|Home and Away character|
|Portrayed by||Indiana Evans|
|First appearance||21 January 2004|
|Last appearance||24 July 2008|
|Introduced by||Julie McGauran|
Matilda Harriet Jane "Mattie" Hunter is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Home and Away, played by Indiana Evans. She made her first on-screen appearance on 21 January 2004. Matilda is the daughter of Beth and Jack Hunter and sister to Scott, Kit, Robbie and Henry. Matilda departed on 24 July 2008 to go to university.
Evans was filming the television show Snobs when she was asked to audition for the role of Matilda on Home and Away. Her agents told her that she had won the part and Evans said "I had been watching Home and Away for quite a while, so joining the cast was quite weird. The show is so fast-paced and at first it was overwhelming but at the same time was quite laid back."
In April 2008, it was announced that Evans was to leave Home and Away after she turned down the producers offering to renew her contract.
Matilda is described as a "bit of a snobby brat" who can also be a "drama queen". However, she is not necessarily mean. Matilda is angry when her mother begins dating another man shortly after her father Jack (Ian Lind) dies. After she settles in the Bay, Matilda develops some "desperate" crushes on some of the boys in the area. Channel Seven said these are all learning curves for Matilda.
In 2006, viewers saw Matilda develop bulimia. Matilda was seen binge eating, before making herself vomit. She later broke down in her mother's arms and she ended up in hospital. The show's writing department and a medical adviser worked with eating disorder experts for the scripts. Channel Seven said "Our writers and producers are always speaking to experts in a particular field and those that have experienced an issue. Naturally, each actor also adds input to the character, performance and the storyline." During the storyline, Beth Hunter (Clarissa House) was seen calling the Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria's helpline and following this the foundation received many calls from young people who had watched the show. The Sydney Morning Herald said that some had identified with Matilda and had sought help, others had found the scene's so distressing that they needed support to stop themselves from doing the same.
Sarah Walker, an assistant with the Victorian Centre for Excellence in Eating Disorders, said that she had reservations about the storyline concluding too quickly as people with eating disorders often go for years without asking for help. She added that it was "essential" Home and Away handled the story well and that it "could encourage people to seek help." Ian Lang, a professor at the Victorian College of the Arts also expressed his view on the storyline concluding quickly. He said "I think anybody who has suffered a serious illness like bulimia knows that it's not possible to really portray it in a half-hour drama." Rick Kausman of the Australian Medical Association spoke to groups of high school students in Geelong and said the storyline was raised by the students. Of this, he said "The whole upside to this is, we've got to get it out to the community that this is a health issue that's not unusual, it's not isolated." Frances Sanders of the Eating Disorders Foundation of Victoria was concerned that someone at risk of developing bulimia may see the show and try it. She thought that it was good that Home and Away was addressing the issue though, as viewers would think they need to get some help. She said the resolution of Matilda's problem would be important." The Sydney Morning Herald said that it was "unreasonable" to expect Matilda's storyline to continue for over eight to ten years, but Matilda will have issues with food for the rest of her life. Sanders added that this character development would make her "normal".
Matilda is first seen along with her twin brother, Henry when they arrive at the caravan park to return home to live with their mother Beth and stepfather-to-be, Rhys Sutherland (Michael Beckley). Matilda is initially unimpressed with the bay, as she is used to a posh boarding school and is frequently rude and sarcastic to Rhys' children and nephew, Max (Sebastian Elmaloglou). One afternoon, Matilda is electrocuted by her brother Robbie's (Jason Smith) invention and is hospitalized. Shortly after being discharged, Matilda and Henry begin scamming people by pretending Matilda can see into the future.
Matilda later tries to attract the attentions of the much older Kim Hyde (Chris Hemsworth) and even fakes drowning to get him to notice her. However, this backfires when Matilda struggles for real and Kim is forced to save her. After recovering, Kim tells Matilda he has no feelings for her, leaving her devastated. When Beth and Rhys separate at the end of the year, The Hunters swap houses with Flynn Saunders (Joel McIlroy) and Sally Fletcher (Katie Ritchie). After overhearing a conversation between Kim and Robbie in which Kim tells Robbie he likes one of his sisters, Matilda immediately assumes it's her until she finds out it's her older sister Kit (Amy Mizzi).
Matilda later begins a friendship with Eric "Ric" Dalby (Mark Furze), who had bullied Henry previously and tries to make a move on him but he rejects her advances and begins dating Cassie Turner (Sharni Vinson). After feeling rejected, Matilda then begins sneaking out to wild parties and rock concerts. This behaviour culminates in her almost being date-raped by Callan Sherman (Kain O'Keeffe).
The Holden family moves to Summer Bay, next door to the Hunters, and Matilda befriends the youngest son, Lucas (Rhys Wakefield). they are soon cast as the leads in Colleen Smart's (Lyn Collingwood) pantomime. After they share their first kiss on stage, Matilda and Lucas become a couple but their relationship ultimately ends shortly after both their families move into one house as their respective single parents Beth and Tony (Jon Sivewright) are dating.
Matilda is chosen to be Martha MacKenzie's (Jodi Gordon) bridesmaid for her wedding to Lucas' older brother Jack (Paul O'Brien). The day is marred by an explosion caused by Eve Jacobsen (Emily Perry), which leaves Matilda very badly burned. She then later develops bulimia after disgust with her body image following the explosion. Matilda collapses one day and then agrees to go to retreat for people with similar issues. While there she meets Dean Silverman (Gary Brun), who she begins dating. Lucas is suspicious of Dean and is shocked when he finds him hugging his ex-boyfriend, Gareth Westwood (Benjamin Ronczka) in a secluded spot. Matilda refuses to believe this at first but then is devastated when she finds the truth.
As 2007 begins, Matilda begins dating Ric, who has not long broken up with Cassie. Beth disapproves at first but eventually comes around. When Ric is imprisoned for murdering Rocco Cooper (Ian Meadows), Matilda stands by him. Ric is eventually released after the real culprit is found and the two resume their relationship. After Beth is killed in a head-on car crash, Matilda, Kit and the Holdens are left devastated. Soon after, Kit leaves and Matilda feels abandoned as she is the only member of her family left in the bay. This takes a toll on her schoolwork and Matilda fails her HSC and opts to repeat Year 12 the following year.
Matilda later finds out that Ric has been cheating on her with Viv Anderson (Simone McAullay) and later dumps him. They are later reunited but it is cut short when Matilda is accepted to a University in Perth and leaves immediately. Ric, on the advice of his grandfather, Alf Stewart (Ray Meagher) follows her there and finds Nathan Cunningham (Andrew Lees), the resident adviser in her bed. Ric prepares to return to Summer Bay but Matilda stops him and they have a heart-to-heart and reconcile.
For her portrayal of Matilda, Evans was nominated for "Best Young Actor" at the 2007 Inside Soap Awards. The following year, Evans received two nominations for "Sexiest Female" and "Best Couple", along with co-star Mark Furze. At the 2008 Dolly Teen Choice Awards, Evans won the "Queen of Teen" award.
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