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EXCLUSIVE: Heartbreak High’s Lara Cox spills on the original series, featuring in the reboot and her Home And Away stint

''It was a beautiful experience in my life.''

By Erin Doyle
Say the name Anita Scheppers to any Aussie man in their 30s or 40s and you'll see them instantly revert to their lovesick teenage selves.
Such was the allure of Heartbreak High's Lara Cox whose nice girl, affable character teamed with stunning good looks had teenagers rushing to pin her image to their bedroom walls.
Last month, all seven seasons of the iconic Aussie TV series dropped on Netflix and with a reboot en route for 2020, there is no doubt about to be a new legion of Heartbreak High fans.
Speaking to New Idea, Lara, 42, admits that surprisingly, her now husband Jeff Springer, with whom she shares two sons Max and Jay, wasn't actually an Anita fan back in the day – because he had never seen the show!
"He was like, 'how did I miss that?'" Lara reveals.
"Because he saw The Heartbreak Kid movie, he remembers that. But Heartbreak High, it somehow missed his life. I think he did an exchange in Turkey for about a year when it was screening so it was probably something he didn't watch which is... nice."
Lara's husband had never seen the show. (Supplied)
Since the show landed on the streaming platform, Lara, her husband and her kids have managed to squeeze in a watch of a few of the episodes featuring Anita (who appeared from 1996 to 1999).
Lara laughs that her eight-year-old son "didn't get through 10 minutes of it" and simply asked: "what's it about? What's happening?"
Meanwhile, her husband Jeff was surprised at the dynamics of the famous on-screen relationship between Anita and one of the show's most popular characters of all time, Drazic (Callan Mulvey).
Referencing an episode from early on in their fictional relationship where the pair are busted shoplifting only for Drazic to literally push Anita away and call her "an idiot", Lara reveals Jeff's reaction.
"He was like, 'he was so mean to you!'" she laughs.
Anita and Drazic were iconic. (Supplied)
In the 90s, Anita and Drazic were the Aussie teen IT couple as Anita's good girl charm combined with the allure of eyebrow ring-bearing, chaos creator Drazic became a fixture in local pop culture.
"I was always thought my character was popular because of the relationship between Drazic and Anita. It seemed to be something that people resonated with - the bad boy and the good girl. I always thought that was why my character was liked. It's an interesting thing," she reflects of their pairing.
"I was thinking about the storylines like Drazic cheating on Anita with Mai, my character cheating on him with Todd and still, it seems like people wanted them to get back together. It's an intriguing thing, maybe just because he was the bad boy and she was the one that was good and they had this connection.
"It was that initial, that like first love for them both and you go on that journey and you see them explore other things and get back together."
They were a 90s IT couple. (Netflix)
Adding to media and fan's constant fascination was the fact that the actors ultimately struck up an off-screen relationship as their sizzling chemistry spilled over into real life.
But while the TV industry and Hollywood is littered with horror stories of what happens when the lines become too blurred between on- and off-screen romances, Lara insists she and Cal were able to sidestep any potential problems.
"I really enjoyed working with Cal!" Lara enthuses.
"I mean, I enjoyed working with all the cast to be honest. Working with your friends and these people that you spent so much time with does make it easier I think, definitely. And with Cal, I obviously already had that trust and connection so it definitely made it easy."
Fans of the Anita and Drazic romance will also been happy to hear that although the former couple has long since parted ways romantically, Lara and Cal are still on good terms in real life.
In fact, she last saw him this year as part of a mini cast catch-up dinner.
"I had dinner with Danny [Raco] and Cal [Mulvey] and Marcel [Bracks] about two months ago because Cal was in town," she spills.
"So we went to Danny's and all caught up and checked in on each other's lives. And Danny, he lives around the corner from me so our kids spend time together and his daughter is a day older than my littlest boy so they get along very well. He's lovely."
Anita still catches up with her co-stars, pictured here with her on-screen brother Rel Hunt. (New Idea exclusive)
While Lara has had her hands full the last few years looking after her sons, she's managed to continue acting in commercials and enjoyed several guest stints on Home and Away.
During the most recent visit to Summer Bay in 2017, she played Ryder's (Lukas Radovich) mum Quinn Jackson, daughter of Alf (Ray Meagher).
"I've been on it a couple of times now and I've really enjoyed working on it. They're such a good bunch of people. They are like a finely tuned machine, they're so good at what they do," she says.
"I thoroughly enjoyed that guestie. And I had the lovely Ryder as my son so that was fun!"
Anita most recently played Ryder's mum. (Supplied)
And now that her real-life sons are growing up – her youngest one starts primary school in 2021 - Lara will have more time to explore more of her options in the acting scene.
"That's gonna make a huge difference in terms of being able to get to things and make the time to think about me again," she says.
So could a return to Heartbreak High in the reboot be on the cards? She admits she's not ruling it out.
"Yeah!" Lara replies when asked if she'd say yes to a role or cameo. "I loved Heartbreak High. It was a beautiful experience in my life.
"I think it's amazing that people still remember it and speak so fondly of it."
This story originally appeared on New Idea.

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