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Ray Meagher Interview

Guest jessica_r

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Ray Meagher


Listen here, you flamin' galahs. On July 8, Seven's Home and Away celebrates its 4,000th episode (review, p. 70). To mark the milestone, Ray Meagher, 60 - aka Summer Bay's resident curmudgeon, Alf - keeps his sunny side up.

Four thousand episodes. That's a long time for a bloke to be grumpy.

He hasn't been grumpy all the time. There have been moments of blue sky. I can't remember one off the top of my head, but there have been a few.

You've got a really rugged shooting schedule, haven't you?

Yes, we do. I mean, some days are 18-hour days, some are 15-hour days, some are 12-hour days. Some are days off. Some are half days. So it's swings and roundabouts. The killer, really, is if you've got a very big day and you're in most scenes, getting home absolutely buggered and having to learn tomorrow's. I can't go to sleep until I've got a pretty good idea of tomorrow's stuff, and sometimes that's half an hour and sometimes it might take three hours, depending on how many scenes you've got and how they're written and how easy or hard they are to learn.

And in your breaks you go and do pantomimes (in the UK) ?Yeah, I think I'm doing the 12th panto over there at the end of this year. I love it, actually. That's very different. It's a good break, it's a change from this.

You've got to stop and smell the flamin' roses, Ray!

Well, I smelled the flamin' roses for a couple of weeks in Italy after panto last year, which was very nice. I occasionally do that. This year I'll have a two-week break at the end of pantomime and we've got a two-week break coming up, so it's not all bad. And the panto stuff, while it's hard work, is like a break from this. I mean once you've learned the rubbish once, you don't have to learn it again every night. (Laughs)

Those Alfisms, are they your work or are they scripted for you?

Oh, early on there may have been a "flamin''' put in for the character. Everything else has grown from there. I just dredged up everything that I could remember from growing up in Dirranbandi in outback Queensland to the footy sheds playing rugby for western Brisbane and (mixing with) knockabout Aussies. I've stolen as much as I can remember. And that's all Alf.

So the scriptwriters leave that up to you ?No, they'll write something. We have an understanding. (Laughs) I've had "cor blimeys" written for Alf and very cockney expressions. Very early on in the piece, I remember saying to a producer, "If you want me to say what's written on the page as is, this character will be dead in three months. If you want me to put it into Alf-speak - not change storylines or anything like that - I'm happy to do that and then we're in with a chance." Over the course of 18 years, we've probably had 100 writers. Some are men, some are women, some are straight, some are gay, some are old, some are young, some are Aussies, some are Poms and not all of them are going to write consistently for me in that "speak" area. Some can, but not all of them.

How would you like Alf to depart when he does?

I don't know. His current tenure expires in August next year, so whether I'll expire in August next year or not, I don't know. We'll see how we go. If and when he goes? I dunno, I've never really thought about that.



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Great interview, thanks Jess :)

Flamin' star Alf


6 July 2005


Home and Away, PG

Channel 7, weeknights, 7pm

Long-running Aussie soap

Duration: 30 minutes

Ray Meagher's Alf Stewart has become a Home and Away institution, writes Eleanor Sprawson

"A man is not a flamin' doormat."

THEY'RE the words that one of television's most loved characters, Home and Away's Alf Stewart, lives by.

But Alf, played for more than 17 years and 4000 episodes by Ray Meagher, is more than just a TV character. He has, for many fans of the show, become a way of life.

And every time Meagher utters one of his classic "Alfisms," he knows he's keeping a certain way of life alive.

"I grew up in the bush in Queensland and so I mixed with a lot of fairly knockabout Aussies," Meagher says.

"And most of the sayings that get trotted out as Alfisms are taken from those characters. They were people who got real a kick out of words."

Fittingly, Meagher says that the foundation of building Alf's way of speaking was the word flamin'.

"I think when we started we were on at 6.30pm and there were a few rules and regulations about what you could say and what you couldn't," recalls the actor, who along with Kate Ritchie is the only original cast member of the soap that began in 1988 -- a run that has earned both a Guinness record for being the longest-serving actors in an Australian drama.

"So flamin' seemed to be a thing that they'd write for me when I was having a bit of a rave," he says. "You could get away with that."

Over the years, the show's writers have tried to create Alfisms, but Meagher finds the words don't ring true unless they're based on sayings of real people.

"We've had New Zealand writers, we've had English writers, we've had some that are straight and some that are gay, some that are men, some that are women, some old, some young -- so they're not all going to write accurately for every character," he says.

"They write the stories and that's fine, but in terms of the mannerisms or the speech of the character, it's unfair to expect that they would be able to write 100 per cent accurately.

"So what seems to work best is to let the writers create an opportunity for Alf to let rip, then just leave me to fill out the rest."

For Meagher, filling out the rest means not just words, but the ghosts of characters from his bush childhood who spoke them.

"Those expressions trigger the mental image of the person I remember saying it first, and that means the expression is real to me, which helps it be real to other people I suppose," he says.

Before he joined the show -- on a six-month contract because he was spooked at the time by the idea of staying for the regulation 12 months -- Meagher had a career that ranged from such classic mini-series as A Fortunate Life and True Believers to Rush, and theatre, including a year-long run in Dimboola.

After 17 years on air, the owner of Summer Bay's trusty diner says he's happy to continue on the show, at least until his contract expires in August next year.

"And if the producers want me to stay and make me some sort of offer, well, I'd think about it at that time and see how we go. And if they don't want me, it's been a good run, you know."

Past and present residents of Summer Bay will come together for a surprise 60th birthday party for Alf. They will also celebrate the nuptials of Leah (Ada Nicodemou) and Dan (Tim Campbell).


"You long-haired flamin' loon, now shut up and get out of here. Any more of that sort of stuff, you'll be out of here and on your way to Yabbie Creek so fast your feet won't touch the ground."

"You flamin' galah."

"If I didn't have a dicky ticker I would've whacked him one."

"All right, all right. Keep your flamin' hair on."

"They come in here with their flamin' baseball caps on backwards, looking for trouble."

"Strike me. I'm copping it from all angles today."

"Kids, ay? One flamin' mess after another."

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How would you like Alf to depart when he does?

I don't know. His current tenure expires in August next year, so whether I'll expire in August next year or not, I don't know. We'll see how we go. If and when he goes? I dunno, I've never really thought about that.

I think when Alf goes (dies) that should be when Summerbay is completely demolished by a fire or explosion or some natural disaster as a symbol of things will never be the same again. :D

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