Home And Away‘s Orpheus Pledger believes the popular Australian drama is doing a great job educating viewers about important social issues.
Pledger, who has filmed nearly 350 episodes as Summer Bay nice guy Mason Morgan since his debut in mid-2016, is full of praise for the way the show has dealt with everything from organ donation, cancer and depression to same-sex relationships, online grooming and – his personal favourite – the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes.
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“I feel like Home And Away has really adopted the mindset of informing people through entertainment,” the 26-year-old actor says.
“It’s totally really taken on board the raw power and influence of what it can do. These are things that are going on in real life, the topics that are controversial at the moment.
I catch up through messaging with a few of the fans … and they’re all up to date with every storyline and they’ve really taken them on board.”
Pledger says a lot of research goes in to ensure the way such storylines are portrayed is accurate.
“Some might not like it but, on the other hand, we have a young diverse group of people that are growing up and watching it and are very vested in it and it’s serving its purpose. I’m totally on board with it.”
The actor has also endured his share of dramatic storylines.
He had a tragic romance with Beth Ellis (Annaliese Apps), a terminally-ill patient he met while working as a trainee doctor at the local hospital, suffered temporary paralysis after being involved in a car crash with his drug-addict brother Brody (Jackson Heywood), and was arrested for growing cannabis to help control younger sister Raffy’s (Olivia Deeble) epilepsy.
“He is the nice guy of Summer Bay. He’s got a good heart and I can say I like to follow my heart as well,” says Pledger, who was hailed as a hero by a Sydney judge in 2017 after intervening when a young woman was attacked on a street.
Pledger is particularly proud of the medicinal cannabis storyline, admitting he – and many of his co-stars – knew little about the campaign to have the drug approved as a treatment in Australia.
“It was common understanding that this was a unique storyline,” he says, adding the debate was happening in Summer Bay at the same time it was going on in the Australian community.
Mason, distressed at the way epilepsy was affecting his young sister’s life and education, starts manufacturing cannabis oil in the family garage. Raffy’s condition improves until he is busted by the police and has to close down the illegal operation. He is later discharged without conviction and Raffy leaves the bay after securing a place on an out-of-state drug trial.
Pledger says he and Deeble became close friends while working on the storyline and he believes the fact they had both come to acting at a young age helped them bond.
He started his acting career at eight and starred in the children’s series Silversun (alongside his Home And Away co-star Angus McLaren) at the age of 11. Deeble, 16, who left Home And Away to star in the Disney movie Secret Society Of Second Born Royals, first appeared on screen at the tender age of two.
When Deeble was tossing up whether to take the American role or continue with her education, Pledger says it brought back memories of his decision to quit acting at 14.
“I decided, ‘OK, I’ve done my year, two years on a series. I’m young, I deserve to go back to school and hang out with friends and not work fulltime as an adult at 14’,” he says.
“That was the decision I made at that time and then it took me so long to get back into acting. I told Olivia, ‘Just a hint. If you want to hang out with your friends you go and do that but if you want to do acting don’t give up’.”
However, Pledger says he has no regrets about his own decision.
“It was exactly what I needed to do at the time. I’ve learnt some wonderful, valuable lessons and I cherish that because I am completely and utterly content with the journey and how it’s unfolding.
“I wouldn’t want to go back and change it in any way.”
Home And Away, TVNZ 2, weekdays