Kate Ritchie has made an emotional appearance on Anh's Brush With Fame, opening up about the pitfalls of fame from a young age and the struggles of breaking free from her long-running Home And Away character Sally Fletcher.

Ritchie, who now co-hosts Nova's Kate, Tim and Joel drive show, fought back tears as she discussed the difficult task of turning her back on Sally, the character she played for 20 years from the age of eight.

In the candid interview aired Tuesday night, she took fans on a journey through her life, from how she first landed the Home And Away audition, to how she faced a surprising obstacle in her early days on radio.

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Ritchie admitted she struggled with the shift from acting to radio at first. Picture: ABC
Ritchie admitted she struggled with the shift from acting to radio at first. Picture: ABC

On her beginnings as an actress

Revealing it was her "shy" police officer father who encouraged her to take up theatre as a way to make friends when her family moved to Campbelltown, NSW, Ritchie, said if her mother had her way, she might never have wound up at an audition for Home And Away.

"It was kind of my dad … he saw an ad in a newspaper for a kids agency, he showed it to my mother and said 'wouldn't this be a great idea, maybe Kate would like to do this' … And my mother's response to him was 'oh my goodness, you don't want to put her in a kids' agency, you know what all those people on television are like'," Ritchie, now 42, recalled.

Her father persisted, and sure enough, Ritchie was on the road to becoming a household name.

"In 1987, I did an audition for a man called John Holmes who happened to be one of the producers of a brand new show that nobody had heard about called something like Home And Away," she joked of the now-iconic Aussie soap.

From getting her first bra, to several on-screen teen romances, Ritchie essentially grew up in everyone's living room.

Recalling her first kiss, Ritchie said: (It was) when Sally has a hippy party and we were playing spin the bottle and I had to kiss a boy called Troy … I was probably 11 or 12."

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Kate Ritchie was just eight years old when she first appeared on Home And Away. Picture: Supplied.
Kate Ritchie was just eight years old when she first appeared on Home And Away. Picture: Supplied.

On how she handled fame at such a young age

Splitting her time between days on set and being a regular school student, Ritchie admitted it wasn't easy navigating fame at such a young age. Taught to remain humble, she developed a propensity to "keep her head down", admitting she's only learned to walk with her head held high in her adult life.

"I used to get the train to and from school and I would often get groups of kids stand around me and give me a hard time," she said, recalling a day she was followed by a girl who tipped a can of coke over her head as she hid in a phone box.

"I always tried so hard to make other people feel better by not being proud," she said.

"I didn't show off, I was always taught not to show off, 'don't talk too much about this thing', and I realise that maybe took away the joy of things that you should have been able to be proud of," she told Do.

Speaking of the attention she received in public as Home And Away grew in popularity, she said she cried the first time she was approached for an autograph.

"I was always taught about 'stranger danger' and all of a sudden I had people thrusting notepads and pens into my hands and thinking they knew me and touching me and wanting a cuddle."

The star says she struggled with attention from strangers while appearing on Home And Away as a child. Picture: Supplied.
The star says she struggled with attention from strangers while appearing on Home And Away as a child. Picture: Supplied.

On working with Heath Ledger

The pair were love interests on the soap, with Ledger playing the role of Summer Bay bad boy Scott Irwin in 1996.

Speaking of acting opposite the late The Dark Knight actor, Ritchie said: "I always find it really awkward talking about him because I hate when I hear other people talk about other people of that calibre because it's as if they're trying to attach themselves to that success and I'm certainly not wanting to do that.

"My own experience working with him was that he was absolutely gorgeous and just fun. He was really fun. And I was the envy of course of all the girls on the set, because I was the one who got to lock lips with him repeatedly," she said, laughing.

"I think we did a few takes, probably unnecessarily," she joked.

Heath Ledger was on the soap in 1996. Picture: Supplied.
Heath Ledger was on the soap in 1996. Picture: Supplied.

 

Sally Fletcher and Ledger’s character Scott were teen love interests on the show. Picture: Supplied.
Sally Fletcher and Ledger’s character Scott were teen love interests on the show. Picture: Supplied.

 

On leaving Home And Away after 20 years

"I didn't know where she ended and I began or vice versa, and I had to work out whether I was more than that," said Ritchie of turning her back on Summer Bay, explaining that it "became really obvious" it was time to finally leave the show.

"It was just so frightening. What do I actually do when someone doesn't hand me a schedule on a Friday afternoon and tell me where to be on a Monday? And they were just the logistics that I knew I'd miss. I think it was the other stuff about missing the character and trying to figure out my identity without this other person, that was the stuff I hadn't really considered too much and that hit me quite hard," she said.

The star choked back tears as she recalled taking the leap away from Sally Fletcher, who she described as her "best friend for 20 years".

"She gave me purpose and a sense of achievement. I feel differently now, after loads of therapy. I thought the only thing I'd ever done of value in my life was when I was her. I was lost, and I wondered how I was going to survive without her. How were people going to react to me if I wasn't Sally? Sally was a great person, a great friend and a great daughter … did people only feel something for me because they liked her?" she said.

"I think the best thing to come out of all of this, is that I'm great without (Sally). I nearly choked on the words! We're all great without our security blankets," she told Do.

Ritchie said she managed to shake the feeling that Sally was her “greatest achievement” with “loads of therapy”. Picture: ABC
Ritchie said she managed to shake the feeling that Sally was her “greatest achievement” with “loads of therapy”. Picture: ABC

On her radio career

Ritchie's career has flourished since leaving Home And Away, working as an actor, TV host, children's author and for the past eight years as one of the biggest stars on Australian radio, on Nova FM.

Admitting she sometimes longs for people to "tell her what to say and what to wear" Ritchie said of her shift to radio: "All of a sudden I was telling my own story and I wasn't given a script and it was just banter. I'd never done that before.

"I had to find my own voice and I didn't particularly feel comfortable in that because I was still trying to figure out who I was," she admitted.

Anh Do's portrait of Kate Ritchie unveiled. Picture: ABC
Anh Do's portrait of Kate Ritchie unveiled. Picture: ABC

On motherhood

When asked about her six-year-old daughter, Ritchie said: "She truly is the greatest thing I've ever achieved. I think what I realised about Mae is, she's the first person in my entire life that I've ever met that doesn't have a preconceived idea of who I am. I'm just her mummy.

"One of the highlights of my life was when she started making friends at school and her friends would yell through the gates 'that's Mae's mummy' because I was so used to people saying 'That's the girl from the television'."

Anh's Brush With Fame airs Tuesdays at 8pm on the ABC.

 

 

Originally published as Ritchie bares all in emotional interview


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