In her reflections, Debra Lawrance remembers working alongside Isla, Heath, and Kate, as well as meeting her husband in Summer Bay.
There were two Pippas present in 1990 at the marriage of Carly and Ben from Home And Away.
Vanessa Downing, as “Old Pippa,” was inside the church, while Debra Lawrance, aka “New Pippa,” was outside.
According to Debra, 66, who spoke to TV WEEK, “I had to be photographed for the wedding images on the mantelpiece for future episodes.”
I was waiting in line with stunning Sharyn Hodgson and Julian McMahon outside with the photographer.
It was one of the most well-known casting changes in Australian television history. Debra, a reputable performer known for her work in theatre and television series like Prisoner, was replacing the unusual-looking Vanessa in the role of Pippa.
I once refused to colour my hair blonde when it was suggested that I do so because I didn’t want to spend however many years looking like a blonde. But you also have to make a role like that your own when you take it on.
Debra agreed to become the Summer Bay foster mother in exchange for “financial security,” but she received so much more. The casting for Michael, Pippa’s new love interest, began shortly after she joined the show.
Dennis Coard entered the space.
Debra recalls, “I was really incredibly pulled to him.”
He was arrested. It seems that the chemical read was really strong. The two quickly realised that they were “very intensely drawn” to one another.
Eighteen months later, according to Debra, “we were getting married and had a baby.”
Despite Pippa reportedly being unable to have any more children, the producers indicated they would write in the pregnancy when the actress volunteered to leave the programme when she became pregnant.
When they realised they couldn’t keep the baby inside, they approached me and said, “Look, we’re going to investigate a cot-death plot.” Yeah, yeah, that’s OK, I responded. The gender we [she and Dennis] had would be the opposite so it wasn’t too close to home, and they agreed to name the kid Dale.
However, because Debra and Dennis’ own baby, Grace, was so small while the SIDS narrative was being filmed, it affected them more than they had anticipated.
Debra continues, “Your emotions are pretty much on the edge anyway when you’re a new mom, breastfeeding, and sleep deprived.
Despite not having consumed any alcohol, I went home that evening and drank a glass of red wine because we needed to settle the day’s events. Really, only that had entered our lives had done so.
Debra and Kate Ritchie, who portrayed her adopted daughter Sally, spent a lot of time together on set. Debra recalls that at initially, 11-year-old Kate was “a bit cautious” of her because she had a really close bond with Vanessa.
But it didn’t take long for us to bond, and she is a huge fan of Dennis. We are still very, very, very close friends today.
Debra developed into a mentor to many of the younger actors on the show over time. Isla Fisher was described as “a brilliant little monkey,” and Melissa George had “a lot of ambition and drive,” according to the woman. “She wanted to train somewhere, and I suggested, “Go to Jacques Lecoq clowning school in Paris.” And, God bless her, she did.
Debra also recalls eating lunch on the set with an 18-year-old Heath Ledger.
“It was quite terrible” when he passed away, she claims.
He was always “simply a gorgeous actor” intuitively.
In 1998, Debra departed the programme. She wanted to stay close to her mother in Melbourne during her later years and to have another child with Dennis, which they did, William.
She later won a TV WEEK Logie Award for Please Like Me in 2017, and she will soon be viewed alongside Emily Browning and Caitlin Stasey in Prime Video’s Class of ’07.
But she will always have a particular place in her heart for Home And Away.
The actor claims, “Home And Away gave me my life.”
And I shout that to anyone who will listen from the rooftops.