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Dicey Topics: Ray Meagher talks money, death and sex

Did that pay decently?

If you’re out of work, anything pays decently. In guest roles, the money was okay; it wasn’t great. The regulars were in a position to negotiate. In most situations – and this still applies – to improve your fee, you’ve got to be prepared to walk away. Negotiations will quickly get to: “Well, do you want that job or not?”

What about nowadays? What’s your going rate?

Oh, if I told you that, I’d have to shoot you. Send a hit man around.

Well, we can’t have that.

[Laughs] We can’t!

But I’m sure people have asked how much you get paid for playing Alf Stewart? How do you respond?

I respond with: “A little more than I did 31 years ago. And a little less than I’m worth.” [Laughs]

What’s your greatest extravagance?

Travel. Next up: Amsterdam to Budapest. Then later in the year: London, Barcelona, Tangiers, Casablanca, back through the Canary Islands to Lisbon.

DEATH

So many characters on Home and Away have died. How has Alf Stewart avoided death?

With great difficulty. I think some writers would love to see him die!

How do you think Alf Stewart would – or should – die?

There have been plenty of opportunities for them to take it that one step further. To have [Alf’s daughter] Roo or someone just walk into a room and go, “How’s Dad?” And someone else say, “Didn’t make it.”

The most low-key death in Summer Bay history!

He’s also had numerous heart attacks. It’d depend on whether they wanted to use him for a bit of drama and have him shot, or in some fire where he tries to save a life and finishes up burned to death. My preference would be to have him fishing on the pier … and just go.

What about you? Have you thought about how you’d like to go, ideally?

I guess the real answer is, “I’m not ready to go.” I don’t want to go. I’ll go eventually. Maybe in my sleep.

Is Alf Stewart going to be on Home and Away as long as Ray Meagher is on the planet?

I’m still enjoying it. I’ve just signed for another three years. Ninety-five per cent of the time, I love it.

What was your first real-life encounter with death?

My mother, when I was eight.

Gee, that’s a really young age to lose your mum. Was it illness, or something that blindsided you?

As an eight-year-old kid, all you knew was that Mum was in hospital but not much else. From what I can gather, it was a post-operative thing, and there could’ve been a bit of negligence involved.

Eight is so young. How do you process that as a kid?

I went to boarding school, or I went very shortly after that. I thought that was pretty bad, not the ideal scenario. I missed her. But at boarding school, there’s a whole lot of kids without a mum or dad, too. So I think I thought, “This is normal. This is what you do, and you bloody well get on with it.”

Do you have any memories of her?

I remember her playing the piano. Fussing around the house and doing things mothers do. But not a whole raft of clear memories.

How would you like to be remembered?

It’s out of my control. But I hope as little money is spent on my funeral as possible, and as much money on the wake as possible.

SEX

You’ve rolled three. You get sex.

Do I?! When?

Well, that’s going straight into the transcript.

Good!

You can’t get a better distillation of raw Australian masculinity than Alf Stewart. Has that, in turn, made Alf Stewart into a bit of a sex symbol?

Look, I’m sure the ones with good taste would think that. The others can please themselves.

What’s the first thing you’d do if you woke up one day as a member of the opposite sex?

Probably put an ad in the paper.

For what?

A bloke. Actually, I’d probably go shopping. You’d have to get a whole wardrobe, wouldn’t you?

Well, as an actor, have you done drag in your time?

I’ve played the witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. In [the stage adaptation of] Priscilla, I played the mechanic who falls for the old drag queen …

You didn’t try any of the other costumes while you were working on Priscilla?

Writer, author of The Family Law and Gaysia.

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