“It was never a choice – a decision – that I made [to quit acting],” she says. “It just naturally happened because, obviously, I wanted to be there with the kids. I don’t want to miss anything. And I was fortunate enough to be travelling with Lleyton and got to see all these wonderful places and have these memories with my kids. I am with the kids all the time. Every minute of the day. And I love it.”
The state of her marriage has proved to be a tireless source of fascination for the gossip magazines, with breathless reports of an allegedly imminent divorce making front page news week in and week out for more than a decade. It’s a circus that Hewitt says bears no actual resemblance to the far less dramatic reality of their domestic life.
“We have a good little routine going,” she says. “When Lleyton comes back [commitments to his Bahamas-based tennis academy and role as the Davis Cup captain require him to travel frequently], it just lightens the load. He really likes to help and every morning he’s like, ‘No, no, you’ve done the school run for the last three weeks, so let me do it.’”
t was love at first sight between audience and actor when Hewitt, then a fresh-faced teenager named Rebecca Cartwright, joined Home And Away in 1998. “I recall the first autograph I was asked for was after my first night on air,” she says. “We stopped at a surf shop and someone recognised me after just one night, which I found really odd as I didn’t even talk in the first scenes.
“I was so young and enthusiastic and had all the energy in the world,” she recalls of the long days on set. “And I loved it. I would turn up and people would say, ‘Bec, it’s too early to be that happy!’ I was jumping around ready to go.”
She still counts many of the cast and crew among her close friends, including Kate Ritchie. “Living in different cities makes any free-and-easy catching up impossible,” Ritchie, who lives in Sydney, tells Stellar. “But that is a testament to our friendship. Our connection remains the same. Our history, love for each other and interest in our growing families remains the same regardless of location and ease, meaning we will long remain friends for all the right reasons.
“What I know about Bec is that she has put her children and family life before everything else for so long. Not out of sacrifice, but out of love and dedication.”
Despite her immense popularity, Hewitt managed to escape the bad press that can engulf teen stars and never had any run-ins with the law – unless you count the time the police pulled her over just to meet her.
“I had a really lovely family that kept me grounded,” she says. “It’s just your job. You turn up. You dress up. I got to play dress-ups for a living. I really hope I remained humble throughout. Family was always the most important thing. So when I left work, I left it all behind.”
For as long as she can recall, Hewitt wanted to perform. “My mum used to tell this story that we would catch the train into the city to go to the castings, and by the end of it I would have the whole carriage talking to me,” she laughs. “I would do little songs and dances. When I was five she put me into an agency. I started out with commercials and I loved it. Yes, there was the bonus of getting the day off school, but I really loved being in front of the camera and I loved dancing as well.”
Two decades later, Hewitt now finds herself the one ferrying children to dance classes – among other activities. “Mia is very creative,” she says with visible pride. “She loves doing fashion illustration. Little Miss Ava is a serious gymnast. She does 15 hours a week and eight hours of dance on top of that. Cruz is interested in anything to do with a ball, but tennis he loves. He will hit balls until the sun has gone down.”
Cruz is so passionate about tennis that he spent his summer holidays training at his father’s tennis academy – but while Australians might hope to see another Hewitt on centre court one day, his mother stays resolutely neutral.
“I hope he doesn’t feel that pressure,” she says. “Cruz is such a strong individual. He will just do his own thing, hopefully. But he has the dedication and commitment.”
As for Hewitt, despite her husband’s patient attempts to help her improve her game and after all these years in the presence of a pro, she still considers herself an “absolute beginner”.
“When I met Lleyton, I didn’t know anyone from tennis,” she recalls with a laugh. “I had never seen a tennis match. Roger Federer could’ve been a swimmer for all I knew.”