It's often said that bad news or misfortune comes in threes.
Depending on who you ask, the saying is either deemed a silly superstition or absolutely true, but Bridie Carter has had her fill.
Before the COVID pandemic gripped the world in 2020, the actress and her family suffered through one of the worst droughts Australia has ever seen on their farm in Lismore, NSW.
Then came the raging summer bushfires that saw people, homes and precious wildlife lost across the country.
It felt like one blow after the other; a continuous cycle of bad news she couldn't seem to find her way out of.
"Where I live, we've suffered through bushfires as well as a drought. Then the rain came, but there was more [bad news] to come," Bridie, 50, tells TV WEEK.
"It was hard to have a concept of time in 2020, because it was very strange."
Ironically, Bridie was invited to help raise funds for rural communities at a McLeod's Daughters meet-and-greet.
She didn't hesitate, but acknowledges that while she was busy helping others, she could have used some help herself.
"It [McLeod's and helping the rural communities the show is based on] means more to me than you know," she says of her strong bond to the drama series, which ran from 2001 to 2009.
"I was asked to do the drought telethon, but I can't even tell you how much we were spending on feeding our own cattle on the farm. Our dams were completely dry. I, as an actress, was raising money for the drought… I am the drought. I'm living it, so I get it on both a personal and professional level."
"It meant a lot to be able to give back to a deserving community. Our farmers feed and clothe us. They're the backbone of society and I will forever be in debt to them. I'm connected to the land."
Soon after, her livelihood was threatened again when the pandemic forced everyone into lockdown.
"All of it had become a big build into COVID and it was really scary," she says. "My industry shut down; filming stopped, theatres went dark and no-one knew when it would open back up. That's my livelihood; it's how I support my family."
In between acting jobs where she would do voiceover projects in her walk-in wardrobe, Bridie remained thankful there was "still work to be done" on the farm.
She also continued to home-school her kids Tobias and Otis, alongside her husband Michael – a task she admits was joyful but challenging.
"I did love having them home," Bridie says. "But as a teacher? Well, I did lose it a few times, as I'm sure many other parents did too. And if they say they didn't, they're lying." [Laughs]
As time went on and the arts continued to be left in the dark – literally – the impact she had feared for her family was becoming a stark reality. Then, the phone rang.
"Out of the blue, my agent called and said, 'You have a job offer.' I almost fell out of my chair," she says with a laugh.
"I thought, 'What do you mean? How?'
"And they said, Home And Away would like you to take a look at this role. I was shocked, but they had just returned to filming [after a hiatus because of COVID], so I read the brief and spoke to the producers about this wonderful character. It was crazy and wonderful all at once!"
Bridie remained cautious of her commitment to the show in unprecedented times, but was impressed by how accommodating of her needs the cast and crew were.
"They were so supportive of me – and of being a working mum too,"she says. "So I was able to film and then return home to my kids. I was flying between home and Summer Bay."
As the new kid in town, her character Susie is bound to cause a few waves. But first, she'll send one heart fluttering – veteran character John Palmer, played by Shane Withington.
"It's one of the best roles I've ever played," Bridie says. "Susie is so intriguing, and confident about who she is. It was so much fun to play out with Shane, and I've had a ball playing out this story. It's special when that happens, particularly on a long-running show."
The TV WEEK Logie Award winner is best known for playing Tess Silverman in McLeod's Daughters, so her joining another beloved series such as Home And Away was enough to send her fans into meltdown.
"I got great feedback from fans on social media," she says with a smile.
"Fans of McLeod's love Home And Away, and have a massive overseas following. In some countries, people are now looking for where to watch Home And Away, which is lovely to hear."
"Another positive thing to come out of this role for me personally is that in a time when people are suffering, we need entertainment and escapism more than ever. My job as an actor is to tell stories and to connect, so to do that in this setting, it's quite a privilege."
As fans eagerly await her arrival in Summer Bay, they may have to wait even longer for news of the highly anticipated McLeod's Daughters film.
Bridie hopes it's the gift people deserve after such a turbulent 2020.
"The first draft for a feature film is being written," she says.
"I really feel like we have this incredible gift that will last forever and are then wrapping it up and handing it over to the fans. There is nothing better than that; they're our family."
Bridie believes that joining the show in 2021 isn't just a professional high in her life, but one that changed her entire view of the world: who she is, where she wanted to be, and the importance of staying connected to the land we live on – no matter what life throws at it.
Drovers Run is more than a fictional place – it's home.
"Ironically, that is the gift McLeod's gave to me," she says.
"I could never live in the city again. I've been on my farm for 20 years since McLeod's began – the land, the community and the fans are our family.
"Human beings aren't meant to walk alone – we're meant to walk together and stay connected. This is a gift I'm more than happy to give."