For 27 years, Irene Roberts has been the heart and soul of Home And Away. Loved worldwide, the popular character is the ultimate true-blue battler, known for her welcoming presence, warm heart and quick-witted remarks. And for her rollercoaster life in Summer Bay!
But for Lynne McGranger – the award-winning drama's longest-serving female cast member – her character's trials and tribulations are far removed from her own. Unlike her alter-ego, she prefers a low profile.
"I deal with the fame of the show," Lynne, 66, revealed to TV WEEK magazine. "But it [being a public figure] is a bit weird. Especially with personal stuff – word gets out."
Lynne long kept her private life hidden from even her most devoted fans – until she opened up to TV WEEK in a touching interview.
The Hearing Awareness Week ambassador recalls the heartache of losing her parents and how it has defined her life today.
"Dad's health had a huge impact on my life," Lynne reveals.
"He was a smoker since a young age and eventually quit when he turned 50."
Sadly, Lynne's father Bruce passed away in 2005 of oesophageal and skin cancer. He was 79. While the loss of any parent is heartbreaking, Lynne says it was the way her father died that affected her the most.
"He was a funny and fabulous person," she remembers fondly.
As a former smoker herself, his death was a wake-up call to change her habits.
"At the time, I had been trying to give up smoking and wasn't able to," she explains. "Two weeks after Dad died, I decided to visit a hypnotist – I haven't touched a cigarette since."
And it was this swift health change that inspired Lynne to tackle several other facets of her life too, including exercise and alcohol intake.
"I used to have a few glasses of red wine every night while cooking dinner," she admits. "It doesn't seem like a lot, but it was the equivalent of nearly three bottles a week. As soon as I stopped, I lost two or three kilos. When you get to 60, your body says, 'Hang on, I just can't do that any more.'"
WATCH: Take a trip down memory lane and revisit Irene's first appearance on Home and Away Story continues below...
Now in tune with her body, the soap star treasure has a new zest for life – and Lynne was travelling along the fast track to longevity.
Yet, heartache loomed again when her 92-year-old mother Audrey was diagnosed with dementia. In 2015, she sadly passed away from a stroke.
Despite her deteriorating health, Audrey lived a happy life. But her daughter is adamant more could have been done in her final years.
"In the last 10 years of her life, she was as deaf as a post," Lynne explains. "We'd have to stand in front of her and yell in her face – it was awful and incredibly sad to watch."
Since her passing, Lynne has been determined to spread the message to Australia's senior community about improving their health care.
"I thought, 'I'm no spring chicken and could be heading down that path,'" she says. "I'd hate for people to miss out on a big part of their life."
Lynne shares that when she was growing up the McGranger home was always full of music. Her parents were singers and relished the stage. But they were concerned when she decided to quit her job as a school teacher in the mid-1970s to pursue her dream.
"They warned me of the pitfalls," the mother-of-one recalls. "But once they realised my heart was set on it, they encouraged me the whole way."
Starting out in stage productions and dabbling in stand-up comedy, in 1992 she won a guest role on Home And Away, and, as they say, the rest is history!
"I didn't actually get serious about my acting until I was in my late 30s," Lynne admits.
And in the precarious world of showbiz, Lynne knows how lucky she is to have her regular role. "I've honestly won the acting lottery. I'm so blessed. I'm so blessed. I feel like the luckiest actor in the world."
Despite marking over two-and-a-half decades on the iconic Aussie drama, Lynne has not only won the jackpot professionally but personally, too, and never takes her nearest and dearest for granted!
Fame isn't a factor when it comes to her partner Paul and daughter Clancy.
"I wouldn't bore them," she laughs. "I've been on the show since Clancy [born 1991] was 20 months old – so she gets it. Paul is always busy, as am I. So it's not a big deal."
Clancy, now grown up, has inherited her mother's talent. Lynne calls her a "triple threat", being a dancer, singer and actor. In fact, Clancy sometimes pops up in Home And Away as an extra.
"We're all supporters of each other's goals," Lynne says. "We're a pretty normal home. Paul has been a house husband since Clancy was born. Now he's kind of a computer geek, which isn't my cup of tea but he loves it."
Lynne's family is the one thing that truly makes her smile. She gives thanks to her partner of more than 30 years, Paul.
"Aside from being a wonderful man, if it wasn't for him I'd never have been able to do what I've done on Home And Away. He took over as a house husband and primary carer of Clancy," says Lynne. "He's amazing. We still enjoy each other's company and still make each other laugh."
Marriage hasn't been high on their list of priorities, but Lynne doesn't rule it out. "If we do get married it will probably be a barbecue in the backyard," she says.
As well as her family bringing her joy, Lynne enjoys hanging out with co-stars Ada Nicodemou, Ray Meagher, Emily Symons and Georgie Parker. After so many years working together, there's little they don't know about each other.
They've even become exercise buddies. "Ada [who plays Leah] and I share a dressing room, so we're close and regularly go for walks," Lynne reveals. And she often joins Georgie (Roo) for Pilates. "I'm pretty fit. It feels good to be able to do that."
And Lynne still feels good playing the redhead. "I've never fallen out of love with playing Irene. I love her, I admire her, and I love that she's got faults just like everybody else."
Yet Lynne acknowledges it's the foibles that draw people to her character. And while she tries her best to stay out of the limelight, the attention that the fame game commands has harvested some surprising interest!
Lynne – who is active on Instagram – recently spoke out about young male admirers who send her "flirty" and "weird" messages online. She sees it as just a bit of fun and likes that her character invokes feeling in people.
"With social media people can contact you directly and some of the messages do surprise me," Lynne told the Daily Star. "Some of them are weird. I have young male followers who can be a little bit flirty and a little bit weird sometimes. I think they're all young men who obviously have a mother complex."
Becoming somewhat of a maternal figure for fans only elevates the joy Lynne has for her job and as for the star's future on the show. She was quick to take to Instagram a few months back to quash rumours that her beloved Summer Bay soap was to be shelved.
Meanwhile, Lynne continues to enjoy every minute of her job.
"I'm not denying there haven't been times when I'm tired. But every day is different. That's the beauty of this job. Some days, I'll be exhausted and think, 'I don't get paid enough for this.' But the following day, I'll turn around and say, 'You know what? I truly have the best life. It's wonderful.'"
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