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How Home and Away star Ada Nicodemou found happiness after heartache

''Love has made me smile again''

By Woman's Day team
Not many actors can say they've been employed consistently, without a break, for two decades, but then, not many actors have been as beloved by the public as bubbly Ada Nicodemou.
"When I was first asked to come on the show I honestly thought I was going to be here for three months and that's all I thought I could do," she says of taking the job on Home and Away back in 2000.
As far as predictions go, the actress was way off.
Ada Nicodemou with partner, Adam Rigby Source: Instagram
This month marks the 20th year that Nicodemou has played Summer Bay nice girl Leah Patterson-Baker, and it was inevitable that at some point, their lives would start to intertwine.
"I love that she's an independent, strong woman who has gone through so much crap in life," the 42-year-old says. "Part of me relates to that."
As one of Summer Bay's longest-standing residents, Leah has been through a lot - from her first love Vinnie going to prison and later dying, to her second husband Dan's death, divorce and even a coma.
It's certainly a lot more drama than Nicodemou signed up for as a 21-year-old, when she'd just finished her breakout role as Katerina Ioannou on Heartbreak High.
"I was exhausted and I just didn't want to be doing a show, I just wanted a break," she admits. "But 20 years later, I'm still here!"
In that time, she's also seen a lot of co-stars come and go, even warning Chris Hemsworth not to get his hopes up before trying his luck in LA! But Nicodemou says she has "never had that burning ambition to go to Hollywood", and is still constantly challenged by the fast-paced nature of working on one of the country's most popular soaps.
"It's a stable job. You get to have holidays. You work with great people. You are practicing your craft every day," she tells Stellar magazine.
"I'm sorry, but it's pretty good! It's the industry's best-kept secret. I can see myself on Home and Away forever."
Ada Nicodemou looking back at partner, Adam Rigby. Source: Getty Images

Her Summer Bay family

For someone as warm as Nicodemou, making friends at work is never hard, and the lifelong friendships she's made on set are part of the reason she's still so happy where she is.
"We are like a family," she says.
One person who has become her rock over the years is Lynne McGranger, known to fans as the legendary Irene. As dressing room buddies, McGranger, 66, and Nicodemou clicked from day one.
"We instantly connected," says Nicodemou. "And we know each other really, really well. She's a true friend and true friends do not come around that often."
Just like their characters, Nicodemou and McGranger cherish the simple things in their friendship, such as having their morning coffee together or heading out for a lunchtime walk.
McGranger says, "I'm basically Ada's mum's age, but I've never thought of myself like that - I think she's more of a mum to me than I am to her!"
As two of the longest lasting cast members in the Bay, being able to have a laugh together after a tiring day of filming or a stressful experience on set has been a blessing.
"She's a beautiful friend and person," Nicodemou says. "She's been through the awful times with me and she's supported me through that."
Ada Nicodemou with friend and co-star, Lynne McGranger. Source: Instagram

Toughest of times

One of those "awful times" unfolded in 2014, when Nicodemou's second son, Harrison, was stillborn at eight months. Understandably, the actress still finds it difficult to talk about it without choking up.
"The past five years really tested my positive personality. Life will never be the same again; there will obviously be a whole in your heart," Nicodemou tells Stellar. "We will always remember that child and what could have been."
Another casualty of that tragedy was her nine-year marriage to Chrys Xipolitas. Torn apart by grief, the pair split a year after they lost their child, and Nicodemou once again had to put on a brave face for their other young son Johnas. "I've had to be a strong woman," she says.
Ada Nicodemou with her family. Source: Instagram

Time out to be a mum

One thing that Nicodemou took away from her loss was a new perspective on life. "I'm living life to the fullest and I'm taking more risks," she says. "I'm no longer sweating the small stuff."
Work commitments mean she sometimes misses out on the odd school event for seven-year-old Johnas, and the self-confessed "helicopter mum" admits she struggles just like any working parent.
"Any spare time you have, you want to be spending it with your child," she says. "I have to remember I need to look after myself as well. But you do feel guilty."
For last year's cliffhanger season finale, Nicodemou decided to put her family first and take a summer break from the show to spend some quality time in Greece.
"I was mum for a while," she tells Stellar. "I really loved the time with him. He was in Greece on tabletops all the time, dancing!"
Ada Nicodemou and son, Johnas. Source: Instagram

Finding lasting love

Of course, Johnas isn't the only man in the actress's life. Since late 2016, she has been smitten with businessman Adam Rigby, who didn't even know she was a household name when they crossed paths at a work event.
"I obviously noticed she was a beautiful girl and concluded she was probably in front of a camera," Rigby says of their first meeting.
After her divorce, Nicodemou admits she "never thought I'd find love again", but she and Rigby are now inseparable.
"I'm with the man of my dreams who makes me so happy and secure," she wrote on Instagram in January last year.
Being secure in love and dedicated to a healthy and active lifestyle (that means 4.30am workouts!) has Nicodemou feeling "more comfortable in my skin" than ever in her forties.
"I think I've always had a balance," she told Good Health. "I do like the odd glass of champagne and red wine, and I'm Greek - I love my food!"
WATCH NOW: Ada Nicodemou on friendship with Lynne McGranger

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