A milestone is reached on Home and Away this month when Georgie Parker notches up 10 years as Roo Stewart, daughter of the soap’s legendary longest-serving character Alf Stewart (Ray Meagher).
While the character was among the original cast of the Australian soap back in 1988, Parker became the second actress to play the role from 2010, replacing Justine Clarke who left in 1989.
One of Australia’s most popular TV stars, award-winning Parker’s casting was a coup at the time and heralded a more mature, older and wiser Roo when she was reintroduced, a far cry from the teenage tearaway she once was. In an exclusive chat with RadioTimes.com, the fan favourite reflects on a decade in Summer Bay.
How did you feel about joining Home and Away back in 2010?
I really wanted to work with Ray Meagher (Alf Stewart). I always knew we’d get on, when there was talk of me joining he came up to me at an awards ceremony and said: ‘I hear you might be coming to play, wouldn’t that be good?’ I’d done many other shows on Channel 7, the same network as Home and Away, the offer came and I knew their approach to drama and it was a comfortable fit for me. There’s a real sense of family on the channel. And Roo is an interesting character, not a straight-up middle aged woman. She is ballsy and a rebel.
Were you worried about the part being recast?
Funnily enough Justine Clarke, the original Roo, is a good friend. We always take a selfie when we run into each other and send it to Ray – from your two daughters! It had been a long time since Justine left, and I assumed she wouldn’t want to go back to something she started with as she has grown way beyond the character. She is a luminous performer and her career has taken many fascinating and interesting turns. We actually worked together on a cop show called All Saints. Though it would be fun if she came in as my twin!
How familiar were you with the show before you joined?
I did a drama for many years in Australia called A Country Practice, and was well aware of the cast and crew as we filmed in the next studio so we shared a green room. I did guest role when they were shooting the pilot, then when I joined the regular cast Home and Away had been going for a year. Nicolle Dickson, Alex Papps, I’d hang out and have lunch with all those original cast members. Later in the early 2000s, I did All Saints in the same studio in the era of Bec Cartwright, Tammin Sursok. I’ve been working alongside Home and Away for decades, my career was always in parallel with the show!
Do you still enjoy working with Ray Meagher?
He is a terrific man. He calls me ‘Parker’ and I call him ‘YOF’ which stands for ‘Your Other Father’. His number is actually stored in my phone as that! Ray is a great storyteller, very generous and has a wicked sense of humour. I love him. Alf has softened a bit, but he can still get riled up and give people what for. We need that kind of character on the show, you can’t have everyone holding hands and skipping off into the sunset!
How has Roo changed since you’ve been playing her?
Since her mum Martha came back into her life she’s got some degree of closure. A lot of the stuff she acted out on when she was a naughty teenager, and thought her mum was dead, is still hardwired into her though. Finding Martha didn’t erase all the things she felt and reasons behind her behaviour. Having her back makes her feel better but doesn’t change who she is and how she got there. Roo’s inherent rebelliousness was a reaction to pain and grief of losing one parent, and being left with another who didn’t know how to be there for her.
She’s become very maternal, but was she lacking female role models when she was younger?
Well there were Alf’s sisters, Auntie Celia and Auntie Morag, but they weren’t the warmest women on the planet were they?! You’d be jumping out of the bedroom window to go off and have a good time with those two in the house… Anything to get out!
How similar are Roo and Alf?
Oh she is definitely her father’s daughter. Roo has become a mother figure to her nephew, Ryder, but lets him make his own mistakes as that’s the only way you learn – Roo has made enough of her own. If you muck up, you’ll be the one to suffer. You can fall over and get back up, but if you do it again you’re an idiot! Roo may be his parental figure but she is also the cheeky, cool aunt who encourages him to be a bit rebellious. In fact Ryder can be the straight one compared to her, she is a bit more outrageous and loves embarrassing him!
Finally, who have been your mentors in your career?
I always looked to older actors and observed how they worked, and shut up and listen to their stories. Joan Sydney and Shane Porteous in A Country Practice come to mind. I’ve been acting a long time and I always notice who is true to the work, who is lazy and who just phones it in. The ones that make a fuss are always the ones trying to disguise the fact they’re not very good at their job!