Kate Ritchie grew up on our screens on Home and Away. The dual Gold Logie Award-winner left the soap in 2008 after 20 years playing Sally Fletcher. She then spent two years as a breakfast-radio host on Nova 96.9. She earned an AFI nomination for playing Judi Kane in Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities. Kate Waterhouse caught up with the 35-year-old to chat about returning to Home and Away, the most challenging role of her career and her hopes of starting a family with her husband, former rugby league player Stuart Webb.
Is being back on Home and Away a one-off or will you continue to revisit the show?
Oh, goodness, I don’t know … I think that regardless of whether this is a one-off visit or the beginning of something else, it will always be part of my life because it has made me who I am in lots of ways – professionally and personally as well.
In what way?
Professionally, it was where I learnt my craft. I’ve never had any formal training, so I grew up with the likes of actors Ray Meagher and Judy Nunn teaching me things. That’s where I learnt my skills. It also made me who I am personally because it’s almost, in many ways, one and the same, you know? A lot of my experience, especially growing up, mirrored what happened to my character. We grew up together, really, and I know it sounds corny, and if we had hours and a bottle of rose´, I guess I’d sound like a mental case talking about it, but there is so much of me in that character.
Do you ever look back at your early days of Home and Away and cringe?
Oh, absolutely. There are about 15 years of cringeworthy moments and, unfortunately, they are all documented, but I think I’m now at a point where I’m 35 and, you know, that stuff is OK. I have been put through excruciating embarrassment and having to watch and rewatch footage, and I’ve worked with the likes of Merrick and Rosso just giving it to me about everything … It’s like when you’ve cried every tear you could possibly cry, I have exerted every ounce of embarrassment, so I can’t do it any more.
Did you care when you were younger?
Oh yeah, you do care when you are younger. Sally wasn’t the cool character … I didn’t have cool storylines, and I didn’t have the cool boyfriends, and I wasn’t the beach babe of the show. At the time, that probably bothered me because I thought, ”What’s wrong with me?” … but looking back, that’s what has probably made Sally the character that she is and the character that so many people identify with, because so many women feel like they grew up with me and that they were more like me than Angel [Parrish, played by Melissa George]. There are more Sallys in the world than there are Angels. When I look back, I think it’s made me far more well-rounded because of that.
Speaking of Angel, were you surprised when Melissa George reportedly threatened to walk off the set of The Morning Show if they referenced her Home and Away character?
No, because I think, ”Well, not everybody’s experience on Home and Away or their memory of it is what mine is,” so I can’t judge that.
Of all the things you do – TV, radio, presenting – where do your priorities lie?
Acting is certainly where I feel most at home, and that’s probably because it’s what I have done the most of. I love doing the radio, but I hate getting up for breakfast radio. I think in the short term, I’d like to be back working in Australian drama.
What’s been the most challenging role of your career?
They’re all different. I guess the biggest challenge for me probably was when I did Underbelly because it was the first acting gig that I had done since leaving Home and Away.
If you’d never gone down the road of Sally, what would you have done?
I don’t know … My ideal would have been to finish school and go to university and study architecture – that would have been my dream job. But I already had a job [laughs] – and the one that I couldn’t bear to give up.
What do you do for fun?
I like to do simple things. Stuart and I are working on our house at the moment. I love cooking. We cook a lot now that Stuart is learning to be a chef.
Do you hope to one day start a family?
Yeah, it hasn’t happened … but that is definitely something we look forward to.
Do you have a secret talent?
I can tap dance!
WE WENT TO Pink Salt, Double Bay.
WE ATE Confit ocean trout tian with avocado and cucumber; goat’s-curd salad with baby beets; Belvedere vodka-cured kingfish with ruby red grapefruit, watermelon and colona citrus oil.
WE DRANK Veuve Clicquot.
I WORE Isabel Marant knit dress.
RITCHIE WORE Rebecca Vallance.
Photography: Danielle Smith.