IT'S A WIN­NER

ME­LANIE VALLEJO AND THE REST OF THE WIN­NERS & LOSERS TEAM ARE BACK ON THE SIL­VER SCREEN

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - DEB­BIE SCHIPP Win­ners & Losers, Chan­nel 7, Tues­day, 9.20pm

Me­lanie Vallejo’s Win­ners & Losers al­ter ego, So­phie Wong, is sick of run­ning. The flighty, feisty woman who wouldn’t be tied down is ready to set­tle down. And that, says Vallejo is a good thing – both for her, and Win­ners & Losers, as the Aussie drama en­ters its fifth sea­son.

“I cer­tainly didn’t think we’d be do­ing this five sea­sons on,” says Vallejo, who au­di­tioned for the show off the back of a hi­lar­i­ous Dare Iced Cof­fee com­mer­cial, and thanks to Win­ners & Losers’ suc­cess has par­layed the role into her long­est-run­ning TV gig.

“There has been a lot of ‘how lucky are we?’ and even other ac­tors on other shows are say­ing ‘wow, you’re still film­ing? That’s amaz­ing’.”

The added ben­e­fit of the drama, which cen­tres on the for­tunes (lit­er­ally – they won the Lotto in the inau­gu­ral episodes) of its cen­tral cast of So­phie (Vallejo) Jenny (Melissa Ber­g­land) and, Frances (Vir­ginia Gay), is the life­time friend­ships she’s de­vel­oped with her cast­mates.

The fourth of the “friends”, Zoe Tuck­well-Smith’s Bec, left the show last sea­son, leav­ing a close-knit gang of three orig­i­nals.

“We just shot the 100th episode and me and Vir­ginia and Melissa es­pe­cially – be­cause we’ve been there from the start, got a bit tipsy and spent time rem­i­nisc­ing,” Vallejo says.

“It’s a huge mile­stone. Back then I think we were so ex­cited to be em­ployed and work­ing that we weren’t think­ing about how long it would last.”

The trio didn’t know each other be­fore the show but quickly found gen­uine chem­istry.

“Be­fore the show I’d met Vir­ginia briefly at a party,” Vallejo says.

“She’d seen me in the Dare com­mer­cial and she kind of bailed me up and said ‘I think you’re re­ally funny’ and then wan­dered off and I thought ‘that woman’s hi­lar­i­ous. I don’t know her, but she’s full on’.

“Melissa (Ber­g­land) ap­par­ently saw me in a play when she was still at school and I was at uni. At au­di­tions she said ‘I thought at the time I wanted to be friends with you’, which made me feel re­ally old, but it’s cute.”

Five years on the friend­ships are more solid than ever.

Co-star Gay re­veals the depth of the friend­ship: “Me­lanie Vallejo … oh that woman, I would walk through fire for her. To see her trou­bled, on my screen … if she is in tears, my tears fol­low.”

Five sea­sons is a long run for Aus­tralian drama in the cur­rent cli­mate – the pop­u­lar Off­spring wrapped last year af­ter hit­ting the magic 65 episodes which meant tax re­bates ran out and made it more costly to pro­duce, and A Place to Call Home was can­celled for sim­i­lar rea­sons, be­fore be­ing res­ur­rected by Fox­tel and Seven.

With shoot­ing on Win­ners & Losers sea­son five al­most com­plete, Vallejo says what­ever hap­pens, she’s ready.

“We never find out what’s hap­pen­ing till later in the year, but I know that at some point will hap­pen and it will be the old ac­tor thing of ‘Oh my God I think I am go­ing to be un­em­ployed again’,” she says.

Richard Davies (who was on Off­spring) said to me the other day ‘you guys will be fine if you fin­ish’ and I was like ‘no, it never leaves you, that idea that you may never work again’.

“Five years is a long time. But I don’t want to count my chick­ens or any­thing.”

Vallejo has em­braced the changes to her char­ac­ter.

“She’s fi­nally de­cided to get se­ri­ous with Luke (Nathin But­ler) and of course be­ing a drama when they de­cided to do that, he got rushed to hos­pi­tal and now his life is in the bal­ance.”

Hos­pi­tals aside, So­phie seems to have things on track. “She has spent a lot of time run­ning. I think she’s tired of run­ning. You can only run for so long, be­fore you work out what you’re run­ning from and slow down,” says Vallejo.

Vallejo, 35, stopped run­ning a long time ago, re­cently cel­e­brat­ing her fourth wed­ding an­niver­sary with hus­band Matt Kingston.

Maybe So­phie is fi­nally catch­ing up.

Vir­ginia Gay, Me­lanie Vallejo, Kather­ine Hicks and Melissa Ber­g­land have be­come good friends in real life.

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