Acting on instincts pays off
Louise Wallace is getting back to her roots, and finding the humour in death as she does it, writes Bridget Jones.
Last time Louise Wallace was on television, we saw her as a champagne-swilling housewife-who-lunches. Almost a year later she’s back, and playing, well, a pretty similar role – only this time there’s murder in the mix.
Wallace stars in the first episode of season four of The Brokenwood Mysteries. And she plays the type of character you expect her to play – a rich, slightly boozy, almost unhinged Mother, with a capital M.
‘‘I do tend to get cast as flaky, shaky, alcoholic women who still try to retain a bit of their youth. It doesn’t worry me at all – the more I get cast in those roles, the less acting that’s required,’’ she says with a chuckle.
In actual fact, Wallace is stretching her acting chops. While many Kiwis will know her as a presenter, the host of 60 Minutes, or maybe a little thing called The Real Housewives of Auckland, in her twenties, she trained at drama school in London.
She’s now learning to back herself as a thespian, rather than a personality.
‘‘The more experience you get, the more confident you are in taking on different roles, whether it’s the goodie, the baddie, the sex pot, whatever. Now I just go with my instincts and I find they are pretty right.
‘‘What I tend to concentrate on now is something with a bit of comedy to it. So as long as the character delivers some funny lines and has a bit of quirkiness, I’m drawn to it,’’ she says, pointing out the subtle New Zealand humour a show like The Brokenwood Mysteries offers that resonates – and not just here at home.
After 10 explosive episodes, the headline-grabbing reality series The Real Housewives of Auckland was widely considered to be dead in the water – not unlike some of the characters drifting around Brokenwood. But that might have changed after Girls’ creator Lena Dunham got her hands on it.
In September, the HBO star shrieked about her love for the Kiwi show to her millions of followers, calling it ‘‘savage’’, picking Gilda as her favourite, and assuring fans she wasn’t taking political advice from ‘‘any of these devil queens’’.
Wallace says all the Housewives have been getting feedback from American fans, which might have a bearing on whether the franchise is dead as a dodo, or set to rise from the grave.
‘‘If you had asked me two or three months ago if there would be a second series I would have said no, it’s dead in the water. But I’m not too sure now,’’ Wallace says. ‘‘I think American audiences found us a bit more witty and a bit more classy than a lot of the others. And once you get the Kiwi humour, you get it.‘‘
But would she sign up to another round of bubbles, boats and bitchiness? Certainly... maybe.
‘‘I’m interested, but it’s certainly not something I’m hanging out for, that’s for sure. If they commissioned a second season, I’d certainly look into it if they were interested in me. But it would certainly be a different ball game this time.
‘‘I would certainly go into it with my eyes more open than I did. I had never watched an episode of Housewives before I started it – I said I had, but I hadn’t – and I’d probably be a bit more open this time.’’
Signing on might also have something to do with how much time she has. Wallace is busy. The awardwinning television presenter is a regular on the likes of The AM Show and The Project, and even has a chat show in her sights – eventually.
‘‘It would be no holds barred, there would be a lot of humour in it.’’
But it’s acting that really has tightened its grip on her right now. She has her own theatre company, Tadpole Theatre Productions, and has recently toured the country performing in Auckland Theatre Company’s version of Last Legs, a play by Roger Hall. And of course, there’s The Brokenwood Mysteries.
‘‘Acting was my first love, it was the first thing I trained professionally to do. But my career took me in a different direction. That was, really, just to get more work. Acting is so hit and miss, and there was no way I was going to rely just on that for an income, or for exposure.
‘‘I realised the more you can do in the industry, the more longevity you will have and that’s how it’s worked out for me.’’
She says she’s enjoying being at the stage – and age – where she is able to pick and choose what she wants to do. But she doesn’t want to be held up as a shining light for diversity within the industry.
‘‘As far as I’m concerned, you make your own luck, and that’s what I’ve done. I’ve never relied on anyone else, I’ve done it myself. I think my career speaks for itself. I don’t owe anybody anything.
The Brokenwood Mysteries, Prime, tonight.
‘I do tend to get cast as flaky, shaky, alcoholic women who still try to retain a bit of their youth,’ Wallace says.