As Home and Away celebrates its 25th anniversary, original cast member Fiona Spence (opens in new tab) is returning to Summer Bay as Alf’s younger sister, Celia. Along with sisters, Morag and Colleen, Celia is back on screen from 11th Feb for niece Roo’s wedding to Harvey...
Hello, Fiona! We last saw Celia in Summer Bay in 2005 for Alf's big birthday celebrations, and Home and Away's 4000th episode. What has she been up to between visits to the Bay?
“Celia has been working in Africa, teaching children to read and write, and helping to feed families. She has since retired and returned to Australia.”
Celia is back for Roo and Harvey's wedding. Does Celia approve of Roo's husband-to-be?
“I can’t give too much about the storyline away. Just to say that Celia adores Roo and I don’t think she would think that anybody was good enough for her niece.”
Were you surprised to discover that Summer Bay history has been rewritten and long-running character Colleen Smart is now Alf's half-sister?! “Celia wasn’t in Summer Bay when it was announced that Colleen Smart was a half-sister. If she had been I’m sure she would have been demanding blood tests!”
We hear that Celia will be staying on in the Bay for a while after the wedding. How did you feel when you were approached to do your longest guest stint in a while?
“Absolutely delighted! I have never turned down an opportunity to bring Celia out of mothballs. She is a great character and I love playing her.”
Which of the current characters can you see Celia hitting it off with? Or who will she be annoying with her well-meaning advice?!
“Celia is not a character who hits it off with anyone - she is a bit of a ‘room clearer’! But, yes indeed there will be someone in her sights ripe for rehabilitation.”
Which cast members have you kept in touch with most during your years away from the series?
“I actually ran into Kate Ritchie (Sally) and her mother recently. I see Vanessa Downing (the original Pippa), with Judy Nunn (Ailsa), Ray Meagher (Alf) and Cornelia Frances (Morag) – I met them when I was doing Prisoner. So there is that bond from the shared experience and we pick up where we left off.”
Prisoner, another long-running Australian drama, still has a massive following around the world, even years after finishing. What do you think is its lasting appeal?
“If we knew the success formula for Prisoner we would all be living in the Hollywood hills!”
And how would Celia have fared if she'd been an inmate at Wentworth?!
“Perish the thought that Celia would run into ‘top dog’ Bea Smith or my character, prison officer, Vera Bennett. I don’t know what Celia would be like – she might have stuck her head in a prayer book and prayed to get out of there!”
Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.
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