Amanda Billing on Brokenwood's 'quirky weirdos' and why she's wary of fame


Amanda Billing guest stars in this year's second episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries.

In the two years since she left Shortland Street, Amanda Billing has continued to make her mark on television and on the stage.

The talented actress, who played Ferndale's Dr Sarah Potts for 10 years, has cropped up on local TV shows such as children's sci-fi series The Cul De Sac and comedy Find Me A Maori Bride. She has also been treading the boards in various theatrical productions. 

"Having a long-term contract and being paid a wage is comforting but, at the same time, not knowing what's going to happen in six months' time is exciting," says Billing.

Amanda Billing plays Brenda White in The Brokenwood Mysteries.

Amanda Billing plays Brenda White in The Brokenwood Mysteries.

"It's an adventure. That's what I enjoy about life at the moment."

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For her latest foray into television, the former Masterton school teacher guest stars as a housekeeper in this week's episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries.

"I play Brenda White and the White bit of her name is important because in the show there is also a Reverend Greene and a Doctor Plummer and if you've ever played Cluedo that will start to ring some bells," says Billing.

For people of a certain age, Cluedo was a murder-mystery board game that was arguably as popular as Monopoly.

"I loved it," recalls Billing.

"I played it with my brother Andrew, who's five years older than me. Cluedo was a game that wasn't so complex. It was a great family game. 

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"Even if you were a little kid you would still get it. But I loved the danger and all of the having to keep a straight face trying to work out who did what. 

"So much of our life is mystery and people do bad things. Sometimes good people do bad things and that's what every episode of Brokenwood is about. It's not about some psycho with a machete. It's about people feeling ashamed and making mistakes and then having to cover them up and tell lies."

It turns out there are a group of people in Brokenwood who get together to play a role-play murder-mystery game inspired by Cluedo.

"This particular episode of Brokenwood is quite complex story-wise because there is this ensemble of characters who live in Brokenwood who you haven't met before," says Billing.

"The episode hinges on this bunch of people playing this game and my character is one of the people who does that." 

Billing describes Brenda as "quite a homely person" who enjoys her job tending house for a wealthy couple.

"She doesn't seem like a particularly ambitious person from the outside," says Billing.

"She seems like she's quite a domestically minded person and I haven't played someone like her before.

"I usually play people who are doctors or performers or quite high-status people or sometimes quite complex and a bit naughty." 

Brokenwood is made by South Pacific Pictures, the film and television company which is also responsible for Shortland Street, and this week several former soap stars will be appearing in the show. They include Theresa Healey, Roy Ward, Laura Hill and Nicola Kawana. 

As in every episode, local detectives Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland) and Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea) are required to solve a perplexing murder case. 

Billing outlines what she sees as the appeal of the crime drama.

"With shows like Brokenwood and Midsomer Murders and even Agatha Christie back in the day, the police stay the same so you get to know them and grow to recognise them and they become familiar to you. But every single episode has to have really clear-cut, strong guest characters," she says.

"I think that's part of what's appealing about these shows. They write really extreme or quirky people. Brokenwood is full of quirky weirdos."

With a number of acting jobs, including her Brokenwood role, now under her belt, you can't help but wonder what Billing wants for her own career.

"I have no ambitions," she says.

"I don't know what I want as far as acting is concerned. 

"I'm very wary of being rich and famous. Being rich and famous – I suspect it's not all it's cracked up to be. I don't really have any aspirations. The only aspirations I have are to play really interesting people."

The Brokenwood Mysteries, Prime, Sunday.

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