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It may be 15 years since H2O: Just Add Water first premiered on Australian TV and instilled the desire in thousands of children to become mermaids, but the hype has definitely not died down.
The drama series, which follows three Gold Coast girls who have to manage their mermaid powers alongside regular teenage problems, has recently seen a massive resurgence through parody and nostalgic appreciation online.
Unlike other child stars who would typically hold contempt for their earlier works, one of the show’s leading ladies couldn’t be more grateful for H2O: Just Add Water.
Cariba Heine, who played Rikki Chadwick, says that in the time that has passed since the show aired, she has come to recognise the effect it has had on its audience.
“As I got older, I really started to appreciate how impactful the series was, especially for younger girls,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“The fact that it was a series with female leads, very strong characters in their own rights, the girls were sort of their own gang and it was their friendship that kept them going and kept the secret at bay and all the rest of that.”
Cariba, who was 18 when the show began, says that a number of fans have reached out to say that her character taught them that it’s okay not to be “the agreeable, nice, obedient girl”.
“That sort of stuff is really beautiful, I love hearing that,” she adds. “That’s really special to hear that a character you played when you were so young, to not even understand it, has helped people grow up and feel like they can be themselves more.”
Although it came to an end in 2010, fans have cemented H2O: Just Add Water as an iconic Australian pop culture moment through TikTok
The series hashtag has over 450 million views on the social media app, which Cariba says she's "blown away” by.
"I think at the end of the day, it does still sit in this sort of nostalgic appreciation of kids’ childhoods,” she remarks.
“But you can also poke fun at it and I think that's a really nice level of like, being comforting but also being able to poke fun at things that should have the Mickey taken out of them.”
Stepping away from Rikki
Looking at celebrities like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez, it’s common to see stars wanting to distance themselves from their celebrated childhood works by releasing more wild or riskier projects.
Meanwhile, Cariba believes that she had no reason to ‘shake off’ her character as Rikki was often the most reckless and rebellious in the series.
“I don't think I’ve really struggled after the show and getting out of that world,” she admits. “It was more that I wanted to do a certain type of work and it was just going to take a while until I was old enough to do that.
“I think more than anything, a couple of years ago I sort of decided that I loved playing a villain and not a very nice character. The show just pushed me the other way where I don't really want to play a hero anymore, I want to play someone that you love to hate.”
While Cariba clearly holds no disdain for the children’s series, even making a cameo in the show’s spin-off Mako: Island of Secrets in 2016, she doesn’t think a reboot is on the cards.
“I think we were extremely lucky with our cast, I'd love to work with those guys again,” she says, “but I think more than anything it's just like, you start looking at like, older mermaids.
“I don’t know if it translates,” she laughs. “I think high school students are the perfect age group to set that sort of world in.
“It’s still being appreciated for all of its flaws and the good parts as well, so I think it's still got a little bit of life in it and I'm happy to let it sort of run its course in that way.”
Cariba went on to say that the concept of the show - three girls who turn into mermaids whenever they come into contact with water - may be too flawed to revisit.
“How do you live that life as a person who is never seen outside when the weather's not anything less than sunny?” she jokes.
“Sometimes the plot holes start becoming gaping wounds that you're like, I don't know if we can traverse this.”
Since H2O: Just Add Water, Cariba briefly joined the cast of Home and Away in 2018 and appeared in the Channel 10 thriller series The Secrets She Keeps last year.
She currently stars in Everyone Is Doing Great, an eight-episode comedy on Paramount+ written, directed and produced by former One Tree Hill actors James Lafferty and Stephen Colletti.
“It's poking fun at what actors go through and what our lives are, but also showing the absurdity and the not so glamorous side of it as well,” she explains.
“You get to really see how accurately horrible it can be being an actor, so between that and working with some of my best friends, it’s literally a dream job.”
Everyone Is Doing Great is currently streaming exclusively on Paramount+ Australia.
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