As she walked onto the set of Home and Away for the first time last week, former Packed to the Rafters’ favourite Zoë Ventoura couldn’t help but smile. Joining the cast of the iconic week-night drama felt just like coming home. And in more ways than one for the talented actress, who has been based in Los Angeles for six years with her husband, Australian actor Daniel MacPherson.
On hand to introduce Zoë to her new Home and Away co-stars was none other than her former Rafters castmate James Stewart, who now plays town resident Justin Morgan. And that’s something Zoë – who will set up home in the Bay as emergency doctor Alex Neilson – couldn’t be happier about.
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“It’s really wonderful,” she reflects warmly. “Obviously, the whole cast of Rafters feels like an extended family. We’re all kind of scattered across the globe now, but every time we catch up or see each other at events or at work, it just feels like we’re seeing a long-lost relative. It’s like no time has passed at all.
“To have Jimmy on set is really cool, and I know that I can certainly ask him any questions. I know I can call on him.”
Zoë reveals she was in LA when word came through from the Home and Away producers about the pivotal new role. And she didn’t have to think too hard before booking her flight.
“I was sent the character information and asked if I was interested,” she recalls. “I immediately loved the character – that’s what got me in.
“She’s strong and bold and smart and compelling. I loved how they have created her and written her on the page, and the storyline they have planned for her. It just seemed like a no-brainer.”
Returning to our shores, which most of Zoë and Dan’s family members still call home, was clearly a bonus, too.
“LA is a long way away, but we’re always looking for opportunities to come home – to work and spend time at home – so this was actually a real blessing,” she reflects with a smile.
Perth-born and raised Zoë, who happily reveals that Dan is also currently in Australia, has been warmly welcomed by her new TV family.
“Everyone has been so gorgeous and kind,” she says.
“It felt like a big warm hug from the second I stepped on the set. Seeing Ray [Meagher], Lynne [McGranger] and Ada [Nicodemou] for the first time on set was wonderful.”
Meanwhile, portraying a doctor – and one with a fabulously intriguing past – is a first for the seasoned star.
“I played a nurse on Rafters – that was probably the closest I got,” she says. “But I haven’t played a doctor before, so it’s exciting to really have that challenge. I’m nervous, obviously, because there’s a lot of medical jargon and a lot of responsibility that comes with it, but I’m very excited to step up to the challenge. It’s about wanting to do it justice.
“My first day on set was all in the hospital and was a real baptism of fire, a really hectic, crazy trauma situation – but Alex is completely in control,” says Zoë.
“I’m really happy with the way it went and I can’t wait to see what it looks like. Alex is a complex woman with a lot of layers, and I’m very excited to explore them all.”
And just as you’d expect, romance may well be just around the corner for Zoë’s newest alter-ego.
“Coming to this beautiful and quiet coastal town seems like exactly what Alex is looking for, but little does she know that it’s not exactly the sleepy little place she thinks it’s going to be,” she says with a smile.
We can’t wait!
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