Home and Away

EXCLUSIVE: How Debra Lawrance and Dennis Coard - Home And Away's Pippa and Michael Ross - have made their marriage last 30 years

''It doesn’t feel like 30 years at all.''

By Wade Sellers
Australians grew up watching them as Pippa and Michael Ross on Home And Away – and while their love story on screen was short-lived, Debra Lawrance and Dennis Coard's real-life romance has endured long after they called time on the show.
This year, the pair celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary!
"It doesn't feel like 30 years at all," Dennis, 71, confesses to Woman's Day.
"I think the only way we can tell is because of our daughter Grace, who is 29. She was a wedding baby," Debra, 65, laughs.
This year, Debra Lawrance and Dennis Coard celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary! (Image: Are Media/Phillip Castleton)
The pair met at a "chemistry test" for Home And Away in 1990, when Dennis was auditioning to become Pippa's new love interest.
"I still remember it clearly," Debra recalls.
"We auditioned some of the finest actors in the country, and there wasn't much chemistry and then right at the end, this guy in a leather jacket and black jeans came in, and I thought, 'Oh hello, you're interesting!'
"So we did the scene and I raced up to the casting office and said, 'You've got to book him,' and our producer said, 'It's alright – we've already sent the contract out because casting said the chemistry was undeniable.'"
When the pair shared the screen "the chemistry was undeniable". (Image: Are Media)
For Dennis, he walked away not feeling too secure about the role, but Debra had left a lasting impression.
"She was so personable and kind. I remember she put me right at ease in that audition," he says.
Looking back, Dennis says he wasn't sure he'd make it through filming after Debra began to playfully tease him.
He soon realised that like all "schoolyard romances", her jibes were because she had a crush on him, and just 18 months later they would be married.
Audiences around the country had already witnessed their onscreen wedding on Home And Away, but little did their co-stars know that they had also in fact married in secret on February 29, 1992.
"We got married at Avalon Beach in Sydney, where I was staying at the time, just with my mum, our best friend David and the celebrant present," Deb remembers.
"It was just very special to us [keeping it a secret]. But when we got back [on set] and eventually told everyone, all hell broke loose. Rehearsals stopped, and Judy Nunn went and got champagne.
"I remember Mat Stevenson saying, 'I didn't even know you guys were dating!'" she laughs.
Their wedding was a secret, something that felt very special to them. (Image: Supplied)
Now, three decades later, the pair have enjoyed successful careers, won awards, had two children, Grace and William, 22, and yet they still consider themselves the two sprightly actors who fell in love on the soap all those years ago.
"We're still very much the same as we were back then. It's just about looking out for each other, loving and guiding each other," Dennis enthuses.
"People always ask, 'How did you survive?' but we've just enjoyed each other's company," says Deb.
"We still fancy each other – I was rewatching [movie] Return Home the other day and when Dennis popped up, I had exactly the same feeling of attraction as I did back then.
They credit Home And Away for giving their real-life love story a start. (Image: Are Media/Phillip Castleton)
"But it's about someone being your best friend and we seem to have combined the two."
There's no denying the immensely talented pair credit Home And Away for giving their real-life love story a start, but don't expect a reprise of their onscreen one.
"It's a different show now," says Debra.
"I was asked to go back as a ghost – and when I went back with a figure I had in mind, I never heard back," Dennis laughs.

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