A generation of Australian viewers grew up watching her star as young Sally Fletcher on the long-running TV soap, Home & Away.
Now, actor Kate Ritchie has opened up about the huge emotional impact of her decision to leave the show and her beloved character behind after 20 years and two Gold Logie awards in 2008.
'I was lost'
Kate, 42, tells comedian, painter and host of ABC's Anh's Brush With Fame, Anh Do that she felt 'lost' when she finally said goodbye to Sally who'd she'd played since the Channel 7 program's pilot episode in 1988.
"[Sally] gave me purpose and a sense of achievement," the Nova radio host reveals to Anh in a clip from tonight's episode.
"I feel differently now, after loads of therapy," she laughs, adding, "I thought the only thing I’d ever done of value in my life was when I was her..."
Clearly moved, Anh asks Kate if she felt lost during that period after leaving the show.
"I was lost," a teary Kate admits, adding, "and I wondered how I was going to survive without her. How were people going to react to me if I wasn’t Sally?
"Sally was a great person, a great friend and a great daughter … did people only feel something for me because they liked her?"
Gathering her thoughts, Kate goes on to say that she has come to realise that she's 'great' just as she is, without her Sally 'security blanket'.
Elsewhere in the chat, Kate explains how it became 'really obvious' when, after two decades on Home & Away, it was time to step away.
But transitioning to 'normal' life after working on a film set from the tender age of eight wasn't without its difficulties, she says.
"It was just so frightening. What do I actually do when someone doesn’t hand me a schedule on a Friday afternoon and tell me where to be on a Monday?" she tells Anh.
She also talks about how the reality of disentangling herself from her character and carving out her own identity hit her 'quite hard.'
Strength to strength
Since retiring from the show at the age of 28, Kate's career has gone from strength to strength. She's spent the past eight years presenting radio on Nova FM, has published two children's books and appeared on a variety of TV shows.
Kate is also reportedly loved up with a new boyfriend, 25-year-old businessman John Bell after the couple stepped out together in Byron Bay in January.
The surprise sighting is the closest thing to confirmation that notoriously private Kate is likely to give that her ten-year marriage to former NRL player Stuart Webb is done for good.
In November 2019, Stuart agreed to an AVO and Kate and moved out of the pair’s shared family home, though she has not directly commented on her marital situation.
The couple shares a six-year-old daughter, Mae.
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