydney and acted with the Australian Theatre for Young People. Tovey's first TV role was in Ten's Wicked Science. She began on Home and Away the week she started her HSC.

"I have been doing drama since I was six and since I was nine or 10 knew that was what I wanted to do and there was nothing else that was going to change that," she said.

"I did well. I could have gone to university after all that. If it was free, I would do it but it's not free and I wasn't going to do a degree in something I don't want to do.

"So I thought, nuh, I'm going to go off and try and work for as long as I can until I get to that desperate point where I give up, change my mind and find a new interest."

Belle has certainly inherited some of her bad qualities from Amanda. Soon after arriving in the Bay, she became embroiled in a love triangle, accused of stealing Ric from Cassie.

"I think she is a unique character on the show," said Tovey.

"She is quite horrible at points, not vindictive in the way Amanda is but she has a lot of character flaws and she is a lot more daring than a lot of the other younger characters.

"I don't necessarily agree with what she's doing but I like her."

Tovey is mindful of the legions of young girls who watch the show and is keen to remind viewers she is not Belle. "When I leave the gates, I am not Belle any more and I am not owned by the public," she said.

"I know a lot of people think you are but that's my time to be with my family, my friends and my boyfriend.

"When I have had a script and there's something I don't agree with, I've gone, 'I don't mind doing this as long as the audience doesn't think this is OK'. And when you go to those publicity events, you don't wear what your character wears because often Belle is quite provocative. So when I go out, I always cover up, wear pants - wear exactly what I would wear.

"Although I don't feel I have to be something I am not in the public eye, I would much prefer myself to be the role model and not my character.

"To say I am an 18-year-old with a full-time job and finished my schooling and am happy and healthy is a much better role model than the person I play on television."

Home and Away, weeknights, Seven/GWN, 7pm

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