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Shortland Street actress Beth Allen is swapping nursing scenes for nude scenes on the stage in a black comedy opening in Auckland.
The 25-year-old, who plays GP sex siren Brooke Freeman in the Kiwi soap, is to bare all in Killer Joe, starring alongside real-life love interest Charlie McDermott.
At first Allen, who on screen has bedded many of Shortland Street's leading men, thought she could act her way out of getting undressed.
"I just thought 'oh no, I'll just find a way to get around that,' but as we've worked though it, it has become obvious I don't need to find a way through it because the script is good enough and protects you enough that you don't need to worry about it ... it's not going to look gratuitous," she said.
"It is confronting. I wouldn't do it unless it was really necessary. Most people probably say that, but the piece kind of requires it. It's essential to the character's development and it saves having to write 15 pages of explanation really."
But it's clear from Allen's nervous grin she's apprehensive about three weeks of nude scenes.
"I'm completely nude. Not quite full frontal... you're not going to see everything," she said.
"It's taken me quite a while to get to the point of being fine with it."
Like every actress, Allen knew that sooner or later a script would force her to decide whether she was prepared to disrobe for a role.
"I totally accept whatever any actress decides to do," she said.
"You see it on the screen all the time, women have obviously said, 'No, I'm not going to have a bare chest,' then Anna Paquin is in True Blood getting her tits out and you think 'good on ya, girl'."
Killer Joe, which opens on Friday, tells the story of a Texan trailer park family who try to solve a cash crisis by hiring a bent cop to kill their mother so they can collect her life insurance.
"I think there's lots to like about it. There are lots of exciting things going on, on stage. It's really funny and it's really black as well ... it might make you squirm quite a bit."
Allen plays Dottie, a shy and dreamy young girl who has a somewhat "inappropriate" relationship with her brother Chris, played by McDermott. Colin Moy, who starred as Dr Brett Valentine in Shortland Street, plays the hired assassin.
"It's part of the killer ingratiating himself in the family. He gets involved with Dottie so there's a scene between him and her where he kind of takes control of the situation, not in a forceful way.
"It's just nudity, the sexual stuff lies underneath. But the nudity is drawn out."
The play, written by Pulitzer prize and Tony award-winning writer Tracy Letts, also stars Outrageous Fortune bad boy Craig Hall (Nicky Greegan) and Sara Wiseman who was in Xena and Street Legal.
Despite Killer Joe's publicists making a point of mentioning Allen's relationship with McDermott, 26, it's not up for discussion.
"I'd rather not have this Charlie and I come into it really. It's really great to work with him but we're keeping our relationship separate to the play," Allen said.
Due to her Shortland Street schedule it's "hard to squeeze in" more than one play a year. Last year she produced and starred in the sell-out season of The Eight: Reindeer Monologues. She hopes to do the same with Christ Almighty.
"I love going to the theatre and as an actor it tends to be the thing you do for your craft and your satisfaction ... you definitely don't do it for the money," she said.
Killer Joe is at Auckland's The Basement Theatre from September 11 to October 3.
- © Fairfax NZ News