Home and Away

EXCLUSIVE: Home and Away star Sophie Dillman reveals the split-second decision she made with partner and co-star Patrick O'Connor

''We have to support each other.''

By Tamara Cullen
Two months ago, the entire production of Home And Away was brought to a sudden halt.
The unprecedented shutdown in March wasn't a scheduled break, but a necessary measure in order to adhere to the government's mandated social-distancing laws, to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Australia.
The bustling studios of the long-running series fell silent and Summer Bay was without Alf Stewart and his laconic quips for the first time in history.
Today, the drama series – along with several other Australian productions – remains under a cloud of uncertainty.
For Sophie Dillman, who plays Ziggy Astoni, the global crisis has left her to ponder her future.
Speaking to TV WEEK from her family home in Queensland, the actress is navigating her way through the new normal.
"It's a really weird time," the 26-year-old says.
"It feels like the world has stopped; everything is on pause. Currently, we technically don't have a job.
"On the day we got the call [to halt filming], I don't think it hit home what that meant. I think there was a thought of, 'Oh, we'll go away for two weeks and be back to normal.' But that's not the case."
Sophie and her long-time partner Patrick O'Connor, who plays Dean in Home And Away, made the decision to fly home, arriving in the nick of time.
"Paddy and I made the decision to come back when we heard that the borders could potentially close," she recalls.
"Luckily, we packed up and left, because the next day they were shut. We're lucky we got up here in time to be with our families."
Sophie and her partner and co-star Dean flew home to Queensland in the nick of time. (Instagram)
Being cooped up with your loved ones, as most people can attest, can be difficult at times. But Sophie prefers to look on the bright side. She's simply grateful for what she has.
"It would be so hard for people who can't see their partners – and that can happen, as the rules are different across states," she says.
"But just being in the same city makes you feel better. Our family homes have more space, so it's easier to be here."
Sophie admits that, at times, she and Patrick are "bored out of our brains", but that they're making the most of each day.
Her mother is a nurse and continues to work every day to help those in need.
As a former nurse herself, Sophie is happy to help any way she can.
"Patrick is up early and always has something to do," she explains.
"He's helping his family do house chores and I'm doing the same at my place. My mum is going to work, so I'm taking charge of dinners and helping out."
For now, the break may be just what Sophie and Patrick need to wind down.
However, the impact of a long-lasting shutdown plays on her mind, as it does for many others in the entertainment industry.
"A lot of artists in the world have lost their job, and a lot of them are doing amazing things, but there are some who are struggling," she says.
"They feel the pressure to come out of this quarantine with a new skill or have created a masterpiece or the next big script. But it doesn't have to be the case – we just have to watch out for each other."

Sophie continues to stay in touch with her Home And Away co-stars as often as possible.
They even rehearse their lines using the communication video tool Zoom.
In their downtime, the cast have been keeping fans up to date on social media and putting their best foot forward.
"Kestie Morassi [who plays Ziggy's mum Maggie] is helping out a woman who she ran into at the chemist and has no-one to help her, so she's selflessly trying to get medical supplies and groceries for her," Sophie says.
This small act of kindness is what Australia needs now more than ever, and Sophie further encourages people to check in family and friends as we continueto take on the coronavirus together.
"You can feel the panic in people, and that worries me," she says.
"We need to ensure that we stay calm, follow the rules – and not read the news too much. Also, don't put too much pressure on yourself. This is what will get Australia through.
"I take comfort in the literal sense that we're all in this together. There are no 'lucky' ones – everyone has been affected by this. We want this to be over soon, of course, but more importantly, we want the world and everyone in it to be healthy and happy. That's what matters."
WATCH: See the Home and Away cast goof about behind the scenes of their TVWEEK photoshoot:

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