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The Big Ask - Ray Meagher

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The Big Ask - Ray Meagher

Herald Sun

November 26 2008

Ray Meagher is in no flash in the pan. He's made the Guinness World Records for his 20-year portrayal of headstrong man-about-town Alf Stewart. He assures us he'll be uttering his trademark lines such as "stone the flamin' crows" for at least the next three years.

While Home and Away fans will never forget Alf's late wife Ailsa, who died more than seven years ago, Alf has now added some romantic spice to his life through his relationship with a younger woman, Bridget (Joy Smithers).

For Meagher, 64, it is a welcome storyline and one he has enjoyed working on in the lead-up to summer holidays and his annual trip to Britain for the pantomine season.

What were your thoughts on Alf finding romance with a younger woman?

I really don't go anywhere near the script department or what storylines come forward and am pretty happy with the ones I have been given. With this storyline Cameron Welsh (executive producer) told me about it and I was up for it. i had no idea who was going to play the younger woman, but when I found out it was Joy I thought that was fantastic. But, in my mind, the only thing was the credibility thing, where a bloke my age is getting off with a sheila of her age who looks like she does.

How did you approach the storyline?

It's been good because there have been so many other things going on. It is not like there are the leads in a movie and it's all about them. Both parties were drawn to each other, but she has had things going on in her life too and Alf has been distracted by Martha (and her cancer diagnosis). Through all that this relationship has happened.

You mention Martha, who is played by Jodi Gordon. How has she developed as an actor over the years, considering she had no formal acting training?

She has just got better and better, and handled things really well. She isn't one of those kids that talks acting until she is blue in the face. She gets on with it. Those are the sorts of actors I like.

After 20 years in the spotlight, what's it like to be recognised?

It's an occupational hazard, but you expect that if you burst into people's loungerooms five nights a week uninvited...it is part of the job. Where you live people couldn't care less. If you go into some new area some people will be interested, others wouldn't care less and never admit to watching a soap. You are definitely aware of it though.

How long have you been travelling to the UK for pantomime season?

The last 17 years or so.

What do you enjoy about playing someone other than Alf?

I love doing something live and enjoy playing villains and working out how I can make it work and improve my performance every year. I don't like the singing in them so I usually make up a rap. Alf is an honest sort of guy, so playing the villain is a good contrast.

Because the panto season happens over December and January, do you miss Christmas in Australia?

I haven't done Christmas in Australia for years. The last few years I have just had Christmas with mates over there.

Will this year be your last?

I will definitely do this year and see how we go. Probably another one after that. I just go year by year, see if I am still upright.

Some of your Home And Away colleagues have gone on Dancing With The Stars and It Takes Two. Would you ever give them a crack?

Wild horses couldn't drag me.

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