Lyn's character has appeared in Home & Away on and off since 1988 and is still going strong. She continues to serve as the town gossip and recently won the 'Miss Groper Pageant'. Colleen has had several unsuccessful love affairs and always seems to be left high and dry in the love department but her irrepressible spirit refuses to be daunted.
What has been the highlight of your time in Home & Away?
"The storylines that I've liked best I think have been to do with the breast cancer because that lasted over several weeks. There's something coming up very soon where Colleen directs a play. She rewrites Shakespeare - to the improvement of Shakespeare in her mind - but of course it's pretty dreadful stuff. It seems as though it's going to be a disaster but it turns out quite well, which is nothing to do with her script or the way she's directed it but other circumstances. But she takes the credit for it when it all goes well. I like the way she gets all snooty and high-handed and above herself."
What have been your funniest on-screen or off-screen moments?
"There was something that was put on - you probably have those Funniest Home Video things - and that was when I, as an actor, misinterpreted something and I said something quite rude. Then I got an attack of the giggles and I didn't realise that they were still recording. That has been put on (the air) to my great embarrassment. I've often got the giggles with a few people. I do it with Ray Meagher a fair bit and Mark Furze, who plays Ric. Sometimes you just look into somebody's eyes and you just collapse laughing. There's one time when I did a whole scene - when you're in the middle of the scene, I just press on, even if you're a bit wobbly - but it was only at the end that somebody told me that instead of saying 'mobile home' I'd actually been saying 'mobile phone' for the whole scene. So I was talking about 'living in my mobile phone'. Also, very often there's a little red light on the camera recording so you know which camera's following you. We rehearsed this scene and then I saw some little red lights. The unconscious in me must have thought 'oh, they've changed the shot' so I turned my back, in fact, on all the cameras and did this scene towards these red lights. When we finished the scene the director said 'what was that all about?', I said 'that was about excellent performance' and he said 'they're the exit lights!'"
How friendly are the rest of the cast and do you all get on as a family?
"Yes, we do. When we go on location we've often got time to sit around and I think that's when you get chatting to people properly as real people. The young people too... a lot of them have got ambitions to do all sorts of things and I think you get to chat with them on a real basis. There are lots of times when you're idle and doing nothing - so you need a book or something to do, there are lots of crossword puzzles. We keep in touch with people. I've kept up quite a friendship with Laurie Foell, who played Angie and then came back and played Josie. In fact I directed a little production of 'A Christmas Carol' not last Christmas but the year before and Laurie Foell was one of the narrators. She in particular has been a very good friend. She's just been to New Zealand and done Shortland Street playing a doctor - not playing a monster!"
What was it like filming the recent cyclone episodes?
"Well I had to be blown over. The producers occasionally do a screening in one of the studios and they did it for a couple of the cyclone episodes. We had popcorn and sat and watched it. It's interesting seeing it on the big screen and I think the filmic values are so good that it does stand up to that. Because some material, when it's blown up, it looks a bit empty. When I was blown over, you see my umbrella precede me and then I come tumbling over across the middle of the caravan parks with lots of leaves and stuff. There was a huge roar of laughter so I thought 'Oh well, there you go, the comic character again'. But I had to do a lot of post-synching on it because the noise of the wind machines was so great they could only use them for visual effect. So we had to say all the lines again. I find that quite difficult because you've got to match your lip movements - especially when it's close up - to exactly what was said and of course you don't always speak in crisp words, you often have uhmms and ahhs and little fillers. So it was hard work but the cyclone stuff, being blown about and that, doesn't really bother me at all. Putting in the dialogue after the event was hard work."
Are you anything like your on-screen character? Are there any scary similarities?
"Well I don't know about scary similarities - I do see it as a performance, just as one would pick up a play and think 'here is a character I'm going to work on'. Because I've been doing it so long you do realise what the patterns are and it's an endless comic strip, really. I do tend to be a bit conservative about changing things just for a change's sake. I like old buildings and I guess Colleen has an Irish background... I do have in real-life a convict ancestor. I've actually been doing a bit of research while I've been over here - I needed to find out why he was sent over to Australia, where he subsequently married two women and had seventeen children. He was sentenced to seven years transportation because he and two other fellows stole 50 yards of ribbon!
"I think that the programme's quite popular in Ireland, so maybe the name and the Irishness and the old-fashioned thing and I guess everybody's a gossip to a certain extent. Who isn't? If you're not gossiping, you don't actually have anything much to talk about. But I'm not malicious and since I've been here I've been catching up with a lot of old friends, people I knew at university, who want to know what everybody's up to. So I've been filling them on the information on people's doings... but I don't know that that's gossip."
What do you think of UK soaps compared to Aussie soaps?
"I've seen a bit of Coronation Street but that was probably in New Zealand or somewhere. I think what we have with Home & Away is that we do use locations a lot. We have some spectacular scenery around Sydney and I think very often, it just looks very good."
Will Colleen find love any time soon? When are you and Alf going to go out on a date?
"As far as the romance goes, there hasn't been anything happening and I don't know when that next one will happen. I had suggested to the writers that Colleen go on the internet chat line and that she lock up a date and that they meet up in a cafe or something and that Alf is the one who turns up. That hasn't happened yet!"
How much longer do you see yourself staying with the show?
"I love working so until I go gaga and I start being silly and forgetting the lines and just making a nuisance of myself. So I suppose until Alzheimer's sets in. But I'll keep going for as long as they want me."
If and when Collen does leave, how would you like to see her written out?
"I'd like to see her as a masked murderer and she's taken off to prison. But the audience wouldn't know - people get poisoned all over the place and she's not suspected."
Lyn, thankyou very much.
Next week, DS catches up with Footballers' Wives: Extra Time star Tom Swire, who plays Seb Webb in the ITV2 spin-off.