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The Living Room stars share the ups and downs of a turbulent year, and how they did it all together

''The great thing about the relationship we have is the chemistry.''

By TV Week team
From first meetings to their fourth TV WEEK Logie Award, The Living Room has built a connection stronger than they ever imagined.
Not only have they found a loyal audience to give back to in a re-energised format, but the presenters – Amanda Keller, Barry Du Bois, Dr Chris Brown and Miguel Maestre – are now more of a family than co-workers.
"The great thing about the relationship we have [on and off screen] is the chemistry," Miguel says.. "Plus, Chris hasn't aged a day! [laughs]"
That chemistry is what keeps them coming back to the lounge each week to laugh, cry, share their personal stories and give back to a community in need.
As Barry goes on to explain, their friendship was "instant" and remains just as strong today.
Before the first episode of The Living Room began in 2012, Network Ten called its newest stars together to see if they'd get along.
It took less than a minute, remembers Barry, to realise that wasn't going to be a problem.
"The producers had a handful of questions to ask to see how we connected, but from the second we started talking we just clicked," he says.
"The producers couldn't get a word in for about four hours.
Finally, they said: 'Hey it's pretty obvious you guys get along, we don't need to see any more!', but the four of us just picked up and went out for a few drinks to keep going.
"We were just loving it so much!"

The new normal

Their strength as a group has never been more resilient or necessary than now.
2020 has been a long and difficult year for many, they admit, but in all the drama, they've managed to find some highlights.
As the lockdowns and restrictions from COVID-19 began to impact the country, the cast and crew had to think quickly.
For Spanish-born chef Miguel Maestre, aka "The Raging Bull", it was a matter of simplicity.
"We just had to rewind and go back to basics," Miguel explains of the show's upheaval.
Instead of the usual format, seeing the team go their separate ways to film various segments, they came together to help Aussie families in need.
"It was just the four of us interacting with families one at a time. It's really heart-warming and we're all getting amongst a great cause that we really believe in."
But although Miguel admits that the format of the show has changed, he's confident that it's the relationship between him and the gang, that keeps viewers interested.
If he could, Miguel admits he'd do the show forever. Network 10
"When people don't like each other on TV, you can tell right away," he says.
"On The Living Room, we enjoy each other's company. Regardless of what we do on the show, it's what people like about watching us."
And for Dr Chris Brown, he thinks the new format took a little time for them to get right, but now thinks the famous four are in the right groove.
"It's been nice to help people," Chris says. "I think as the year's gone on, I do actually think the show has got better and better."
Amanda adds that while it's been a "strange year for all", she has relied heavily on her cohort to get her through, which also includes Grant Denyer who co-hosted Dancing With The Stars when Australia went into lockdown.
After the "full-on" year she's just had, juggling radio and TV work, Amanda's keen for a more relaxing year. Network 10
The series was met with one obstacle after the one, culminating in an nationwide address from Prime Minister Scott Morrison during the season finale.
"Those final weeks encapsulated everything. We went from having an audience to none, [DWTS contestant and model] Christian Wilkins had to dance on a rooftop and we were told to practise social distancing.
Then, just as Celia was about to perform the quickstep, we crossed live to the Prime Minister who told us we shouldn't leave our homes unless necessary. It was terrifying to watch."
Recently it was announced that DWTS will not return in 2020.
Amanda understands, but believes there's still hope for it in the future.
"I just loved that show. It had a slot earlier in the year which just made it too hard with COVID, I think. It's ruled out for next year, but I don't know what will happen after that."

Family first

As the proud dad of twin eight-year-olds Arabella and Bennett, Barry, 60, says 2020 has afforded him more time at home.
He's loved the chance to spend time more time with his family and get to see a side of his children that's usually reserved for school.
"I always take a positive out of any negative anyway, but I have to say I was very grateful that I was able to work from home while the kids were also at home, so I made the most of that time with them and really cherished it," the design and building expert tells TV WEEK.
"I got to enjoy the dynamic that their teacher must go through because the twins are in the same class but they clearly learn differently have different personalities… very different natures and I really got to see that in that structural system of what school is."
Barry loved the perks of being at home to be with his family. Network 10
This time last year, Amanda was welling up at the thought of her oldest son Liam leaving home to go to university in Newcastle.
Thanks to COVID, Liam spent a big chunk of 2020 at home in Sydney instead.
"I went from being in tears that he was going to being so sad that he was home – good for me but bad for him," the TV WEEK Gold Logie nominee says.
"I feel bad about what a crap first year of Uni he's had."
Amanda's sons Jack (left) and Liam. Instagram: Amanda Keller
Despite his boisterous personality, Miguel has struggled to keep his feelings in check.
Both of his parents, who still reside in Spain, are older and more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.
They Facetime every week, but the distance has been tough to overcome.
"I speak to my mum and dad every day who are in Spain and I get scared for them a lot," he says. "They're so far away and if something happens, I can't board a flight to Spain to see them or come back to Australia for my family. It's difficult."
Nevertheless, a hug from his wife Sascha and two children, Claudia, nine, and Morgan, six, is enough to wash over his anxieties.
"I'm instantly at peace around them," he says with a smile.
Miguel with wife Sascha and kids Claudia and Morgan. Instagram: Miguel Maestre

Home for the holidays

Christmas is bound to be different for everyone, but all of them are simply grateful for what they have and will celebrate what's most important.
Becoming a father later in life has given Barry, 60, a different perspective on life, and one that's definitely shifted his focus closer to home.
And that's part of why he's looking forward to a relatively quiet time at home this Christmas, just hanging out with wife Leonie Tobler, family and friends.
"I didn't have the twins until I was 52 years old so you can imagine at my age how beautiful it is to have them," he says.
"I don't like to use the language of "seeing a year done" because every year is precious, especially if you're my age!"
"I'll have a pretty quiet Christmas this year, we may go up to Byron or a couple of days to visit friends but I really think this year we'll be around home."
Dr Chris says he is keen for the special Christmas episodes to air because it shows one of the most exciting stories he has worked on.
"I do an incredible expose into what is the correct treat to feed Santa's reindeer," he says. "No one's pushing the limits of science like that."
Arabella and Bennet bring Barry twin joy. Instagram: Barry Du Bois
Combining his Spanish heritage with his Aussie lifestyle, Christmas in the Mastre household is all about fusion.
While he cooks all of the Australian Christmas classics, Miguel looks forward to sharing the traditions he grew up to his kids.
"There's a lot of Spanish treats I do. Our Christmas is so different," Miguel reflects.
"Every year, I make a Resca de Reyes with the kids. It's this amazing cake with glazed fruit, like a Christmas pudding stuffed with whipped cream."
Inside the whipped cream is a hidden trinket or figurine.
"I remember being really little and searching through the slice. It's silly but really exciting."
After the "full-on" year she's just had, juggling radio and TV work, Amanda's not looking to take on anything new in 2021.
She says she feels "endlessly grateful" to be on The Living Room.
"The four of us in our relationship, we're never far from laughter or tears, particularly Barry and me. I think that's sometimes how the show is too."
She says the four of them get closer every season.
What lies ahead for the fab four in 2021? Network 10
"If I haven't seen Barry for a week we say, 'Are you ready for a cup of tea?' We all miss each other. We're a very tight unit."
After almost nine years together, Miguel jokes that The Living Room gang are in it for the long haul.
"People get married and after seven years they divorce. We've been together following nine years so we're past the seven year itch and we're still together!" he says with a laugh. "I'm an impulsive person, I do things because I love them."
Would they do The Living Room forever if he could? Miguel certainly thinks so.
"I always make this scenario of that we're all really old and still doing it," he laughs.
"It's not a job anymore, it's a lifestyle."

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