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Soap swaps starlets

The Courier-Mail

25 August 2005

Ella Scott Lynch has a tough act to follow as she steps into the shoes of Home and Away favourite Bec Cartwright, writes Sarrah Le Marquand

JUST a few months ago, the future looked rosy for Home and Away masterminds.

Long-time cast member Bec Cartwright -- still basking in the glow of her Dancing With the Stars victory and engagement to Lleyton Hewitt -- was the soap's leading lady. Not only was her character pregnant, she was in a love triangle and was about to be diagnosed with a heart condition -- a melodrama the show's writers planned to exploit over the months ahead. Then Australia's favourite bride announced she really was expecting a baby and, after seven years on the show, she announced she was turning her back on television to become a full-time mum.

"It was one of our main stories for the year and we wanted it to continue," says Julie McGauran, series producer on Home and Away.

Reluctant to write out the character and lose what promised to be a top-rating storyline, it was decided to recast the role of Hayley Lawson.

"Obviously there are a lot of different ways to go -- do we go with a Bec look-alike or totally different?" says McGauran. "We made a decision that it simply had to be the best actor."

Enter 22-year-old Ella Scott Lynch. With pale skin and red hair, the NIDA graduate and theatre buff bears little resemblance to her bubbly blonde predecessor.

"My mum was very shocked -- she was like, `But you don't look like a beach babe!'," Scott Lynch laughs. "She thought it was ridiculous."

McGauran says they toyed with the idea of dying her hair blonde. "I thought, `Why? She's a gorgeous redhead'," explains McGauran.

Her red locks secured, Scott Lynch turned her attention to the character's emotional make-up.

"To make the love triangle work you have to believe she had a very long-term history with these people, as well as her foster mother and best friends," the young actor explains.

"She took the bull by the horns," confirms McGauran. "She wanted to know everything -- literally -- that had happened in the last seven years of the character. She just sat there for hours and wrote notes. Instantly, you have such confidence that this girl is going to do an amazing job."

When her Hayley first appears on-screen next Tuesday, the mum-to-be will be torn between two men -- one she wrongly believes is the father of her baby, Kim (Chris Hemsworth) and the actual daddy-to-be, Scott (Kip Gamblin). And, the young widow is battling cardiomyopathy, a serious condition aggravated by her pregnancy. It is, as Scott Lynch observes, pretty "whacky" material.

"As an actor it's really fun because you have all these toys to play with -- death, birth, tragedy and love," she enthuses. While she finds it bizarre to wear a phoney baby bulge, playing a pregnant character does it have its advantages.

"At least you're not wearing bikinis," Scott Lynch says. As the daughter of divorced parents who both work in film and theatre, Scott Lynch feared some of her NIDA peers might accuse her of "selling out" by signing on to a popular soap. "My dad is a bit snobby, he'd love me to be doing Shakespeare and working with the Sydney Theatre Company," she admits.

But she's quick to point out she has a newfound respect for her Home and Away colleagues. "When kids haven't had training they have this beautiful instinctiveness. They can pick up a script -- sometimes really bad scripts -- and make it seem real."

Scott Lynch hopes to dabble in film and theatre.

"I don't think I'd ever like to be known as a TV personality, I'd like to be known for the work I do," she says. How about landing a famous tennis player of her own? "Hmm, Mark Philippoussis?" she jokes.

Home and Away, Seven,

weekdays, 7pm

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