Death doesn’t be­come her:

The Bro­ken­wood Mys­ter­ies ac­tress talks about her real-life deal­ings with death.

The TV Guide - - CONTENTS -

She is New Zealand’s best-known pathol­o­gist but The Bro­ken­wood Mys­ter­ies ac­tress Cristina Ionda, who plays Gina Kadin­sky, won’t ever be go­ing down that path in real life.

It’s not the blood and gore that puts her off.

“What would dis­turb me is the smell of the body,” she says. “I’ve been close to dead peo­ple in my youth and what is shock­ing is the smell.”

Grow­ing up in her na­tive Ro­ma­nia, Ionda was no stranger to death and the ex­pe­ri­ence has stayed with her.

“We lived in a house with a lot of apart­ments and my mum was a nurse so when neigh­bours died, she was the first per­son they called to see if they were dead or not,” she says, adding while she didn’t ac­com­pany her mum on those ini­tial vis­its she was in­volved dur­ing the fol­low­ing days.

“In those times in Ro­ma­nia, you put (dead peo­ple) in a cold room or some­thing like that. It would be very close to a church and you would just stay with them. You didn’t leave a dead per­son alone.”

How­ever, those nat­u­ral deaths did lit­tle to pre­pare her for the bizarre ways in which peo­ple die in Bro­ken­wood, New Zealand’s most mur­der­ous small town.

Not only are vic­tims stabbed, stran­gled and shot but more bizarre cases have in­cluded a drown­ing in a wine vat, a woman dis­cov­ered in the bush wrapped in fake cob­webs and poi­soned with spi­der venom, a fall­ing sky­diver who ru­ined a pic­nic, and a his­toric vil­lage owner shot with a cross­bow.

It al­ways falls to Gina to ex­plain the cause of death and it is not a re­spon­si­bil­ity Ionda takes lightly.

She reads a lot, watches real pathol­o­gists at work and, de­pend­ing on the case, some­times re­sorts to Doc­tor Google.

“You look just to un­der­stand what is hap­pen­ing. Af­ter that you for­get,” she says. “The beauty of re­search­ing for a role is that you put your own per­son­al­ity in it but you have to know what you are talk­ing about oth­er­wise no­body will watch the show.

“If you don’t pro­nounce the words cor­rectly they’ll be like, ‘What is she talk­ing about?’ ”

It’s the same type of ded­i­ca­tion she has put into build­ing an act­ing ca­reer as New Zealand’s best-known Ro­ma­nian ac­tress.

In the 14 years since she and her hus­band spon­ta­neously de­cided to move here af­ter watch­ing a Dis­cov­ery doc­u­men­tary about this coun­try (“My hus­band said, ‘Let’s go’ and I said, ‘OK’ ”), she has be­come the go-to per­son for any lo­cal roles re­quir­ing a Slavic ac­cent.

“It was quite chal­leng­ing at first, let’s put it like that,” she says, de­scrib­ing Kiwi cast­ing di­rec­tors as very kind. “They told me, ‘You just need to be pa­tient’. It took me a while. I had a role in a docu-drama (Cancer­man) where I had to speak Czech. That was prob­a­bly my first speak­ing role.”

As a grad­u­ate of the Drama and Film Art In­sti­tute in Bucharest, Ionda was no act­ing novice.

She ap­peared in the movie Cold Moun­tain, along­side Ni­cole Kid­man, and played the role of Molly in Out Of Sea­son, which also starred Den­nis Hop­per and Brook­lyn Nine-Nine’s Gina Ger­shon.

She has since had roles in Noth­ing Triv­ial and Filthy Rich and is con­tin­u­ing to work on her ac­cent – with some suc­cess it ap­pears.

“The first time I went back home my mum said, ‘Cris, why are you talk­ing Ro­ma­nian with an ac­cent?’ and I said, ‘What are you talk­ing about?’ but, af­ter an­other per­son said it, I started record­ing my­self and they were right,” she says, laugh­ing.

“I am a Kiwi now. I have a Kiwi pass­port so I am a Kiwi.”

And a fa­mous one at that, thanks to the suc­cess of The Bro­ken­wood Mys­ter­ies around the world.

“I have a friend in France (where the show at­tracts av­er­age au­di­ences of 3.4 mil­lion) and she rang and said, ‘Cristina, I al­most freaked out. I was sit­ting in front of the TV and you popped up on screen and I al­most had a heart at­tack’,” the ac­tress says. “And I was amazed to see on my Face­book pub­lic page that I have fol­low­ers from Ice­land and a lot of fol­low­ers from Europe, the States, Aus­tralia, the UK and Ire­land, and Canada.”

How­ever, The Bro­ken­wood Mys­ter­ies does not screen in her na­tive Ro­ma­nia – yet. But she is hope­ful. “When I am on hol­i­day there to see my fam­ily and my hus­band’s fam­ily,” she says, “I will meet with some peo­ple from na­tional tele­vi­sion – to see what is go­ing on there.”

“I’ve been close to dead peo­ple in my youth and what is shock­ing is the smell.” – Cristina Ionda

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