Leading role but not for her eyes

ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 05:00 16/08/2014
Louise Nicholas and Michelle Blundell
KENT BLECHYNDEN/ Fairfax NZ

LIFE STORY: Louise Nicholas on set with Michelle Blundell (who plays her in her adult life) of the television film Consent, earlier this year.

Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie
IN HER BLOOD Wellington teenager Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, who plays a young Louise Nicholas in a television docudrama, is a third-generation member of the Harcourt acting dynasty.

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It's the film all of New Zealand will be talking about on Monday morning, with one notable exception - the teenager who plays young rape victim Louise Nicholas will not see most of Consent: The Louise Nicholas story.

Houghton Bay schoolgirl Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, 14, will not be allowed to watch the full docudrama, by order of her famous actor parents Miranda Harcourt and Stuart McKenzie.

At a preview screening at Parliament on Thursday night, Thomasin was spotted sitting outside the screening room entertaining herself on an iPad.

"Mum and Dad don't really want me to see all of it," Samuel Marsden college student Thomasin said.

Thomasin knew nothing about the case when she auditioned to play a young Nicholas in the television film, which debuts tomorrow night. When she got the part, aged 13, her mother explained the basics.

"I knew something bad had happened."

Nicholas alleged she was first raped by a policeman aged 13 in Murupara, and accused Brad Shipton, Bob Schollum and Clint Rickards of raping her in Rotorua when she was 18. The three were acquitted after their 2006 trial.

Thomasin did not act in any rape scenes, but rather portrayed the lead-up and aftermath of the crimes.

"I knew it would be quite challenging, because it's such an intense story," she said. "There was quite a bit of crying."

She filmed her part sporadically over six weeks in summer, but Thomasin told her school friends she was attending "family business" to avoid awkard questions about the plot, she said.

One of her friends was so curious she texted Thomasin's mum for the real story.

The thought that thousands of New Zealanders will see her on screen was "pretty cool", but has caused Thomasin stress too, she said.

"I was worrying about it. I don't really want to be known as ‘that girl'."

Filming had its lighter moments - Thomasin loved riding horses for her part, and enjoyed having her hair dyed, getting a fake tan and wearing green contact lenses for the role.

"It's really fun just becoming another person, and acting that person."

Despite her acting lineage, which includes grandmother Dame Kate Harcourt, Thomasin was set against an acting career as a child.

"Mum and Dad never encouraged us to be actors, because it's hard to make a living off," she said.

Despite this, Thomasin and brother Peter, 15, have acted in several films, sometimes together and with mother Miranda. Thomasin has also done radio voiceover work.

Thomasin only met Nicholas at the Consent wrap party, and said she seemed strong.

"She said ‘thank you for doing it'. She understood it would be a hard thing to act out. She had to actually go through it."

Case revisited

Consent: The Louise Nicholas Story, revisits New Zealand's most prominent rape case, of three Rotorua policemen who were tried and acquitted in 2006 of raping Nicholas as a teenager in 1984. Based on Nicholas and Fairfax investigative reporter Phil Kitchin's book, My Story, the film also covers an earlier alleged rape by a policeman when Nicholas was just 13, in her hometown of Murupara in the Bay of Plenty. Another Rotorua police officer, John Dewar, was jailed in 2007 for covering up Nicholas' allegations. Directed by Robert Sarkies, whose previous films include a retelling of the Aramoana massacre, Out of the Blue, Consent screens tomorrow at 8.30pm on TV1.

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