Carly Lucini (née Morris) is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Home and Away. The character was played by actress Sharyn Hodgson appearing in its pilot episode in 1988. She remained a regular until 1991, and has made numerous guest appearances since this time.
She was one of the soap's original female protagonists, appearing as one of the Fletchers' foster children in the pilot episode on January 17, 1988. The soap's primary focus was placed upon the Fletchers and their gang of foster children, moving as outsiders to a caravan park in the seaside town of Summer Bay. Carly remained in the serial as a regular character until 1991, covering issues such as rape, alcoholism and child abuse, as well as a problematic marriage to soldier Ben Lucini, played by actor Julian McMahon.
Carly's rape, which occurred while she was hitchhiking in 1988, was one of the soap's first controversial story lines. Andrew Mercado, author of Super Aussie Soaps, has commented that "although the word 'rape' was never actually uttered on-screen, savvy viewers caught on. In the aftermath of her assault, Carly began drinking heavily and the ratings continued to grow. From a low of 9, Home and Away slowly built its audience until the show was scoring 25 by the end of its first year. The serial was finally a hit". In the storyline, Carly kept the rape a secret initially, but after the truth came out the residents of Summer Bay "were shown to be divided as to whether or not Carly had contributed to the situation through reckless behaviour". The aftermath of the event explored Carly's descent into alcoholism and drug abuse, which has been described as "very brave territory for a prime-time soap [...] the Carly Morris storyline pointed to the fact that if there were feathers to be ruffled, Home and Away would ruffle them." During the time of the rape's airing, various protests were launched by the viewing public and the Australian media, who believed it should not have been broadcast. In an interview in 1989, Hodgson defended the storyline, saying "In Home and Away we show life as it really happens. It's not irresponsible to show attacks, unwanted pregnancies or people turning to alcohol. It's realistic and it shows we are confronting these problems. The thing about having a foster family as the main characters is that they do have trauma in their lives. Seeing how they cope must help people". Hodgson researched the storyline by calling the Rape Crisis Centre, reading articles and watching documentaries.
Since being written out of the serial, Carly has made numerous appearances as a guest character to visit her foster family or attend important events in Summer Bay. The character has since appeared in 1997; 2000; 2001; 2002 & 2008. Carly's return in 2002 was part of Home and Away producers' attempt to counter a ratings slump, said to have resulted from the "unexpected success" of rival network's reality TV show Big Brother, which was aired opposite the soap at 7pm weekdays. Hodgson was one of numerous returning cast members, brought back especially for the storyline to mark the 150th anniversary of settlement in Summer Bay. The majority of the cast was boarded onto a ferry boat for a night cruise; however, a "freak storm" ruined the celebrations, leading the boat to sink. The storyline was heavily promoted with the tag "Who Will Survive?". According to Mercado, "Big Brother 2 crumbled against the competition [...]". Carly's last appearance, in 2008, was part of the leaving storyline of her foster sister Sally Fletcher, played by actor Kate Ritchie, an original character who departed the serial after 20 years.
Carly came from an abusive home. Her father George (Helmut Bakaitis) used to beat her, and she had a tempestuous relationship with her twin sister Samantha (also played by Hodgson). Following the death of her mother from a problem with her appendix, she was placed in foster care with the Fletcher family and moves with them to Summer Bay in 1988, aged 16. A problematic, selfish teenager, Carly is frequently in trouble at school, and she feuds with her foster sister Bobby Simpson (Nicolle Dickson), though they later patch up their differences and become close friends. Carly attracts the attention of local boy Martin Dibble (Craig Thomson), but she rebuffs his advances preferring surfer Matt Wilson (Greg Benson), though her attempts to attract his attention go unnoticed, and she nearly drownes when she set up a ploy for him to rescue her from the sea. Martin, luckily is on hand to save Carly.
Whilst hitch-hiking home from a party in 1988, Carly is raped. Unable to cope with what had happened to her, Carly begins drinking alcohol heavily and using drugs, but curtailed the problem via counseling. Carly then returns to school to repeat Year 12 after failing her HSC but drops out early on to work at the Bayside Diner. Carly becomes involved with her former teacher, Andrew Foley (Peter Bensley) but the relationship falls apart when he succumbs to alcoholism. Carly later dates Adam Cameron (Mat Stevenson) but he later breaks up with her to be with Emma Jackson (Dannii Minogue). Italian soldier Ben Lucini arrives in Summer Bay and is instantly attracted to Carly, they quickly become engaged and marry within months. Ben leaves the army and attempts a career as a farmer, but money is tight for the couple, leading to strain on the marriage. Carly then discovers she is pregnant, which Ben reacts badly to at first but comes round the idea. After Ben is arrested by military police for desertion, the couple relocate to Perth. They depart in 1991 and later have three children. Although Carly gives birth to a girl named Phillipa in the show, she is later retconned out of existence with Carly and Ben repeatedly being stated to have three sons.
Carly returns in 1997 for the wedding of Steven Matheson (Adam Willits) and Selina Roberts (Tempany Deckert), which does not go ahead. She returns three years later for Sally Fletcher's (Kate Ritchie) non-wedding to Kieran Fletcher (Spencer McLaren) and then the next year when to support Sally when she undergoes a Hysterectomy. In 2002, Summer Bay celebrates its 15th anniversary and Carly along with several other past residents. Carly, Steven, Pippa and Floss McPhee (Sheila Kennelly) return for Sally's tearful farewell concert at the school in 2008.
A tie-in novel, written by Sharon Clarke, concentrating on Carly Morris and her foster brother Steven Matheson, was released in 1990. Called Carly Morris Story and Steven Matheson Story, the novel chronicled the characters' lives before being fostered by the Fletcher family, outling their backstories of child abuse and hardship, as well as Carly's history with her malicious twin sister. Another tie-in novel featuring the character includes Carly's Crisis, which covers her alcohol problems shown in episodes up to 1989, written by Trish Howarth.
Hodgson as Carly was one of several Home and Away cast-members to star in a stage musical about the soap, which toured the UK in 1991. Julian McMahon, Justine Clarke, Mouche Phillips and Adam Willits also starred.