Ada Nicodemou has graced Australia’s television screens for over 20 years. A natural-born performer since birth, with a love of performing arts, she had her first acting job as a 16-year-old on the hit TV show ‘Heartbreak High’, which was groundbreaking in terms of representing multicultural Australia on our screens. Joining the cast of the iconic show ‘Home & Away’ in 2000 has seen her nominated for a Logie several times in the role of loveable Leah Patterson. Proud of her Greek-Cypriot heritage, fiercely devoted to her son and generous with her time, both to fans and to the media, she is as likeable and warm as you would expect, if not more. Ada recently sat with GCT to talk all things career, motherhood and keeping a healthy lifestyle.
Is your name really ‘Ellada’ in Greek?
Yes! Back when my grandma was born, the godparents used to name the children. Her godfather was from Greece, and so he named her Ellada, and I am named after her. I hated it growing up, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to love it.
What was it like growing up in a Greek Cypriot – Australian household?
It was ok – I didn’t know any different. My parents were quite strict, we had a lot of traditions to uphold, the Aussie kids were doing one thing at Easter and Christmas, and we had different stuff going on. I had to go to Greek school etc. Growing up, you hate being different, but getting older you love it, you embrace it. I try and achieve that with my son, Johnas. He likes to go to Greek school. It’s great to have an understanding of your roots, and your language. It helped me when I was older, for example when I went to Italy, it helped me pick up the language because I was already bilingual. Unfortunately, in my age group, a minority speak the language. It’s important that we don’t lose our identity.
Were you interested in acting from a young age?
I loved performing arts, I used to dance. I was always performing, or saying a poem, or talking, I was never shy, it was always in me. I never consciously thought that’s what I wanted to do. Even now, I always say “I’m acting at the moment.” I feel very blessed, and I’ve been very lucky. I love where I am, I love going to work and seeing the people I work with.
You’ve been on our TV screens since you were 16 years old. When did you realise you are a role model to young women?
I’ve become more aware of it as I’ve become an adult, and especially after having a child. I think about what I do and say. My job is quite important in the fact that if a little kid, or a woman comes up to me, I give them the time, that’s the way that I’ve been brought up.
Tell us about your involvement with the charity Save Our Sons?
I was their first ambassador, and have been involved with them for 8 years. It’s a fantastic charity, and we first and foremost try to raise awareness of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I didn’t realise it was 100% fatality, that 99% of the cases diagnosed are boys, and they don’t tend to make it past 20 years of age. Save Our Sons is trying to raise money for human trials here in Australia. As you become a mum, you find this subject matter even harder. It’s just awful what these parents are faced with.
Tell us about your experience as a Priceline Ambassador?
I’ve been with Priceline for About 4-5 years, and it’s all about embracing women from all walks of life, feeling good, and looking after each other. They’re such a great brand for women because they are all about empowering women.
I’ve always led a healthy lifestyle, watched what I ate, taken my vitamins, looked after my mental health – and that’s the message they’re trying to put out there.
My family always comes first, so it’s a good fit for me, and they do great campaigns. I love shopping, and one of the things I love about it is that it needs to have this ‘feel good ‘factor. Priceline stores have amazing concepts, nice wide aisles, bright lights, and they’re also educating us, like how to contour, and how to choose the right foundation by using their colour checker machine.
How do you keep so fit and healthy?
I’m lucky in that I have a good metabolism. Everyone looks different, and that’s okay. I’ve always danced, I’ve grown up in a Greek household with home cooked meals every day, no fast food in the house. I have an 80/20 rule, so it’s all about balance. I love food, and the majority of time I believe in moderation. It’s so much harder when you’re a mum, just to find the time to exercise. I have a treadmill at home, and I always try to do incidental exercise like taking the stairs whenever possible.
What does your beauty routine look like these days?
I’m obsessed with products, and I love makeup! My routine is express level now that I’m a mum. I try and do most things in the shower – I always cleanse twice, tone, moisturise, use active ingredients, make sure there is sunscreen in my moisturiser, and exfoliate twice a week. I also get skin needling done which is great because it stimulates collagen, and helps with fine lines. I want to look my age, a good version of myself.
You’ve been a contestant, and won the trophy, on ‘Dancing With The Stars’, you’ve hosted two seasons of ‘Please Marry My Boy’, as well as acted on the hit TV shows ‘Heartbreak High’ and ‘Home & Away’. Tell us some of your highlights from those experiences?
‘Dancing With The Stars’ was a really beautiful experience, I met lots of beautiful people, and winning of course, was fantastic. It really taught me a lot about myself, and how much of a perfectionist I am, as well as the resilience I have. It taught me how vulnerable I can be, how to let go, and also how to be more myself. You forget the cameras are there on you the whole time, because you are working so hard, so it taught me how to be more comfortable.
Whatever scares you, you should always confront it, and presenting scares me, but it’s important to push yourself. I was so nervous presenting those two seasons of ‘Please Marry My Boy’, but that experience has a special place in my heart. It also made me realise I can’t be pushy with my own son!
‘Heartbreak High’ will always have a special place in my heart, it’s the first thing I did. It taught me everything I know, still things that I use to this day. They don’t make shows like that anymore. I made lifelong friends on that show, and they’re still my friends now. The show was important because it allowed me to talk a lot about my culture and embrace it. It was the first real multicultural show on our television screens. We all identified to it, and that’s why it was so successful. When I went to France recently, I was getting strange looks from people and I couldn’t understand why because they don’t watch Home & Away over there. But then I found out they recognised me from ‘Heartbreak High’, all those years later. I’m very proud to have been part of that show.
One of my most memorable storylines on ‘Home & Away’ was the Vinnie and Leah wedding. That whole relationship was so great. Ryan Kwanten was so amazing to work with, we had a great connection.
This past year on the show has really challenged me as an actor. We’ve been doing lots of challenging storylines. I have such a great time on set with Matt Little and Charlie Clausen who play my son and husband. We have a great cast, I feel very strongly about the show and the cast. I can’t imagine it ending.
Who would you love to share a scene with?
Robert Downey Jnr! I think he is such an amazing actor, and ridiculously talented, I’d love to be able to bounce off someone like that, and I’d love to do some comedy as well.
What’s one piece of advice you’ve been given along the way that has stayed with you?
I know it’s a cliché, but it’s ‘There’s no ‘I’ in team.’ Everything is a collaboration. I always like to treat people how I like to be treated. I have a really good work ethic, which comes from my mum.
What inspires you?
People who are good at what they do. Intelligent people. My son, his innocence. He gives me so much love.
How do you manage to juggle a successful career with being a parent?
I’m really lucky that I have my mum, who lives a street away. My son has always been with family, which makes it easier. You have to be really organised, and be able to prioritise. When I’m at home I’m not on my phone, I devote my time to him, and show him love and give him a lot of my time, which makes him feel like he’s important. I found the first year really hard, the sleep deprivation kills you, but it does get easier.
What do you like to do in your downtime?
I love to exercise. I also love to read, when I can find the time. I love food and going out to dinners. I love binge-watching TV shows, and I love having people over and entertaining.
Do you feel like you have 2 patrides (homelands)?
Yes, I do. I’m definitely Australian, this is my home. But I find when I go to Cyprus, even Europe in general, it’s a feeling of being home. I’m always feeling the pull to go and was in Cyprus this year on holiday.
What is your favourite Greek food?
My mum makes ravioles (Cypriot ravioli) from scratch. She puts three different kinds of cheese, and mint, and they are my favourite thing! Also, haloumi cheese, souvla, moussaka, and my mum’s meatballs are by far the best – they have four different types of meat in them, and grated potato. I also love sheftalies. My favourite dessert is galaktoboureko.