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Sweet dreams - How dumping her old life gave Holly Brisley new hope

Daily Telegraph

29 June 2005

Dancing queen Holly Brisley has got engaged, ditched the party scene and returned to doing what she loves best - acting - with a role as Home And Away's new superbitch

Holly Brisley is about to take the biggest step of her career: she is going to make us hate her.

"I was pretty concerned about it at first," says the actor and presenter who tomorrow joins Home And Away as that rarest of creatures in Summer Bay - a superbitch.

"I'm a fairly happy, easygoing person, so that's what I'm known for and that's what I've been comfortable with. So when I signed up to do this I thought, 'Oh no, I'm going to get eggs thrown at my house. People are going to hate me'.

"So I was worried. I'd hate for anyone to think that I'm anything like the character. But then I thought, 'Look, that's why it's called acting. You're playing somebody else. It's not you doing these things'."

The villainous Amanda Dale is Dan's ex-wife and turns up in Summer Bay bent on ruining his impending wedding to new love Leah.

And that's just the beginning. The character is unlike anything ever seen before on the series and indeed, as an Australian-born Hollywood starlet "resting" between movie roles, Amanda even looks like somebody more Melrose Place than caravan park.

"She is a vixen, and there's not been many of them on Home And Away that cause too much mischief," laughs the 27-year-old. "They're all such nice people."

As, of course, Brisley has been since she first appeared on television as a sunny 16-year-old sidekick to a bad-tempered puppet on Agro's Cartoon Connection.

After that the Gold Coast-raised Brisley worked on regional programs, as well as doing the occasional bit part on film and TV, before returning to network TV as host of Nine's short-lived Looney Tunes Show in 2002.

All was well and good except that it sometimes seemed to Brisley that the presenting was going to stop her fulfilling her acting ambitions.

"I always wanted to be an actor - I never thought about presenting. Now I love both, but the problem has been that everyone has always said to me, 'Well, what are you? An actor or a presenter?' And I'm like, 'I'm both'."

The struggle between what she wanted to do and how she was perceived led to some dark times, Brisley admits.

"You do have your moments of despair," she admits . "You think, 'What am I doing? What am I going to do?' And you think maybe you should just try something else."

Instead, Brisley decided last year to make some big life changes in the hope they would lead her to better things.

"At the time I was living in the eastern suburbs and you can really get caught in that rut where you go to functions all the time. I spent more time working out what outfit I was going to wear than thinking about work.

"And look, nothing against people that are in the social pages, but often it's people that aren't working. I was really just drifting."

So Brisley moved to the Northern Beaches and surrounded herself with childhood mates who live there, right away from the temptation of red carpets.

"I think it's a matter of getting back to basics and finding out what's important to you," she says. "I was happier straight away and when you're happy on the inside it shows, and then I think everything else will fall into place."

And so it did. This year started with saying yes to another job as a presenter, when Seven signed her to host a blooper/ home video show which will air later this year. That led to Dancing With The Stars, where with partner Mark Hodge (pictured left) she ended up cha-cha-cha'ing into third place.

"I gave it 110 per cent," she says. And her success on that show led to Seven offering her Home and Away - which next week celebrates its 4000th episode.

In the meantime, she became engaged to boyfriend, marketing executive Paul Ford.

And then as if that wasn't enough for a year still not even half over, in May she won the Best Actress award at the New York International Independent Film Festival, for her first major film role in the limited-release movie The Crop.

"It would definitely have to be my best year yet," she says. "But the best thing of all about Home And Away is that I'm just so happy to have a bit of routine in my life, because I have an 18-month contract. It's something I haven't had for a long time.

So I'm really on a high part of the ride at the moment."

* Holly Brisley's first episode of Home And Away will screen Thursday, Seven, 7pm

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Is she going to be a permanent role or extended guest star? Is she just there to create tension between Leah and Dan's wedding and go..or has she got more in mind?


She has an 18 month contract-I thougtht she was only a guest star, but apparently not.

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