Bree Bain (née Desborough) arrived in June 1997 as a heroin addict teenage Justine Welles. Over the next three years, Bree received some of the meatiest stories in soap history, including teen drug addiction and falsely accused of child abuse.
We caught up with the Logie nominated actress to find out more about her time on the show and what she’s up to these days.
Interview conducted by Matt in September 2021
How did you first get into acting – was there a family story and was it something you always wanted to do growing up?
From the age of 12, I spent every Saturday in a talent school with dance, singing and acting classes. It was the highlight of my week! I was one of those kids who always put on plays or dances for my family, I loved the audience. Myself and my big brother would spend hours recording our voices, doing fun skits and singing songs, and I would spend all day making up dances in the living room. I was the first actor in my family, but a lot of my relatives are kind of artistic.
When you auditioned for Justine, did you meet many other actresses who read for the role? If so, would we recognize any of them? Did you audition for another character before?
I’m not sure who else auditioned for the role, but I auditioned for two other characters before taking on the role of Justine. I don’t remember who they were.
Did you learn a lot about Justine’s background in preparation for the role?
Yes, I knew she was a street kid addicted to heroin, and I remember acting pretty excited, fidgety, and anxious.
You completed a four-week guest stay before you finally returned. Was that to test the water?
If I remember correctly, the network did this first and then when they were happy with you and your character was working well they would ask you to stay longer.
A magazine in the 1990s wrote that Justine was drafted to replace Angel. Do you know if this was the case?
No, I’ve never heard that before. I don’t think that was the case.
Justine first arrived in Summer Bay as a heroin addicted teenager and later had a drinking problem. How was your approach to gaming and was it difficult?
I remember getting very excited to be playing a heroin addict. It was great to play such a meaty part. One of my favorite films was back then Trainspotting (a film about heroin addicts) and I studied it to prepare for my role. It was quite a challenge to go to such a vulnerable place at a young age in front of a whole crew of people, and I’ve learned a lot in a very short time. We had so many wonderful directors on the show to guide us, so I always felt very supported.
As Justine, did you have a favorite story or moment?
One of my most memorable scenes was when Justine’s brother, Aaron, locked her in a trailer for a few days to get the drugs off. Justine screamed and pleaded with her brother to give her heroin and she got so angry and desperate that she threw a TV at him! The TV was an empty shell, but it was so much fun. They made me look terrible too, I had pimples on my skin, my lips were cracked, my hair was greasy, but I really got myself into it!
When Justine came back, she moved in with Pippa and there was a lot of animosity between her and Alf. What was it like working alongside two bay loyalists?
I loved working with the two of them! The most beautiful, down-to-earth people of all time.
Her first big, if rocky, love story was with Vinnie. What was your opinion on the pairing? Did you enjoy working with Ryan?
I loved working with Ryan. We didn’t go public at the time, but we were together the whole time I was on the show! He was my first friend.
Justine was the lead singer of the band Broken Dolls and then Frenzy? What are your memories of this act and were those your vocals?
I remember we had a lot of rehearsals to learn the songs and harmonies. I’ve been singing since I was little and I’d always dreamed of being a singer in a band, so I really enjoyed it. Yes, they used our real pre-recorded voices.
There was such a large group of teenagers in Joey, Tiegan, Aaron, Liam, Stephanie, Casey, Gypsy, Tom, Mitch, and Peta. However, there was also a high turnover – was there a reason for this?
I don’t remember there was any specific reason for this, I guess that’s just the nature of the show. You have to keep it fresh and interesting.
Things took a dark turn for Justine in 1999 when she was accused of child molestation and was sent to jail. How did you deal with it?
It was quite confrontational to imagine what it would be like to be falsely accused of harming a baby and then find out that her own mother had slandered her! Poor Justine! Filming the prison scenes was fun. I had some good cat fights on this show!
After her discharge, she pursued an acting career. Was it difficult being an actor playing an actor?
Ha! No, that was fun. I had to dress up and pretend I was in a theater production. I remember having to use my voice differently. I had to project and speak slowly and articulate my words.
After three years, Justine started a new acting career. Was it your decision to leave the show or was it decided that the character has taken its course?
My contract had expired and my character had run its course. The show was a wonderful place to study and I was so happy to have the experience, but I really wanted to go out and see what else the acting world has to offer, so I think it was timed well.
Are there any stories you would have liked to have made if you had the chance?
No, I think I got so many juicy storylines, I was very lucky.
Is there any other character that you would like to have portrayed?
Nope. I loved Justine. I loved her cool clothes, her nose ring and her rebellious attitude. I had such a ball!
What would you like to think of Justine to get up off-screen?
I would like to believe that she is pursuing her acting career and is now a big movie star.
Have you been asked to repeat your role in the past? If not, would you be ready to go back? Home and away as Justine, either in a regular or guest role?
Yes, I was asked to return for a couple of episodes for someone’s wedding shortly after I left, but declined the offer because by that point I had learned everything I needed and was not interested in returning.
If they asked me to come back now, I would definitely say yes. I would love to play Justine again after all these years.
Are you still in contact with your former Home and away Castmates and have there been lasting friendships?
Yes. I’m still very close to Sally Marett (Tiegan), Rebecca Croft (Casey), and Kristy Wright (Chloe).
Do you still recognize yourself from people on the street? HA?
Not that much anymore. But God, it happened for a very long time! People sometimes think I went to their school or something, they just can’t quite understand it.
Do you still watch the series in the Bain household?
No. I only watch Netflix if that is the case! As the parent of two boys, my head hits the pillow very early in the night, not much time to watch TV.
episode Home and away, you joined another series on Channel Seven. What memories do you have Always greener?
I loved working on it Always greener. The cast and crew were such great people. We were really close and I made some lifelong friends. It was an entirely different experience working on a drama series that came out of a fast-paced soap. The rehearsal process was much more complex, there was more time for character and script development, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I was disappointed when it was canceled.
Some fans may not know that you now have a photography business and serve actors who have appeared on the series? How did you come up with it?
Yes indeed! I now run a photography business that I absolutely love. I’ve been lucky enough to find something that fulfills me as much as acting, and that can be hard to find.
I have two different brands – Bree Bain Photography is for artist headshots and Beautiful Little Things Photography is for newborn and family lifestyle photography.
I still act from time to time when it comes up. I don’t think I’ll ever stop acting, it’s way too much fun for me.
You’re part of the fantastic cast in the upcoming one Time location Web series. How are the experiences?
Yes indeed! It was a great experience too. Blessed to work again in a beautiful part of the world with a brilliant cast, but also to work with one of my closest friends, Lara Cox. We always wanted to work together and playing sisters was a dream. Hopefully it will be released someday soon.
Besides your career, what has Bree been up to since the days of Summer Bay?
Many years ago I met a Canadian while traveling in Paris and we now have two pretty little boys. I spend most of my time running my business, auditioning, looking after my boys, and (pre-Covid) watching as much live music as possible.
Favorite vacation destination?
Can’t pick one! Wayne’s world, Beetle juice, labyrinth.
Favorite series (except H&A)?
Its dark materials Trilogy – Phillip Pullman.
Social media links
Bree Bain Photography
Bree Bain Photography – Facebook
Bree Bain Photography – Instagram
Nice little things
Nice little things – Facebook
Nice little things – Instagram