Getting five Home And Away stars together for New Idea’s exclusive summer picnic photoshoot is nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
Just like the rest of us, it’s a mad rush to the end of the year for the popular actors and actresses, with filming wrapping for the year just shy of Christmas Eve.
So it’s no surprise, that on this sunny Sydney day, Ada Nicodemou, Sophie Dillman, Olivia Deeble, Ray Meagher and Jackson Heywood are relishing the chance to catch up.
It’s tricky to snap a shot of the five all looking at the camera as they laugh and joke around, pulling crackers and playing totem tennis.
‘What do you get when you cross an elephant and water?’ Olivia reads aloud from the joke in her Christmas cracker.
As everyone else groans, laughs and rolls their eyes, it’s clear there is a special bond between them all.
‘It really is like a family,’ Jackson, who plays Brody Morgan, explains.
‘You have to have each other’s backs in this industry.’ Olivia, 15, adds: ‘I see these guys more than I see my parents! We are so close off set as well as on set.’
Giggling with her castmates as Olivia juggles some grapes, Sophie, who joined the cast this year as Ziggy Astoni, says working so closely together for 46 weeks of the year has made for some strong bonds.
‘Everyone is really close and it’s really fun doing these shoots, because you get to see everyone outside of work,’ she says.
‘Because we’re so busy, I don’t get to see people I don’t have scenes with all the time!’
This week, the entire cast and crew will celebrate Christmas with a special festive lunch, as the show celebrates 30 years of production.
Blonde beauty Sophie is looking forward to her first Home And Away Christmas party, which she’s heard from her co-stars is quite the event!
‘There’s lots of talk about people doing performances,’ she spills. ‘I’m really looking forward to it! My nana baked a fruitcake that I’m going to take along. I brought it back from Brisbane.’
For 73-year-old industry veteran Ray, the end of this year marks his 30th year of filming Home And Away.
‘It’s so hard to choose a favourite moment,’ he reflects. ‘We’ve had our ups and downs, but by and large to be able to keep the standard we’ve been able to maintain has been absolutely phenomenal.’
The beloved celebrity, who plays much-loved character Alf Stewart on the long-running series, says he will celebrate both the milestone anniversary and Christmas with his wife Gilly.
‘Christmas breaks are fantastic,’ he muses. ‘It’s good to catch up with family. I’m looking forward to the break, it should be great.’
Also a long-time cast member, for Ada, next year marks 18 years as Summer Bay favourite Leah Patterson.
Mother to adorable five- year-old Johnas, Ada is looking forward to her son’s biggest Christmas yet.
‘Johnas is really, really excited,’ she reveals. ‘You can use the whole Santa watches everything now, so you can bribe him to be really good!
‘For me, Christmas is all about family and spending time together and eating a lot of food, and now having Johnas, it’s so exciting watching it through his eyes as well.'
The 40-year-old is looking forward to spending as much time as possible with her little boy, before he heads off to school next year.
Christmas and New Year’s will also be a family affair for teenager Olivia, who moved to Sydney from Melbourne with her grandparents this year to play Raffy Morrison.
After a long year away from her family, the young starlet says Christmas will be extra special.
‘We’re all going to have Christmas in Sydney together,’ she explains. ‘It will be really lovely because my family are moving up from Melbourne for a year and we have this great new house!’
For Jackson, it will be quite a festive break this year, after celebrating an early Christmas with his six siblings in Brisbane.
‘I am going to go up to my dad’s place in Port Macquarie,’ he reveals. ‘I think I’m going to get my scuba diving licence!’
Brisbane-raised Sophie will also be departing Sydney this year for a very exotic Christmas with long-time boyfriend Ben.
‘We’re going to Bali and we leave on Christmas Day,’ she confesses. ‘It’s blasphemy for me to leave a Christmas event with my family, but we haven’t had a holiday in a really long time and we’re due!'
For all the latest Home And Away news, see this weeks issue of New Idea - out now.