Bree Bain (née Desborough) came in June 1997 as Justine Welles, a heroin addict. Bree was handed some of the soap’s most meaty plots over the following three years, including teen drug addiction and being injustice accused of child abuse.
We spoke with the Logie-nominated actress to learn more about her experience on the program and what she’s doing now.
Matt did the interview in September 2021.
How did you initially get into acting – did you have any family background with it, and was it something you always wanted to pursue as a kid?
Since the age of 12, I’ve spent every Saturday at a talent school learning to dance, sing, and act. It was the most exciting part of my week! I was one of those kids who was always put on plays or dances for my family because I like performing in front of others. My big brother and I used to spend hours recording our voices, performing amusing skits, and singing songs, and I’d spend the entire day in the loungeroom making up dances. My family’s first actor was myself, although many of my relatives are artists in some manner.
Did you encounter many other actresses reading for Justine when you auditioned? Would we recognize any of them if such were the case? Have you already auditioned for a different role?
I’m not sure who else auditioned for the role, but I had already tried out for two other roles before landing Justine. I’m not sure who they were.
In order to prepare for the part, where you provided much information regarding Justine’s background?
Yes, I was aware that she was a street child with a heroin problem, and I recall being tense, fidgety, and nervous around her.
Before returning permanently, you completed a four-week guest spell. Was this only a trial run?
If my memory serves me properly, this was something the network did at first, and if they liked you and your character, they would ask you to remain longer.
Justine was recruited as a substitute for Angel, according to a magazine from the 1990s. Do you have any knowledge of whether or not this was the case?
That’s something I’ve never heard before. That was not the case, in my opinion.
Justine arrived in Summer Bay as a heroin addict youngster with a drinking problem later on. What was your strategy for playing this, and how challenging was it for you?
I recall being ecstatic to be able to portray a heroin addict; it was fantastic to be cast in such a significant part. Trainspotting (a film about heroin users) was one of my favorite films at the time, and I studied it to prepare for my role. Going to such a vulnerable location in front of a large group of people at such a young age was pretty hard, and I learned a lot in a short period of time. I always felt really encouraged since we had so many excellent directors on the program to help us.
As Justine, did you have a favorite storyline or scene?
Justine’s brother Aaron had imprisoned her in a caravan trailer for a few days to get her off drugs, and it was one of my favorite scenes. Justine was shouting at her brother, begging him to give her heroin, and she grew so furious and desperate that she tossed a television at him! The television was a bare shell, but it was a lot of fun. They also made me seem terrible; I had pimples painted on my skin, chapped lips, and greasy hair, but I really got into it!
When Justine returned, she moved in with Pippa and had a strained relationship with Alf. What was it like to work alongside two Bay veterans?
I had a great time working with them two! The sweetest, most down-to-earth people I’ve ever met.
Vinnie was your first major, albeit difficult, love story. What did you think of the pairing? Did you have a good time working with Ryan?
I had a great time working with Ryan. We didn’t tell anyone at the time, but we dated the entire time I was on the program! He was the first boyfriend I ever had.
Joey, Tiegan, Aaron, Liam, Stephanie, Casey, Gypsy, Tom, Mitch, and Peta were among a big group of teenagers. But there was a lot of turnovers – was there a reason for that?
I don’t recall any particular explanation for it; I believe that’s simply the nature of the program. They must keep it exciting and fresh.
Justine’s life took a turn for the worst in 1999, when she was charged with child abuse and sentenced to prison. How did you go about dealing with this?
It was difficult to comprehend what it would be like to be falsely accused of harming a child, only to discover that her own mother had set her up! Justine is in such a bad situation! The jail sequences were a lot of fun to shoot. On that programme, I had some great cat battles!
She went on to pursue an acting career after her acquittal. Was it tough to play a character who was also a character?
Ha! No, it was a lot of fun. I had the opportunity to dress up and act in a theatrical performance. I recall having to utilize my voice in a unique way. I had to project my voice and talk slowly and clearly.
Justine left after three years to pursue a new profession as an actress. Was it your decision to quit the program, or did it become clear that the character’s time had come to an end?
My contract had expired, and my character’s story had come to an end. I was itching to get out there and see what else the acting world had to offer, so I think it was good timing. The show had been such a wonderful learning ground for me, and I felt so lucky to have had that experience, but I was itching to get out there and see what else the acting world had to offer, so I think it was good timing.
Do you have any stories you’d like to tell if you had the chance?
No, I believe I was really fortunate in having so many delicious tales thrown at me.
Is there a character you’d like to play but didn’t have the chance?
Nope. Justine was one of my favorites. Her stylish clothing, nose ring, and rebellious attitude appealed to me. I had a great time!
What do you suppose Justine is up to while she’s not on screen?
I’d like to believe she continued her acting career and is now a well-known movie actress.
Have you been asked in the past to repeat your role? If not, would you be interested in reprising your role as Justine on Home and Away, either as a regular or as a guest star?
Yes, not long after I left, I was invited to return for a few episodes for someone’s wedding, but I was rejected since I had learned what I needed to know at the time and didn’t want to go back.
If they asked me to return right now, I would gladly accept. After all these years, I’d want to reprise my role as Justine.
Do you maintain contact with any of your former Home and Away co-stars, and have any lasting friendships developed?
Yep. Sally Marett (Tiegan), Rebecca Croft (Casey), and Kristy Wright are still among my closest friends (Chloe).
Are folks from H&A still recognizing you on the street?
Not that much these days. But, my goodness, that went on for a long time! People occasionally believe I went to their school or whatever, and they can’t figure out why.
In the Bain home, do you still watch the show?
No. If I’m lucky, I’ll watch Netflix! As a mom of two small boys, I go to bed early and don’t have much time to watch television.
You joined another Channel Seven series after Home and Away. What are your recollections of Always Greener?
Working on Always Greener was a dream come true for me. The actors and crew were a fantastic group of folks. We were really close, and I gained some lasting friends as a result. Coming from a fast-paced soap, working on a drama series was a very different experience. It was precisely what I was looking for: the rehearsal process was considerably more involved, there was more time for character and screenplay development, and it was just what I needed. When it was canceled, I was devastated.
Some fans may not be aware that you now own photography business and provide services to actors who have starred on the show? How did you end up in this situation?
Yes! I currently own and operate a photographic studio, which I like. I was fortunate enough to find something that fulfills me as much as performing, which is rare.
Bree Bain Photography specializes in artist headshots, whereas Beautiful Little Things Photography specializes in newborn and family lifestyle photography.
When the opportunity arises, I still do some acting. I don’t think I’ll ever stop acting; it’s too much fun for me.
You’re a member of the amazing cast of the forthcoming web series Time & Place. What was your impression of the experience?
Yes! This was also a fantastic experience. I was fortunate to not only work in a beautiful region of the globe with a fantastic cast but also with one of my best companions, Lara Cox. We’d always wanted to collaborate, and playing sisters was a dream come true. It is hoped that it will be released soon.
What else has Bree been up to since the days of Summer Bay, other from her career?
I met a Canadian man while traveling in Paris many years ago, and we now have two lovely little boys. I spend the majority of my days operating my company, auditioning, caring for my children, and (pre-Covid) seeing as much live music as I can.