TV & Radio
Don't bother asking Robyn Malcolm where she is based these days.
Even though she is doing a publicity interview for Agent Anna on a cellphone in Melbourne, where she is filming another comedy series, the actress is not about to answer the question with the word 'Australia'.
"I don't know where I'm based," says Malcolm. "I just go where the work is. My kids and I live in Auckland, but a fair proportion of my work is in Australia. It's a big juggle."
Having helped create Agent Anna, Malcolm was thrilled when she discovered the series, which aired on TV1 last year, would be returning.
"I think the network was really encouraged by the audience numbers we got," she says of the show which won her a TV Guide Best On The Box award.
"We weren't sure whether it was a comedy or drama or what it was. I like to call it a tragi-comedy because Anna is so tragic. The more tragic she is the funnier she gets.
"But the punters seemed to get into it. The network was encouraged enough to give us a go at making another series, which was lovely."
Set in a real estate office in an affluent Auckland city-fringe suburb, the show received mixed reviews from TV critics and those working in the property market.
"There was all that protest initially," says Robyn. "There were various people who were coming out and saying, 'Real estate's not like that' and 'How dare they' but generally speaking we got a great response.
"I MCed a couple of real estate events last year. I think it's the old Oscar Wilde thing of the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
"What I got (from estate agents was) a lot of good-natured stuff in that they enjoyed the satire of it."
Another criticism of the show was that it did not paint women in a favourable light.
"One of the responses I got - and I've thought about it a lot - was that the show was quite misogynistic. All men - even though they might be ***holes at times - were kind of happy in one way or another. And all the women were complete bitches and are awful to Anna. And Anna is this kind of hopeless case.
"Initially I took that as criticism, but then I thought, 'Actually I quite like that'. I think it's reflective of a certain truth in that women are women's worst enemy. We really are.
"We're worse to each other than men could ever be because women can be utterly foul to each other and not supportive."
While the first series was six episodes, this time around there are 10. As well as returning cast members Theresa Healey (Sandi) and Roy Billing (Clinton) viewers can expect to see guest appearances from a host of well-known Kiwi actors including former Shortland Street alumni Alison Quigan, Elizabeth McRae, Jodie Rimmer and Peter Elliot. In the opening episode, Joel Tobeck, another ex-Shorty star, plays a rich but sleazy house buyer.
"We were very lucky to get Joel on board," says Malcolm. "He's awesome and very funny. I don't think he gets nearly enough work in New Zealand. He's brilliant. He's another one who gets a lot of work in Aussie."
And Australia is where Malcolm will be working until the end of June, filming series two of Aussie comedy Upper Middle Bogan. Then it is back to Auckland for a play for a few months and after that she says there are "three or four possibilities floating around".
So what is it like being in Aussie, while her sons, Charlie, 10, and Pete, eight, remain in New Zealand?
"I hate it," she says, "but it's a tricky one because I've got to earn the money."
Yes, she would love to do more work in New Zealand but the opportunities are limited.
Malcolm says the second series of Agent Anna is worth watching because of its humour and warmth.
"There is something unusually Kiwi about it. It tells a lovely story about someone who is quite unusual for television.
"It seems to run a wonderful gamut between something that's very warm and full of heart to something that's quite bonkers and unpredictable and nuts. I'm very proud of it."
TV1, Thursday, 8.30pm
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