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Cameron Welsh (Series Producer, 'Home and Away')

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Cameron Welsh (Series Producer, 'Home and Away')
It's been a rather rocky few months for Home and Away, with outrage over lesbian kisses, saucy sex tapes and cocaine scandals. But as the soap celebrates its 21st anniversary, there's one story that's got everyone talking - just what is this year-long mystery? As part of DS's Producer Season 2009, we recently chatted to Home and Away's series producer Cameron Welsh about everything from Charlie's romance with Joey and Kate Ritchie's departure to Morag's return and whether Jack will come back from the dead.

Were you surprised by the controversy surrounding Charlie and Joey's relationship?
"Yes, I was. I was very surprised by it. We set out to tell basically a love story between two people. The fact they were same sex wasn't really the point of the story and it certainly wasn't about having any more or any less physical intimacy within the storytelling than the way we would approach any other love story."

Is there any chance of Joey returning to reunite with Charlie?
"We always keep the door open for characters like that. She was a really popular character and Kate (Bell) did a fantastic job portraying her, so we would always keep the door open."

Do you think the relationship between Charlie and Joey has paved the way for a resident gay character to settle in Summer Bay?
"It's hard to say. I wouldn't say it's paved the way. Personally I'm not opposed to it, but having said that, there's nothing in the planning for that to happen at any time."

Since the departure of the Sutherlands, Summer Bay has been lacking a real core family unit. Would you like to see the series return to its roots of having a strong families anchor the show?
"Yeah I think so. We've not had that big family that arrives from out of town and sets up camp in Summer Bay. We've had growing families and a couple of blended families in the meantime and it would be nice to see another family arrive in the Bay."

It's been some time now since Kate Ritchie's departure. Do you think her absence has harmed the show in any way?
"It's hard to say really. From my point of view I certainly miss having her around. She was a good friend and also a really reliable work colleague. She's somebody that you know as an actor you could throw anything at her and you know she'd make it work and actors like that are always a big asset to have on the show. So from that point of view, yes she's missed, but having said that we've had some other actors step up and fill that bridge pretty well."

Do you think Sally will ever return to the Bay?
Oh look, I hope so. That will be up to Kate ultimately. As I said, characters like that the door will always remain open, there's no question about that. So if it can work out with Kate's schedule and what she is doing with herself now, then we would absolutely love to have her back."

There's been a lot of speculation about whether Jack is really dead. Is he?
"Look, I've been surprised by that. I thought it would've been pretty certain at the end of last year that he was dead. The answer is yes, he is dead. There's no coming back for Jack and I know that's going to disappoint a lot of Jack fans out there but yeah, he's gone."

So there's no chance of his spirit making a Bobby-esque appearance from Martha's refrigerator?
"I don't think we'll be seeing that, no. As far as I know Paul [O'Brien] is over in LA at the moment, so I don't think we'll see his ghost turning up."

We've recently seen Kirsty and Pippa return to Summer Bay. Are there any characters you'd love to see come back?
"Yeah there are. I've always said I'd love to see Vinnie come back. I doubt very much that that will ever happen. Ryan Kwanten is pretty busy these days in LA as well with True Blood so I can't see that happening, but he was always my favourite character so I'd love to see him back.

"Another character I'd love to see come back, even if for a short while, would be Will played by Zac Drayson. Zac is a fantastic guy to have around and did a great job with that character. He's a fantastic actor and I'd like to see him come back in."

Would you like to see him come back with Gypsy [Kimberly Cooper]?
"Yeah, absolutely. It would be good to see Will and Gypsy back."

Can we expect to see Morag [Cornelia Frances] back on our screens any time soon?
"Absolutely. Cornie's filming with us at the moment. She's very much part of our plans going forward."

Having previously starred on the show as Mitch McColl, does that have any bearing on how you now approach the soap as a producer?
"I can't really say. I've not ever produced something without having been an actor so how well I would look on it. I can only really approach it from the point of view of my own experience. Has it been beneficial being on the show? I'd say yes. I've spent time acting on the show, writing for the show and directing the show and I think all of those things help when producing. I think it gives you a better understanding of all the elements that go into making it what it is."

We've been teased for some weeks now about this ongoing mystery unfolding throughout the year. Can you give us any more teasers?
"Probably not. I don't really want to give the game away. It's something that we're really happy with, the way it's been going. We've just finished plotting the conclusion to that story so we'll be filming that within the next six weeks or so. I think it's a really exciting story and it's a great conclusion. I think it will surprise people.

"It's been interesting actually having picked up some of the reaction from various people from various sources. A lot of people are pretty close to the mark and a couple of people are really wide off the mark. But that's kind of the point of the story. It's about generating interest and intrigue and having people talk about it and come up with their own theories and hopefully some people will have their loyalty to the show rewarded when they see it all play out."

With Irene in prison we've seen her struggle with her demons. Where does she go from here?
"Long-term viewers will know that Irene's battle with alcohol was a really important part of what made her who she is today so going back there can only mean that it will have a similar impact on her life. It's been great for Lynne [McGranger]. It's given her an opportunity to really showcase her talent. She's a fine actor and it's really good to see her front and centre."

She's done an amazing job.
"Yeah, she really has and I think it's encouraged all of us to write bigger stories for her and find a better balance in the storytelling and get some more stories for her in the future."

Did Irene really kill Lou?
"I can't really tell you about that. All I can say is that all of that is connected to the mystery storyline."

What's the deal with Hugo? There's something awfully shifty about him.
"He's a guy that's definitely got some secrets but I think you can say that about a lot of the characters on the show. I think that's a good character to have on Home and Away because it gives you scope for storytelling. If you keep a little bit hidden beneath the surface it can come up whenever you need it and provide you with opportunity to tell a story."

There's a great group of teenagers on the show again. What can we expect from Ruby, Nicole and the crew?
"Lots of good stuff for those characters. Nicole, she's a really interesting character. She came in with really strong opinions and a kind of morality that was different to the rest of the group and I think that she's probably going to come full circle on that one. I know that she'll make some really poor errors in judgement that will have some really devastating affects for some other characters and I think that will be the wake-up call that she needs to try and turn things around.

"As for Ruby, well she's got a big story coming up and again without giving too much away all I can say is everything that she ever knew about herself is about to be turned on its head."

Jess Tovey recently filmed her final scenes with the show. What can you tell us about Belle's exit?
"Belle's exit is highly emotional. Over the last 12 months or so we've seen Belle and Aden come together in a relationship and I just know that they've been hugely popular with our audience. The reaction to their relationship has been phenomenal and the biggest reaction I think I've seen to two characters getting together for as long as I can remember. The thing about her departure is that it's about Belle and Aden. It's about their relationship and I've got to say is extremely emotional."

And Aden is remaining in Summer Bay?
"That's right."

Roman is also leaving. What does this mean for Nicole?
"It leaves her without a father and without a home. Which is great, really! Not for Nicole, but it's a great opportunity for stories. She's going to do some things and take some action that will have devastating consequences for a number of other characters and I guess that comes off the back of her life being turned around by having her father disappear and her life and her home gone."

What about Alf. Will he ever open his heart again or was Ailsa his one true love?
"That's a good question. I think Ailsa was definitely his true love but I guess the question is 'Can you have more than one true love?' Alf, as we know, is not a frivolous character. He's unlikely to get into too many short-term relationships or whatever. I think that if he were to enter into a relationship he'd only want to do so if he felt it was there for the long haul. I'd like to see it. It'd be nice to see Alf happy again."

What about Claudia and Geoff now she's discovered that she's pregnant?
"That's another good question. It's not as clear cut as it probably looks on the surface. There's more going on there in their relationship and more than what we can probably see right now. It's an interesting story and will develop over the next couple of weeks."

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