Cornelia: ‘England is still home – and I miss it’

Home and Away‘s Cornelia Frances speaks about her character Morag’s return to the Bay, her favourite storylines and what she misses most about England…

It’s great to see Morag return to the Bay – how long are you back for?

“I’m back for six months this time. Morag came back for her husband, Ross’s funeral and also to get the murder charges against her brother, Alfred dropped. But when Alf announces that he’s going off to travel the world, Morag decides to stay in the Bay while he’s away and keep an eye on things. A lot of things happen that she gets involved with. I have about six weeks of filming left, and then Ray Meagher will be back from his break, starring in Priscilla Queen Of The Desert over in London.”

What does Morag think about Nicole giving up her baby to Marilyn and Sid?

“Morag doesn’t want Nicole to give her baby away willy-nilly, without it being done legally. Nicole is doing all kinds of silly things, like drawing up contracts to be signed by Sid and Marilyn. Morag feels like Nicole is selling her baby and it’s not the right thing to do. So Morag’s very much in the middle of Nicole, Marilyn and Sid saying, ‘No, you can’t do that!’ and ‘No! You’re not allowed to do that!’ She’s very concerned with what is legal and illegal.”

Would you like to be back on the series full-time?

“I would love that, especially after being on the series for 23 years on and off. There are quite a few characters who came in after Morag, like Colleen and Irene who have stayed on. I think Morag is such a worthy and antagonistic character. Each time I come back, the producer sends me a text message to say, ‘We’re so excited to have you back!’ Selfishly I think, ‘Then why are you only having me back for six months!'”

How is Morag’s relationship with her neice, Roo, these days?

“I’ve had some wonderful scenes with Georgie Parker, who has taken over the role of Roo. Georgie’s a great mate anyway and we love working together. There isn’t the same antagonism between the characters that there was in the past. Roo is now an adult and I think Morag has given in a little bit. Actually, we just filmed an emotional scene together last night where Morag tells Roo that she’s leaving the Bay again! I don’t think Morag actually wants to go. She’s an independent, amazingly strong woman, but I think she now realises family is what matters most, and she’d probably like to stay in the Bay.”

Do you have any favourite storylines?

“I enjoyed a lot of the original storylines where Morag was fighting against her family. I liked the fact that Morag gave her baby away, and no one knew about it. Then her husband divorced her. Then there was the hate of reuniting with her daughter, Bobbi. The scenes I had with Bobbi where she calls me mother. And Morag goes, ‘Don’t you dare call me that!’ That was good stuff to play.”

Have there been any worthy opponents to Morag?

“Detective Robertson. They’ve had some wonderful scenes and butted words. But it’s usually Alf and Colleen who are on the receiving end of Morag’s acerbic tongue! Morag still does not believe that Colleen is her and Alf’s long-lost sister. And she never will!”

But Morag has a softer side too?

“Morag is a very sophisticated, sharp-tongued woman. So it’s a challenge for the writers. I don’t like her to bend too much, but when she does it’s really sweet. There’s quite a sweet scene between Colleen and Morag where Colleen urges Morag to tell Alf that she doesn’t want him to leave on his trip. Morag nearly breaks down, but she doesn’t. She never lets go, unless she’s on her own. Very early on in the series, there was a scene where Morag broke down and confesses why she gave her baby away. It was a beautiful scene.”

Has the door been left open for your return?

“I still get fan letters, which tell me that it’s lovely to see Morag back. So as long as they keep coming! I love the character so much and I always will. But ultimately it’s up to the producers. The show has changed a lot. At the moment there is a lot of focus on The River Boys and the younger characters. But I do feel that there are still some adult viewers who would like to see stories involving the adult characters.”

What have you been up to in between visiting Summer Bay?

“Last year I did a six-month tour of Calendar Girls in Australia. It was hugely successful and very interesting to do. Although I did come back home to find I’d got high blood pressure! All is well now. To tour and do a play for six months is quite taxing. But it was an amazing play and I loved playing the part of Marie.”

Will you come over to the UK to do another panto?

“I’d love that. My family is over there, so I grew up with pantos and they are so great. Little did I know that one day I would be the Wicked Queen in Snow White! It was just the most magical thing for me to do. Then I played the Queen Rat in Dick Whittingdon. They do try and put pantos on in Oz, but it’s not the same. It’s got to be snowing!”

You were born in the UK, but emigrated to Australia – what do you miss about the UK?

“I miss the snow! I miss my family, my sister more than anything in the world, my nephews. I’ve got a brother, a half-brother and a half-sister over there as well. My half-sister was born when I was 16, and she’s almost like a daughter to me. She lives in Somerset, so the last time I was over I went tramping around in the fields in Wellington boots. It was beautiful winter weather, and I remember going to the pub afterwards. I just miss them all. England – there’s my roots. And that will never change, even though I’ve lived in Australia for over 40 years. England is still home and I miss it.”

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