When Lynne answers the phone to meet with TV WEEK, there’s a divine symmetry between her and her famous alter-ego.
“Hello, Love. How are you doing?” She says it again, echoing an emotional statement we’ve seen on film before. The charming word evokes strong feelings of nostalgia. Lynne seems like someone we’ve known for a long time, and in some ways, we have. For 29 years, audiences have seen the actress play Irene Roberts on Home and Away.
However, the more Lynne talks, the more she drifts from the brassy redhead who calls Summer Bay home. She has a tranquil existence with her 37-year-old partner Paul McWaters and her 31-year-old daughter Clancy, who recently got engaged.
Lynne, like her character, has experienced the sting of heartbreak, the warm glow of love, and the sucker-punch of sadness on multiple occasions — we simply don’t see it. When it came time to put it all down on paper for her debut book, Acting Up: Me, Myself, and Irene, Lynne admits she was “terrified” to do so.
“Ben Cousins, a former AFL player who has suffered with addiction and rediscovering his footing, spoke to me out of the blue a few years ago. The storey was subsequently broadcast on television, and I was approached by a publishing house about writing a book “Lynne, who is 68 years old, says TV WEEK. “‘What on Earth would I write about?’ I wondered. I didn’t believe I’d remember much either — I had far too much fun in the 1970s and 1980s!”
She had a lot to say, as it turned out. Lynne says she “didn’t want to sugar-coat anything” about her background, which includes an eating disorder, an ill-fated marriage, job failures, sorrow, death, and drugs – and a search for herself and a family to call her own.
Looking back, Lynne refuses to carry any of the past’s baggage.
“We all go through ups and downs in life,” she explains. “These are my autobiographies.
I’m sad for certain things that happened, but I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today if they hadn’t happened — I don’t want to live a life of regret.”
She abruptly comes to a halt because she is about to transform.
Lynne had a miscarriage during her second pregnancy in 1996, when she had five-year-old Clancy. Irene announced her pregnancy in her H&A tale, which corresponded with her heartbreak. The actors and crew were incredibly supportive, according to Lynne, but putting the plot together was a “painful and difficult” affair.
“The scene is still fresh in my mind. Irene was showing off images of the kid in the womb, and I couldn’t take it anymore “She remembers. “I was given the choice of [not doing the tale], but I declined. And I was people-pleasing deep down. ‘What’s easier for them?’ I reasoned. I’d say no if I had more time.”
After a relatively easy pregnancy with Clancy, the grief hit her harder than she had anticipated.
“I was older the second time around, and perhaps because I didn’t realise I was pregnant for the first few weeks, I didn’t take care of myself as well as I would have if I’d known,” she reflects. “Who knows why things happen the way they do? But it worked, and I was able to get through it.”
This wasn’t the first time she had made a sacrifice in order to impress others. Lynne spent much of her childhood attempting to make people laugh in order to distract them from her “chunky monkey” appearance. Lynne developed an eating disorder as a result of her mother’s obsession with her daughter’s weight.
“It was the mid-sixties, and [fashion model] Twiggy was the look of the day,” she says. “If I couldn’t be loved for the way I looked, I figured they’d love me for the way I make them laugh.”
Her drive to entertain pushed her to pursue a profession as a stage actor. She had a lot of guts, and it paid off. In 1993, however, she met a brick wall when she entered the fictional world of Summer Bay. She had to stand up to be heard and avoid being walked over, rather than delighting people around her. Lynne has developed a new technique she refers to as “the red mist.”
“I felt pressured to establish myself as an actor on Home and Away – I had no idea what was going on [at the time] because I had no experience with television, but my colleagues assumed I did,” she adds.
“The “red mist” made me feel less afraid and stopped the pushing and shoving that was going on at the time. It didn’t happen very often, and it eventually ceased. However, it’s possible that I stepped on someone’s toes. I’m the type of person who either makes you like me or makes you hate me!” [laughs].
The red mist has dissipated, and a legacy has emerged. Lynne is the longest-serving female cast member in an Australian television series and one of the most well-known faces on our televisions. It’s a position she takes pride in, especially because Irene has a purpose in her life whether or not she has a guy in her life — a path that isn’t typically pursued in drama series.
“Irene is a community sounding board,” she says. “A husband or partner would obstruct the process. If they pair me with someone, I’m sure he’ll try to murder her or rob her of all she owns. I think Irene is a fantastic role model for a strong single lady.”
So, in 2022, we shouldn’t expect to hear wedding bells?
“I don’t think so,” she responds, laughing. “If it does happen, it will very certainly be 45 degrees, and I will despise every minute of it! I believe she would, however, wear a pantsuit. She would not be seen in a big white gown.”
With such a long history, Lynne is frequently asked whether she plans to depart the show. Her response, as it turns out, is the most people-pleasing of them all.
“I believe you are exactly where you are supposed to be in life,” she says. “People must either love Irene or can’t stand her because we all love someone to hate on a TV show because I’ve been on the show for 29 years.” “Oh you play Irene?” a man at the airport once asked. You’re such a pain in the neck [laughs]! That means I’m doing my job, right? I’m pleased as long as I’m one of those and people keep turning the TV back on.”