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Home and Away's latest tug of love storyline sparks a ratings boom


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Herald Sun article today:

Home And Away’s latest tug of love storyline sparks a ratings boom


HOME and Away can already lay claim to nurturing some of the biggest names in Hollywood today.

But a creche of tiny tots, currently sharing the role of baby Luc on the Channel 7 series, have sparked a new ratings boom, sending fans and some of the show’s leading men gaga.

Social media went into meltdown recently when the bub’s mother, Billie Ashford (played by Tessa DeJosselin) died of an aggressive form of cancer — leaving the infant in the care of her new husband.

Matt Little, who plays surrogate dad VJ Patterson, admits the last six months of the heavy storyline, which ended with his character promising a dying Billie he would care for her child, have been brightened by his little, cooing co-stars.

“It’s been beautiful just to come to work and put your attention on these babies, who have no agenda,” Little told News Corp Australia.

“You can’t trick a baby into thinking we’re doing the most important job in the world ... and you can’t let your own ego get carried away with you in a scene. You’ve just got to pay attention to this living human being and that’s been kind of nice.”

The baby girl, played by up to six real tots since her TV birth, including eight-month-old Sterling (pictured) will be at the centre of an upcoming custody struggle between Little’s character, VJ, the bub’s biological uncle Ash (played by George Mason) and Summer Bay veteran, Irene (Lynn Grainger).

But the show’s executive producer Lucy Addario revealed there’s already a battle on set between mostly the male actors as to who gets to cuddle and comfort the babies between takes.

“Often you’ll see them crying and Matt and George are in there, rocking them. Just to see these guys with those little babies ... oh my god, every woman on set just melts.”

In a storytelling sense, “births, deaths and marriages” are always hugely popular, Addario said, with Billie’s death peaking at 1.67 million viewers nationally.

“Billie’s story was a great one because of who the father is (Irene’s son) and the circumstances of its conception (in a shock rape), which provided so much drama even before the baby was born.”

It’s been a happy counter to Billie’s death, which was mourned by the cast and crew, as well as fans who flooded social media with grieving messages.

“We grieve three times,” Addario explained. “You deal with it first in the script, then eight or nine weeks later you see them film it and watch it in edit; then you watch on air like everyone else a third time ... I get sad thinking about it now.”

It makes the sweet smile from ‘baby Luc’ or a gurgle mid-scene just “so divine,” Addario said.

“Often the directors put in little cutaways of the babies because they’re giving us the reactions we need. I’ll dread the day when they get too old ... they’re just gorgeous.”

Child welfare rules mean productions like Home And Away, as well as Ten’s drama series, Offspring must limit the time each infant can work per day; while “laid back babies who are happy to be held by people” are scouted by talent agencies, generally specialising in child actors.

“The main thing to remember is babies and toddlers change every day,” Offspring’s casting agent Emma Dockery said, “and you always have to be prepared for the unexpected. That’s what makes it so much fun.”



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