There’s a mixed reception in Summer Bay for newcomer Evan Slater, long-lost father of Ryder Jackson. Arriving out of the blue, Evan leaves Ryder reeling when he introduces himself and sparks off a huge storyline for the confused Home and Away teen.
Playing the absent parent is Cameron Daddo, acclaimed Australian actor, presenter and musician. Evan is his first foray into soap, but Daddo’s brother Lochie was once a regular in rival show Neighbours – remember Stephen Gottlieb from the early 1990s? Actually, Daddo himself doesn’t…
“It’s terrible but I never saw him in Neighbours!” he laughs, speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com. “I was living in the US when he did that. I’m not sure how it all ended for his character, and Lochie didn’t give me any tips about going into a soap. We didn’t discuss it!”
Admittedly it was a while ago and is pretty niche: sweet-natured record shop owner Stephen had a whirlwind romance with Phoebe Bright, pregnant by dead lover Todd Landers, and the pair married and settled down with her baby girl Hope.
Over a dramatic year, from 1992 to 1993, Stephen and Phoebe had a psychotic lodger who tried to wreck their marriage, Stephen was paralysed after an explosion at the Waterhole pub, but learnt to walk again and left Erinsborough with his wife and stepdaughter.
The character was mentioned during the nostalgia-steeped 35th anniversary earlier this year, when Stephen’s brother Mark Gottlieb, who returned to marry old flame Lucy Robinson, updated the locals on his sibling: turns out Stephen and Phoebe now have five kids…
Cameron’s Home and Away character will turn the town upside down, as he meets his son for the first time. “Evan didn’t know he even had a son until shortly after Ryder was born,” explains the actor. “Ryder’s mum Quinn (Alf Stewart’s daughter) tried to get in contact but made it difficult and didn’t want to be found.
“Evan and Quinn were both young, he wanted to pursue a musical career and go overseas, but she didn’t want to live that life. They split and he left not realising she was pregnant, and she didn’t want him to know. He eventually got the news much later on.
“His son was never far from his mind but as times went on it became more difficult to find him and he gave up on the idea. Until now…”
Just to make things really awkward, Evan leaves a message with Quinn that he’s looking for Ryder, but when he rocks up it’s clear there’s been a breakdown in communication.
“The message is not passed on and it becomes apparent that Ryder has no idea his dad is in town looking for him. Evan has to make a very cold introduction, so you can imagine how that is met. There’s disbelief, and once it’s confirmed with a call to his mum, Ryder is angry and wants to know where this man has been all his life!”
Of course there is more to the story yet to be revealed, and fans should prepare for some emotional twists in the coming weeks. For now, a tentative bond is formed thanks to Ryder’s aunt Roo Stewart who tries to convince her relative to hear his dad out.
“Roo comes to the rescue,” says Daddo. “She encourages Ryder to give him a shot. He’s not here to wreck anyone’s life, he just wants to get to know his son. Evan is a pretty straight, down the line guy, but there is something he’s hiding…”