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.

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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