Miranda Harcourt talks about The Changeover, her unorthodox coaching methods, and her talented daughter

Miranda Harcourt on location for The Changeover in the Christchurch red zone, which she is co-directing with her ...

Miranda Harcourt on location for The Changeover in the Christchurch red zone, which she is co-directing with her husband, Stuart Mckenzie.

Miranda Harcourt's household is a trove of talent.

The icon of New Zealand screen and stage shares her Wellington abode with a director and playwright, husband Stuart Mckenzie, and four actors - her children, and her mother, Dame Kate Harcourt. The couple's eldest daughter lives downstairs with her grandma.

Harcourt reckons her 16-year-old daughter is almost as experienced an actor as she is. Among her roles, Thomasin has played a young Louise Nicholas in Consent, and bone cancer sufferer Pixie Hannah on Shortland Street. The pair appear together in Jean - a bio-pic about the famous aviator. Thomasin plays the young Jean Batten; Harcourt, fittingly, plays her mother.

The first time the pair appeared in a film together, Thomasin murdered her mother and buried her in a garden. In Jean, she defends her from an aggressive landlady.

Harcourt admires her daughter for taking on tough roles.

* My Secret Wellington: Miranda Harcourt
* Thomasin McKenzie - Shortland Street's Pixie


"Sometimes I think that other people shy away from that, but emotion is part of human life - that's where drama comes from.

"Somebody has to have the courage to experience that emotion so that other people can experience the story."

Thomasin also appears in her mother's latest project, a screen adaptation of Margaret Mahy's supernatural romance, The Changeover, which Harcourt is co-directing with her husband in Christchurch.

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Harcourt, who began acting in the early 1970s, has since become a coach to those who'd follow in her footsteps. Her specialty, she says, is dreaming up "nutty ideas on how actors can do their job better".

Hailing from England and New Zealand, The Changeover's on-screen love interests had never met. So Harcourt took them to Queenstown, and threw them off a bridge.

"They didn't know each other but I thought they'd definitely know each other a lot more after doing a tandem bungy.

"In that 10 minutes, you've experienced five years of a relationship."

Jean airs on TVNZ 1 on October 23 at 8.30pm.

 - Sunday Magazine

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