Have you ever been casually watching an episode of Home and Away only to make a double-take when a character appears?
There’s a new face on the block, but it’s not a new Summer Bay resident. In fact, it’s one of your favorite television characters, but not in the way you remember them.
Yes, they’ve been recast, and the new actor invariably looks nothing like the previous one.
Even worse, no one else at the moment remarks anything, with everyone in Summer Bay acting as if the character has always looked like that.
When performers who play characters decide to quit a program, the producers typically choose to recast rather than write them off since the characters are important to them. This was the case with Pippa, the original matriarch of Home and Away, who was played by Vanessa Downing when the show first aired in 1988.
Vanessa left soon after her on-screen spouse Tom (Roger Oakley) was killed off, apparently because she missed working with the actor. In 1990, she was replaced by Debra Lawrance, who made the part her own and continued with the show until 1998, returning for occasional guest appearances in the years after.
Not every actress who walks the shores of Summer Bay becomes a legendary character, but in her role as Hayley Smith, Bec Hewitt (then known as Bec Cartwright) was one of them.
After marrying and becoming pregnant with tennis player Lleyton Hewitt, Bec left Home and Away in 2005 after a long run.
“It’s going to be so hard to leave all my friends at Home and Away,” she said in a statement confirming the exit at the time.
“The last six and a half years have been amazing.”
Surprisingly, instead of crafting an exit narrative, the decision was taken to recast the character, and actress Ella Scott Lynch (who later went on to star in Love Child and Informer 3838) was cast as Hayley.
Bec added, when asked about the show’s choice to recast, “I’m thrilled that Hayley’s character will be revived, and I wish the girl who will play her all the best.
Sally’s (Kate Ritchie) love interest Flynn Saunders was another key character that had to be recast after the actor who played them resigned. The character was originally played by Martin Dingle Wall from 2001 to 2002, and it was judged vital enough to preserve even after the actor decided to leave.
Joel McIlroy, who played Flynn until his death in 2006 following a tragic cancer fight, stepped in to fill the role.
Some fans recall an under-the-weather Alf (Ray Meagher) noting that he didn’t recognize Flynn in one scene that quietly poked fun at the switch-up when the “new Flynn” initially appeared on-screen.
VJ had been a mainstay on the show from its inception in 2000, having been born to Summer Bay aristocracy Leah (Ada Nicodemou) and Vinne (Ryan Kwanten).
Felix Dean played him as a pre-teen, and he was frequently mentioned but not very prominent in plots. Fans of Home and Away were taken aback when VJ vanished from the show, only to reappearance in 2014 as the much older and ripped Matt Little.
Ada said at the time that the alteration was made to facilitate more teen tales for the character: “VJ does take a break from the screens for a bit, but when he returns, he is much more mature! Physically, they wanted him to grow up and look a little older, so he’s quite a big guy now.”
While Georgie Parker has played Alf Stewart’s daughter Roo Stewart for over a decade and continues to shine in the part, she isn’t the only one who has played the character.
Roo was a blonde wild child when Home and Away first aired in the 1980s, and she was engaged in many of Summer Bay’s initial scandals. Justine Clarke played this younger version of Roo.
Justine described her time in the post to The Australian Women’s Weekly in 2020: “She was a tyrant. People started calling me a ‘b*tch’ and giving me the finger on the street.”
It would be remiss to overlook Irene Roberts when thinking of Home and Away’s most iconic characters. Lynne McGranger has played the adored foster mother for more than two decades, but those with short memory may not recall that Irene was originally played by a different actor.
Irene was originally played as a rough-around-the-edges alcoholic by Jacqui Phillips from 1991 to 1992 before Lynne took over and hasn’t let go since!
Dexter Walker was portrayed by Tom Green in a five-week spell with the Walker family in 2009, which included father Sid (Robert Mammone) and sister Indigo (Samara Weaving).
Robert and Samara repeated their roles when the family returned as full-time characters the next year, but Tom was nowhere to be found. Instead, actor Charles Cottier was cast as Dex Walker’s new face.
When asked about taking up the job after Tom’s departure, Charles told Inside Soap in 2011: “I occasionally hang out with [him] – he’s a great person – but I choose not to observe what he did. Dex, I believe, is a very different persona now.”
When it comes to child characters, soaps have a propensity of speeding up the aging process. Duncan Stewart, like VJ, was in a similar situation. Duncan was the son of Alf (Ray Meagher) and Ailsa (Judy Nunn), and he was played by a number of young actors (including Lewis Devaney from 1990 to 1998) before Brendan McKensy took over in 1998 and stayed until 2001. Duncan resurfaced in Summer Bay in 2016, played by Benedict Wall, more than a decade later.
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