Emily Symons has been a key part Home and Away for 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else, writes Anna Brain
SOME things are better for staying the same. In the world of soap operas, core human dramas — hatches, matches and dispatches — play out over and over again.
The familiar faces who’ve graced our screens for the past 30 years draw us straight back into the fictional world of Summer Bay.
As one of Home and Away’s long-serving cast members, Emily Symons is in good company with founding member Alf “flaming heck” Stewart, played by Ray Meagher.
“None of us can believe it’s 30 years,” she says. “Especially not Ray. From day one he’s been there, and he’s amazing. What an achievement.
“We get some cuddles in the supermarket from fans, which is lovely. I wouldn’t be here without our fabulous fans who are so loyal and have stuck with us for all these years.”
Along with Irene (Lynne McGranger), Sally (Kate Ritchie), Leah (Ada Nicodemou) and Donald (Norman Coburn) one of Summer Bay’s longestserving characters is Marilyn Chambers, a bubbly beautician with impossibly high hair and standards for life in a tiny beachside town. Symons nabbed the gig — Dannii Minogue reportedly auditioned for the part but was later cast in a different role — in 1989, a year after the hit show started.
After a two-hour stint in hair and make-up most days, Symons says she doesn’t truly feel in character until she dons a pair of towering stilettos.
“She wears them everywhere, even on the sand,” she says. “And Marilyn is a beautician and hairdresser, so the hair and make-up are always done, which is the bane of my life.”
Symons is groomed within an inch of her life onset, but says her standards drop considerably when she leaves.
“God no, I’m a feral, exhausted mother,” she says. “That is not what I look like on the weekends, let me tell you.”
Marilyn has evolved greatly since she first came to the bay.
“She has definitely grown, and she’s sort of had to grow with me, as I’m playing my age,” Symons says. “So she was very ditzy and silly, which was endearing. But when she went back to Summer Bay High as a mature-aged student, and Donald Fisher took her under his wing, and taught her poetry and literature, we felt she had to grow up a bit there, and not be as stupid. Now she’s loving and kind, but not quite as silly.”
As is the norm in soap-land, the older and wiser Marilyn has a few scandals under her belt. Symons’ favourite was when Marilyn hooked up with high school principal
was twice her age.
“I particularly loved the era of Marilyn and Donald. It was kind of nuts but it worked. I think a lot of people are very nostalgic about that period of Home and Away
in the ’90s. I felt we did a lot of comedy and I was really proud of the stuff we did.”
After starting acting at
17, when a family friend helped her find an agent, Symons has enjoyed the kind of career longevity few actors achieve. “My first job was on Richmond Hill, which only went for a year, it was axed after that. That was a wonderful, brief experience.
“Honestly I never expected it to last this long. As an actor you are always just grateful for any job. We have that drummed into us. So for this job to be so constant, and to be invited back … I thought that once you left you are out.”
But of course that’s never the case in Summer Bay.
In 2001 Symons left the show to try her luck in the UK, where she played promiscuous barmaid Louise Appleton in Emmerdale for more than 300 episodes. Since returning to Home and Away in 2010 Symons has only taken a short break for the birth of son Henry, who is now two. “I’ve had a few breaks,” she says. “I’m very proud of my involvement in Home and Away, and I thank my lucky stars that I’m here and I’ve got this wonderful job that’s given me so many positive things.”
“WE GET SOME CUDDLES IN THE SUPERMARKET FROM FANS, WHICH IS LOVELY”
WATCH HOME AND AWAY, Seven, 7pm, Monday to Thursday EMILY SYMONS, AND WITH HER HOME AND AWAY CO-STARS GEORGIE PARKER AND DIETER BRUMMER (INSET).