Lynne McGranger as Irene Roberts
|Home and Away character|
Jacqy Phillips (1991–92)|
Lynne McGranger (1993–)
|First appearance||29 October 1991|
|Introduced by||Des Monaghan|
|Book appearances||Home and Away: A Place in the Bay|
Irene Roberts is a fictional character from the Australian Channel Seven soap opera Home and Away, played by Lynne McGranger. She was previously played by actress Jacqy Phillips from 1991 until 1992 when McGranger took over the role on 12 January 1993. Irene was originally a recurring character, but on 7 October 1993 McGranger was promoted to the regular cast. McGranger is the longest-serving female cast member on the show, having played the role of Irene for 25 years.
Actress Jacqy Phillips was cast the role in 1991, but she left the following year. Irene was later recast with Lynne McGranger taking over the role. McGranger was part of the guest cast when she joined because Irene was a recurring character, on 7 October 1993 she was promoted to the regular cast. McGranger is now one of the longest serving cast members in the serial. Speaking of her duration whilst interview by TV Tonight, McGranger stated: "Being very pragmatic, I love my job. You couldn’t be doing this for 18 years if you didn't love it. You would go stark raving nuts, because it is intense."
The serial's official website describes Irene as: "your classic Aussie battler. Down to earth and with a wry sense of humour, she's always good for a yarn and a laugh. It doesn't matter who you are, young or old, Irene's door is always open to you." Irene is seen as a caring woman who constantly takes in children to foster, of this they say: "Helping kids in need has given her a second chance at being a mum, and the opportunity to make up for all the mistakes she made with her own kids."
There were plans to write the character out of Home and Away in early 2002, however when new Script Producer Coral Drouyn arrived, she was horrified and decided to give the character strong storylines and ground her.
Lynne McGranger, who portrays Roberts, said of her role, "Having to play that 'losing your mind' stuff was really a stretch for something like Home And Away, and for someone like Irene, who's very comfortably swanning around Summer Bay for 13 or 14 years, making people cups of tea and solving their problems...Sometimes you get a little too comfortable and that really jolted me out of my comfort zone. It was exhausting but exhilarating."
Irene arrives in Summer Bay as the alcoholic mother of three children, Nathan, Damian and Fin, being fostered by Pippa Ross. Having hit rock bottom after an unhappy marriage, she had started drinking heavily as a coping mechanism, and it was soon revealed that she had used violence towards Damian and Nathan on occasions while under the influence. Although Damian and Fin try to maintain a relationship with her following her arrival, her drunken antics prove too much, and after falling down the stairs after a binge, she falsely accuses Damian and Fin of pushing her and then threatens to harm Pippa if she does not release Damian from her care. This proves to be the final straw for Damian and Fin; unable to cope with her behaviour any longer, the two, backed by Pippa and her husband Michael, tell Irene to leave the Bay and go home and get her life back together.
After an 18-month absence, Irene returns to the Bay after hearing in the news that Fin had nearly drowned during a deep sea dive. By this time, Irene had turned her life around and had not touched alcohol in over a year. Although initially sceptical, her children soon warmed to her when they realised that she really had changed for the better, and, following the arrival of Damian and Fin's brother Nathan in the Bay when Irene was considering leaving, Nathan explained that their mother was now recovered from alcoholism and had left their father; as a result Damian and Fin decided that they wanted her to stay at Summer Bay permananently. Despite the previous animosity between the two, Irene also soon becomes firm friends with Pippa, displaying a kinder side to her personality when she helps Pippa come to terms with the loss of her son Dale who died of cot death, and the death of her husband Michael, who drowned in a flash flood.
Before long Irene would become one of the key characters in the series, taking over the Beach House. Her three biological children moved back in with her, and she also fostered a number of other young people over time.
Irene and Angie Russell (Laurie Foell) took an instant dislike to each other. Angie tried getting Irene in trouble with the law by framing her for sexually interfering with Nick, but Irene threatened Angie and did some detective work before eventually learning that Angie and Nick had been having an affair themselves. Horrified, Irene assaulted Angie and did her best from then on to destroy her. After Angie's dodgy past was exposed, Irene attended Angie's walk of shame at the school. Irene, amongst several others, was a top suspect when Angie was found dead. But it eventually turned out that Dylan, Angie's son, had accidentally killed her during an argument. Not disappointed by Angie's death, Irene was later shocked when Angie's past came back to haunt her instead in the form of Tasha Andrews (Isabel Lucas). Irene adopts homeless Tasha but Angie's cousin, Josie Russell (Laurie Foell), turned up in town demanding legal custody of Tasha. Fortunately, Morag Bellingham (Cornelia Frances) assisted Irene in fighting Josie, who then backed off. Irene was later shocked when Josie revealed that Tasha's father had planted surveillance cameras in her house to spy over her and Irene. Morag managed to convince Irene to meet with Tasha's father, who then agreed to take the cameras away. In the end, Tasha stayed with Irene and Josie backed off once and for all.
Irene and several others fear for Tasha's safety when she joins a religious group called the Believers. They seem dodgy and Irene, not wanting to get involved, lets Tasha make her own decisions. But the leader, Mumma Rose (Linden Wilkinson), proved to be dangerous and Irene watched from afar as Tasha's life spiraled out of control. Irene and Summer Bay later reunited after Josh West (Daniel Collopy) turned up in town and became mayor with the intention of starting developments and constructions in Summer Bay. In 2006, Irene was shocked when Josh was found dead and Tasha became a top suspect. Through a series of unfortunate events, Tasha was proven innocent. Irene tried starting a relationship with Barry Hyde (Ivar Kants), but Morag later exposed him as Josh's killer and the killer of his own wife, Kerry. Irene couldn't believe Barry had murdered two people and broke up with him. Irene was pleased, however, when Tasha saw sense and left the Believers after they tried to kill her.
Irene insisted to everyone that Will was innocent, but Morag made sure Irene knew she was going to do everything she could to destroy Will. Irene was later devastated when Will managed to escape town and she decided to track him down. Will eventually contacted Irene, who found him at an old barn miles away from town. Will then forced Irene to promise to let him go and told her to look after Lily. But realizing that Alf hadn't killed Penn, Irene contacted the police and Irene watched on as Will was arrested and charged for murdering Penn instead. Irene was then devastated when Lily blamed her for everything.
Irene is involved in the bomb explosion that occurs at the hospital. Irene is delivering food for Bianca Scott (Lisa Gormley) and Heath Braxton (Dan Ewing) before the explosion. The bomb explodes and Irene is slammed into one of the walls she was standing by. However, she survives the bombing. Chris Harrington (Johnny Ruffo) picked poisonous mushrooms and served them as his famous Mushroom Risotto, he managed to drive the diner temporarily out of business and Irene considering shutting the diner for good, but with help from the community the diner was saved. Chris and his brother Spencer (Andrew Morley) and Sasha Bezmel (Demi Harman) moved into the Beach House to live with Irene.
Irene farewells Spencer and Sasha after they leave town. Irene supports VJ Patterson (Matthew Little) and Zac MacGuire (Charlie Clausen) while Leah Patterson-Baker (Ada Nicodemou) is in a coma following a bus accident. Irene invites Nate Cooper (Kyle Pryor) to move into the Beach House with her. Principal Greg Snelgrove (Paul Gleeson) takes a liking to Irene and they have dinner together, but Irene is bored by Greg's conversation. Irene goes to London to help look after James Fraser's (Michael Piccirilli) niece Olivia Fraser Richards (Raechelle Banno). When Irene returns, she helps Marilyn with her memory loss. Olivia turns up in the Bay to live with Irene. She later reveals to Irene that she was sexually abused by a friend of her uncle's. This causes Irene to open up about her own abuse and she reveals that she had a child that she was forced to give up for adoption. Irene starts drinking again to cope with her grief. After Charlotte King (Erika Heynatz) is shot, Irene becomes a suspect. Irene decides to try to find her child. Irene also took John's foster daughter, Skye Peters (Marlo Kelly) in her care when John departed Australia to see Marilyn in Italy. On the night of the hospital fundraiser party, Irene meets a mysterious man at her front door named Mick Jennings (Kristian Schmid), who claims to be Chris' uncle. When Irene becomes suspicious of who Mick really is, she tries to escape, but Mick kidnaps her. He holds her captive for weeks and uses her phone to reply to Olivia's text messages. He later sends her a photo of a captive and terrified Irene.
For her portrayal of Irene, McGranger was nominated for "Best Supporting Actress" and Irene for "Biggest Laugh in Soap" at the 1997 Inside Soap Awards. At the 2007 Inside Soap Awards she was nominated in the category of "Funniest Performance" for her portrayal. Irene and Leah's friendship won the 2015 TV Week and Soap Extra #OMGAward for Best BFFs. In August 2017, McGranger was longlisted for Best Daytime Star at the Inside Soap Awards. She made the viewer-voted shortlist, but lost out to Lorna Laidlaw, who portrays Mrs Tembe in Doctors.
The Sydney Morning Herald have referred to Irene as one of the serial's three "legacy characters", along with Alf and Colleen. Holy Soap recall Irene's most memorable moment as: "Being attacked by the mad ex-wife of her former lover Ken." In Catherine Deveny's book "It's not my fault they print them" described Irene as "the rough diamond with a heart of gold that speaks fluent Aussie cliché." She added that there was no need for her to speak so Australian with the use of dialogue such as: "Fair dinkum" and "What the flipping 'eck is goin' on?"
In 2018, writers for TV Week included Irene in their feature on the "Top 20 Home and Away characters of all time". They wrote, "For more than 20 years, Irene has been the battler of Summer Bay. The resilient redhead has fought breast cancer, alcoholism and stalkers – to name just a few. Yet she's always bounced back using her strength and 'flippin' heck' catchphrase. Irene's open-door policy has seen all walks of life receive her advice and a hot cuppa. But her kind heart gets her into strife. Most recently, the arrival of her troubled son Mick (Kristian Schmid) reopened a dark chapter and put her at odds with bestie and business partner Leah."
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