Sum­mer LOVIN’

Emily Sy­mons has been a key part Home and Away for 30 years and wouldn’t live any­where else, writes Anna Brain

Herald Sun - Hit - - COVER STORY -

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

Fisher, who

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.”



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