Home’s where THE PART IS

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Cover Story -

It wrapped up last year with an avalanche of drama, ro­mance, breakups, smiles and tears – plus a life-in­the-bal­ance cliff-hanger.

As soapie stal­wart Home and Away re­turns for its 26th sea­son on Aus­tralian screens, the recipe at Sum­mer Bay is prov­ing as palat­able as ever.

The show has launched the ca­reers of a swath of young Aussie ac­tors in the US, and has made house­hold names and pan­tomime stars of oth­ers.

Rhi­an­non Fish and Charles Cot­tier, who play on-again- off-again cou­ple April and Dex in the show, have sim­i­lar hopes. But for now, the pho­to­genic duo who joined the se­ries about three years ago, are stay­ing put at Sum­mer Bay, thanks to a juicy sea­son-starter sto­ry­line in which their re­la­tion­ship faces new chal­lenges that may tear them apart.

Fish’s April and Cot­tier’s Dex have had a colour­ful his­tory.

Since join­ing the show they’ve had the clas­sic teen angst pair­ing, of al­most­to­gether, then to­tally to­gether, then break­ing up.

In the mid­dle of last year the two characters fi­nally rec­on­ciled as a cou­ple, but Dex was then in­volved in a car crash. His strug­gle to deal with the af­ter ef­fects, which in­clude seizures, in 2013 will test the cou­ple’s bond.

For Cot­tier, 20, who joined Home and Away in 2010 and in 2011 was nom­i­nated for a Sil­ver Lo­gie for most pop­u­lar new male tal­ent, it’s a chance to ex­plore a more ma­ture re­la­tion­ship in a role he landed when he was straight out of high school and at­tend­ing night classes at the Aus­tralian Act­ing Academy.

He au­di­tioned on the Gold Coast and the very next day was told he had the role, prompt­ing a move to Syd­ney.

The past three years have been an ap­pren­tice­ship of sorts – an ex­pe­ri­ence he com­pares with “be­ing at univer­sity”.

In 2012, as his char­ac­ter ma­tured, so did Cot­tier.

“It was a great year for me. I moved in with my girl­friend – un­til then I’d been shar­ing with ( co-star) Luke Mitchell, I turned 20, and my char­ac­ter went through, and is till go­ing through, some test­ing times,” Cot­tier says.

“As we start 2013, for Dex and April, it’s a more ma­ture re­la­tion­ship, but he is strug­gling with seizures, and doesn’t know if he will be re­turn­ing to work.

“He wants to be nor­mal again, and he doesn’t want April to have to worry about him or care for him. She wants

The great thing is there’s al­ways hope for the two of them, they be­long to­gether

– Deb­bie Schipp

• Home And Away

Mon­day-Fri­day, 7pm, Seven to go and be a doc­tor and he needs con­stant care. So there are some rocky times ahead.”

When he landed the Home and Away gig, all Cot­tier knew was that he wanted to be an ac­tor.

Three years on he has learned plenty and is now cer­tain of his choice.

“I don’t have a master plan, but the dream I sup­pose is al­ways to make it overseas,” he says.

“For now, I think I have a fair bit of time left on the show. Cer­tainly there’s more to learn about Dex.”

For Fish, 21, the re­la­tion­ship dif­fi­cul­ties her char­ac­ter April faces with Dex are a far cry from real life, in which she re­mains smit­ten with boyfriend, X Fac­tor win­ner Reece Mastin.

The duo be­came an item last June, af­ter she ended a long-term re­la­tion­ship with an­other former Home and Away ac­tor, Lin­coln Lewis.

Now, Fish and Mastin are reg­u­larly caught in­dulging in pub­lic dis­plays of af­fec­tion and declar­ing their love for each other.

But for April and Dex, it’s an en­tirely dif­fer­ent mat­ter.

“His ac­ci­dent has changed their re­la­tion­ship com­pletely,” Fish says.

“He’s not telling her about the seizures, he doesn’t want to trust her with it and feels it will ruin her life as well as his.

“She’s al­most been thrust into this mother role.

“The great thing is, there’s al­ways hope for the two of them, be­cause I think at the end of the day they be­long to­gether. Charles thinks that too. I just want her and Dex to live hap­pily ever af­ter.”

Fish and Cot­tier are close on the set, and not just be­cause they are cou­pled up as characters.

“He’s prob­a­bly my clos­est friend on set, that’s for sure,” Fish says.

“I started on Home and Away only a few days be­fore him in 2010. Ul­ti­mately I think we’ll leave at the same time.”

But the Cana­dian-born beauty con­fesses while she dreams of a Hol­ly­wood role, for now she loves her life just as it is.

“Work-wise and per­son­ally, last year was the best year I’ve ever had. I’m still learn­ing ev­ery day on Home and Away. It’s a safe en­vi­ron­ment, and there’s so much ex­pe­ri­ence to soak up,” she says.

“I want to give LA a crack at some point, but I’m still young, so I just want to play it by ear.

“I’m so con­tent with where I am. I just don’t want to mess with that.”

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