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Home and Away

EXCLUSIVE: Home and Away favourite Lynne McGranger reveals the one heartbreaking storyline she wish she never agreed to: "I was people-pleasing"

''I felt the pressure to prove myself as an actor on Home and Away.''

By Tamara Cullen
There's a divine symmetry between Lynne and her famous alter-ego that comes swiftly when she answers the phone to speak to TV WEEK.
"Hi, Love. How are you?" she says, echoing a sentimental phrase we've heard before on screen. The endearing term is instantly nostalgic. It feels like we've known Lynne for a lifetime – and in some ways, we have. Audiences have watched the actress play Irene Roberts on Home and Away for 29 years.
Yet the more Lynne delves into conversation, the further apart she gets from the brassy redhead who calls Summer Bay home. She lives a quiet life with her partner of 37 years Paul McWaters and daughter Clancy, 31, who recently got engaged.
Like her character, Lynne has also felt the brunt of heartache, the warm glow of love and the sucker-punch of grief numerous times in her life – it's just that we just don't see it. So when the time came to put it all in writing for her debut autobiography Acting Up: Me, Myself and Irene, Lynne admits she was suitably "terrified" about putting pen to paper.
Lynne has felt the brunt of heartache, the warm glow of love and the sucker-punch of grief numerous times in her life. (TV WEEK)
"Some years ago, Ben Cousins [the former AFL player], who has struggled with addiction and finding his feet, wrote to me out of the blue. The story then came up on TV and a publishing house approached me about writing a book," Lynne, 68, tells TV WEEK. "I thought, 'What on Earth would I write about?' I also didn't think I'd remember anything – I had way too good of a time in the '70s and '80s!" [laughs]
Turns out, she had plenty to say. Lynne says she "didn't want to sugar-coat anything" about her past which includes an eating disorder, an ill-fated marriage, career fails, heartbreak, death and drugs – and within it all was a journey to finding herself and a family to call her own.
Looking back on it all, Lynne refuses to carry any burdens of the past.
"We all have trials and tribulations in life," she says. "These are my memoirs. I'm maybe sorry about certain things that happened but had they not happened, I wouldn't be who I am or where I am today – I don't want to live a life of regret."
Suddenly she stops, because there is one moment she would change.
Audiences have watched the actress play Irene Roberts on Home and Away for 29 years. (Seven)
In 1996, Lynne – who had five-year-old Clancy at the time - suffered a miscarriage during her second pregnancy. The heartbreak coincided with her H&A storyline which saw Irene announcing she was expecting. Lynne says the cast and crew were very supportive but playing out the storyline was a "traumatic and bumpy" experience.
"I remember the scene quite clearly. Irene was showing off the photos of the baby in utero - I just lost it," she recalls. "I had been given the option [not to do the storyline], but I said I would. And deep down, I was people-pleasing. I thought, 'what's easier for them?' If I had my time over, I'd say no."
Having gone through a relatively smooth pregnancy with Clancy, the grief hit harder than she expected.
"The second time around, I was older and maybe because I didn't realise I was pregnant for the first few weeks, I didn't look after myself as well as I would have if I'd known," she reflects. "Who knows why these things happen? But it did and I got through it."
Lynne with her husband Paul, daughter Clancy and her fiancé Luke. (Instagram)
This wasn't the first time she sacrificed to please. Lynne spent a lot of her childhood trying to make people laugh to detract from her "chunky monkey" figure. Her mother also fixated on her daughter's weight – which in turn caused Lynne to develop an eating disorder.
"This was the mid-sixties when [fashion model] Twiggy was the look of the day, so if I couldn't be loved for the way I looked, I thought maybe they will love me for the way I make them laugh," she says.
This desire to entertain led her to pursue an acting career in theatre. She had gumption and it won over the crowds. But when she stepped into the fictious world of Summer Bay in 1993, she hit a wall. Instead of pleasing those around her, she had to stand tall to be heard and avoid being walked over. Lynne adopted a new technique she calls "the red mist".
"I felt the pressure to prove myself as an actor on Home and Away – I didn't have a clue what was going on [at the time] because I had little experience in TV but my peers assumed I did," she says.
"The "red mist" allowed me not to be intimidated and stop the pushing around that was going on back then. It didn't happen often at all and it stopped. But maybe I trod on people's toes. I'm the sort of person you either like or I drive you up the wall!" [laughs].
These days, the red mist has dissolved and a legacy has formed. Lynne holds the record for the longest running female cast member in an Australian series and is one of the most recognisable faces on our screens. It's a role she plays with great pride, particularly due to the fact that Irene still has purpose with or without a man in her life – a path often not taken in drama series.
"Irene is a sounding board to the community," she says. "A husband or partner would just get in the way. If they pair me up with someone, I just know he'll end up trying to murder her or fleece her of all her money. I love that Irene is a great example of a strong single woman."
So we shouldn't expect to hear wedding bells in 2022?
Tina Thomsen played Irene's daughter Fin in the 1990s. (Seven)
"I don't think so [laughs]" she says. "If it did happen, chances are it'll be 45 degrees and I'll hate every minute of it! She would wear a pantsuit though, I think. You would not see her in puffy white dress."
With a legacy that lasts so long, Lynne is constantly asked when she wants to leave the show. As it happens, her answer is the biggest people-pleaser comment of them all.
"I'm a big believer that you are where you're meant to be in life," she says. "I'm still on the show after 29 years, so people must either love Irene or they can't stand her because we all love someone to hate on a TV show. A man at the airport once said to me, "Oh you play Irene? God, you're a pain in the a** [laughs]! I take that to mean I'm doing my job. As long I'm one of those and people keep turning the TV back on, I'm content."

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