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Ritchie pickings


29 November 2006

A more confident Kate contemplates leaving the Home and Away nest, writes Robert Fidgeon

FOR 19 years she has played Sally Fletcher on Channel 7's hit soapie Home and Away. She has known no other life.

She still draws immense satisfaction from her professional career, but Kate Ritchie, 28, finds herself reassessing her private and professional life.

"I don't remember what it is not like to be a part of Home and Away," she says. "It's been much more than just an occupation for me. It's been a way of life and I have a real attachment to the show.

"I wouldn't stay if I wasn't enjoying it and I wasn't happy.

"To make the decision to leave and try other things isn't just about finding a new job. There are a lot of other things to consider.

"But if I wasn't working on Home and Away, my first preference would still be working with Channel 7."

Ritchie admits that appearing on It Takes Two played a part in her reassessment.

"It was nice to do something completely different. At times it was also the scariest and worst thing I've ever done," she says.

"But in hindsight, the whole process was possibly one of the best things I've done.

"The scary side was feeling very exposed. I haven't been used to that.

"People would say, `Why is that, you've been on telly five nights a week for the past 20 years?'

"But it was entirely different for me. This wasn't about learning lines. It was about singing.

"I was really inspired by it. Personally and professionally you need to get out of your comfort zone.

"I'm 28 years old now and sometimes I feel I've allowed myself to be pigeon-holed by `that little girl who's grown up on Home and Away'.

"I need to start realising I've grown into a young woman and I need to explore that, rather than allowing people to think they know who I am.

"It was a really important kind of process for me."

Ritchie says It Takes Two lifted her confidence because professional singers thought she was good at it.

"The fact they thought I wasn't too bad was really comforting," she says. "I've grown up feeling competent and confident in my work, but there was always that niggling fear that said to me, `Yes, you are good at what you do on Home and Away, but what happens if you try to spread your wings and fall flat on your face?

"For my own confidence it was wonderful to have people like Troy Cassar-Daley and Guy Sebastian come up and say, `You've come so far in such a short time, you should pursue this'."

Despite the praise, Ritchie has no desire to launch an album or try her hand at a career in music.

"That's not me," she says, "but I've always been interested in musical theatre and singing was something I was keen to explore to that end, but the lack of confidence was always there.

"I kept thinking, `Do I really want to put myself out there and expose myself, only to discover that maybe I am just really that little girl from Home and Away'.

"I'm no Barbra Streisand, but it showed me what could be achieved by just getting up and having a go."

Ritchie believes there was another bonus: it allowed the network to see her in a different light.

"Maybe it allowed them to see me in a way I never had," she says.

Ritchie and Home and Away colleague Ray Meagher are listed in Guinness World Records as the longest-serving actors in an Australian drama series.

"It's quite amazing, really. It's not something you think about until someone brings it up," she says.

"It's a long time for any actor to be with a show.

"What makes it unusual is that I was so young when I started on the show and I've stayed with it."

Ritchie is not one of those young actors eager to seek fame and fortune in Hollywood.

"Everything I want is here," she says. "Why should I look to head overseas?

"I love it here. This is my home.

"Who knows how long I'll keep playing Sally. That's as much up to Seven as it is up to me.

"But it's still fun and obviously after 19 years everyone's family and I'd miss that terribly.

"I'm a simple girl at heart and don't aspire to greatness, just satisfaction and enjoyment in what I do.

"Home and Away gives me that, which makes me very fortunate and I'm extremely grateful.

"Some actors may find that hard to believe after such a long time with one show, but that is honestly how it is with me.

"That's not so much about lack of ambition, but all about being happy in what I'm doing."

Learning two roles

KATE Ritchie was born on August 14, 1978, in Goulburn, NSW.

She filmed the pilot for Home and Away in 1987 and has been with the series ever since.

During her time with Home and Away, Ritchie combined her long-term role as Sally with her education, completing her HSC in 1997.

Ritchie studied through a program called Pathways, which allowed her to study for the HSC over three years so she could continue her role on Home and Away.

"It was the way to go for me and I was very happy with how it turned out," Ritchie says. "Handling a five-days-a-week acting role with getting an education isn't always easy and requires some juggling.

"In the end everything worked out fine."

Away from the cameras, Ritchie enjoys watching movies, hanging out with friends and cooking.

"I love cooking," she says. "Maybe that's what I could do -- look to have my own cooking show when they decide they've had enough of me on Home and Away."

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Great interview - cheers! I always enjoy catching up on Kate Ritchie through her interviews!! I was expecting an interview like that sometime this year...you can tell on TV appearances and things she has gained a heap of confidence. I wonder when/if she will leave, I seriously doubt 7 would ever consider axing Sally, but I can definitely imagine Kate leaving after the 20 year mark - I really wouldn’t like to see Sally leave though, she’s basically one of the only reasons I watch the show these days, however I would really love it if Kate could get the lead role in a great movie~!

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That is such a nice interview. Kate sounds so nice and down to earth.

I think it will be good for Kate to spread her wings a bit. I'm sure no matter what she tries Channel 7 will back her 100% and I don't think she'd ever leave Home and Away for good.

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I agree with everyone, Kate comes across in the interview as such a lovely, level-headed person, and the thought of Home and Away without her is too horrible to contemplate. :(

Maybe the solution would be for Seven to give her a couple of days off each month to film a batch of cookery shows, then she could carry on as Sally and spread her wings!

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