Whilst we all grew up with her on our screen as Sally Fletcher on Home and Away, Kate Ritchie has come a long way from her acting days. She’s currently co-hosting the radio drive show Kate, Tim and Marty on Nova; she’s about to release a new children’s book all while juggling ambassador duties with underwear brand, Jockey. I recently sat down with Kate in Sydney where we spoke about oversharing on radio, why bad underwear can ruin your day and the one person she would love to play on screen.
Tell me what’s a day in the life of you.
I am very lucky at the moment working at Nova and doing drive radio. It is nice to be able to have a little more say over how my day’s scheduled rather than being handed a schedule and being told where to be every minute.
So some mornings I’ll be doing a day like today, which I suppose is full of press and then other days I’ll be taking [my daughter] Mae to swimming or soccer and usually I head into the studio at about 2 o’clock. And then we just do the show from four till six. It could be the greatest job in the world except that I have to work with Tim and Marty. Everything else about it is fantastic.
What do you think is the secret to being successful person on radio?
I think learning to share and to be yourself a little more. I’ve spoken a lot about that about having come from an acting background, coming into radio. The main challenge was just learning to be myself and find my own voice. That was kinda tricky to start with. I think that there is still an element of you being a different version of yourself or a particular version of yourself on air.
How do you draw that line being in the public eye and keeping some things personal?
I think it’s experience. I think you work that out and I’m a firm believer in following your instincts and what my gut tells me. And I think that if I feel as though I’m oversharing my body will instantly tell me that I’ve done that and I just don’t do that again. I spent more than 20 years really acting and rehearsing everything within an inch of its life. So it’s a lovely freedom to work in radio.
Do you prefer acting?
Yeah I do. I think acting is what’s in my heart. It’s not something I trained to do or chose even. It was just always what I did and so I think there’s a real sentimental attachment to it. It goes beyond any job I’ll probably ever do. I had such a nice experience there that I think that everything is connected to me far deeper than anything else that I’ll ever do.
Do you think you’ll ever revisit your Home and Away character, Sally Fletcher?
No, I don’t think so and that is no disrespect to Home and Away. And they haven’t asked me. I’d like to think the door’s always open. But I think the older I get and the further away from the show I am I start to realise that that chapter in my life is over. And that’s okay. I think that if I try to recreate it or to revisit it, it will never be the same because it’s not the same show that it was when I was there. Like any workplace, they change and they evolve and to go back and expect it to be 1996 again is ridiculous.
Tell me about your new Jockey campaign.
Well, big pants are back. Which is good news for us I think. So the campaign is “She wears the pants,” and I guess what it’s really about is encouraging women to feel confident and great, but also feel comfortable and it’s been a really lovely campaign to be part of. I feel silly talking about it sometimes, but we all know how your day can actually be ruined if you’re wearing the wrong underwear.
This is my second collection with Jockey, being the ambassador of course. I’m approached to do lots of things all the time and really when I look at it, maybe even 12 months ago, if someone had said that I’d be the ambassador for Jockey underwear donning not much more than my knickers, and a t-shirt, I would have said that they were crazy.
How has motherhood changed you?
In every way. Mae will be four in August, and it always sounds so corny when you say it, but it’s really the greatest achievement in my life. She brings so much joy to my life and puts things into perspective for me, more than anything. And she’s also taught patience and to be more present.
What are your go-tos for being a stylish mum?
Well, I’m not saying I’m the most stylish woman in the world, but I think that I’m always at my most stylish when it’s an outfit that I’ve completely chosen from head to toe. I think my style has always been probably a little conservative, but it’s about comfort and what I’m doing for the day. I’m usually dressed in denim and sneakers and sweatshirt or a shirt. You know, I love shirts and things like that. And I’ve got my gum boots on in the garden.
What are your favourite things to do with Mae?
Play in the garden. Look for fairies. She’s going through a period at the moment where everything’s role play. So I often have to be the baby and she’s the mother and I’m crawling up the stairs at 7 a.m., being a baby and pretending to cry because she has to go to work. And so you start to realise, when they start to role play, it’s a mirror of your life. They are watching and absorbing everything that you are doing. She really likes to cook and is really interested in cooking so we cook with her a lot. It’s a big part of our life as well, I suppose, so it’s nice that she’s involved.
What’s your go-to dish?
I eat a lot of fish, like ocean trout. I eat everything. That’s half my problem. Like I love all the really bad things. I don’t have a sweet tooth necessarily, but I like, meats and cheese and all that stuff that the Heart Foundation would be telling me not to eat, probably. But, yeah, I think I find food too is about cooking and cooking for other people and entertaining.
Tell me about your children’s book.
I do have a new one. Kind of under wraps for the moment, but it is inspired by the little person in my life again. And I’m thinking it’s probably set for about August release. I suppose, going back to talking about my schedule with Nova, one of the great things about having a job like that is that I can do all these other bits and pieces.
What inspired you to write a book?
I always wanted to write and in fact many years ago, even the writers on Home and Away encouraged me to come in and sit in on meetings and learn to write, but the HSC got in the way of that. And so I never really developed that skill properly, but I’ve written so many things over the years. Ultimately I’d like to write teen books, but I think maybe this is just me feeling my way through. I mean, children’s literature, that world I have never obviously been involved with before, until I wrote my first book when Mae was born. And it’s such a nurturing, lovely environment.
Does Mae listen to you on the radio?
She does, she does. We were driving down the freeway on Saturday morning and she saw me on a billboard and she said, “Oh, that’s you, Mummy.” I said, “Yes.” I said, “Mae, why is your mummy on a big poster like that?” She said, “Because your job.” And I thought, “Well, it’s exactly right,” but it’s a strange, strange little existence, you know? I think that, she knows I work on the radio and she knows I work with a Tim and Marty, but thankfully she doesn’t know much more than that.
What has been your career highlight?
Really, I don’t know. I think when I first left Home and Away and I joined Merrick and Rosso straight away, but during that first year, I think it was, I was asked to do Underbelly, and I really loved doing that. And I think for me too, it’s marked an acceptance by some people within the industry that they were prepared to give me a go at doing something else. So that was probably up there, me feeling as though, “Oh, maybe I’ve made a right decision,”
If you could play any role, what would it be?
I’d probably say the Duchess of Cambridge. But I think that might be just because I want to be the Duchess of Cambridge. Then I think, maybe I want to be Princess Mary. I’m like, “No. Hey, there’s a running theme here. You just want to be a princess.” I think it must be some childhood fantasy kind of thing.
What’s next in the pipeline for you?
I’m busy with the Jockey campaign, that will roll out over the next three months, and then the launch of my children’s book later in the year, and having to drag myself into the studio five days a week. Everything’s kind of bubbling along nicely.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Over the last year or so, the biggest piece of advice I’m trying to give myself is to just kind of quieten things. You know, that inner dialogue, and worry, and I think maybe that’s why I like to be in the garden. When I’m there, it’s the only time I ever really feel present.
If you hadn’t gone down the acting career path, what would you be doing?
I always thought I wanted to be an architect or a vet, but that would have involved getting incredibly high marks. I still did okay, considering I was only at school two days a week. I’ve been doing it for so long, I don’t have any idea. But I am glad, I’m happy with the way life has turned out. It’s been lovely. I think the universe has looked after me beautifully.
We went to: The Meat & Wine Co – Barangaroo
We drank: Red wine
We ate: Tasting plate: Szechuan calamari, pork belly, bruschetta and croquette; Shorthorn Fillet with farm salad – cos, pomegranate, cucumber, onion, radish and vinaigrette.
Photography: Ashleigh Larden