He’s played true blue Aussie Alf Stewart on Home and Away since the first episode in 1988, but when it comes to the America’s Cup, Ray Meagher admits he’s siding with the Kiwis.
The 69-year-old hopes New Zealand win, as he’d love any excuse to cross the Tasman and visit Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour.
“I love New Zealand. I’ll back you for the America’s Cup, can’t say the same for the Bledisloe,” jokes Ray, who played rugby union in his younger days.
Ray has become such a fixture on the hit soap, which starts on TV2 this week, he now rewrites scripts to make sure the dialogue is true to character.
Many of Alf’s sayings were coined from real people that Ray met on a sheep and cattle station in Queensland.
“The expressions are stolen from genuine knockabout bushies or eccentric characters in the back of rugby sheds. Lines like ‘Stone the flamin’ crows’ are straight from the outback.”
Ray hasn’t shied away from anything in his 25 years on the show – including donning a kilt for a Scottish dancing episode – but his latest story, which sees him working with Kate Ritchie again, is one of his favourites yet.
After five years away from the Bay, Kate’s character Sally returns with her daughter Pippa (see pic below), who is dying of a rare condition. It’s a moving storyline that’s even got staunch bloke Ray choked up.
“You do get a bit emotionally involved,” Ray says. “It’s been fantastic for Kate to come back with this story she’s got.”
Over the years, Ray has seen many young actors come and go, saying the show can’t help but produce major stars, such as Thor actor Chris Hemsworth.
“You’ve got to produce the goods, and if you act under those conditions and if you’re smart, you learn,” says Ray.
“I still keep in touch with Chris. He’s a lovely bloke and that sort of success couldn’t happen to a better fella.”
But will Ray take any of the credit for his achievements?
“I wouldn’t dare,” Ray laughs. “He is very successful – despite my influence,” he jokes.