Acting up in New York

RHIANNON MCCONNELL
Last updated 11:04 25/02/2014
Dorrit
RHIANNON McCONNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Rising star: The Carrie Diaries’ Dorrit, actress Stefania Owen, lives her life between New York and her Pauatahanui home.

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Stefania Owen lives a double life.

For half the year she is your average teenage girl, getting sunburnt at her school's athletics day and eating lollies with her sisters.

But the other half is much more glamorous - living in a New York apartment, acting in a popular television show and rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous.

The Pauatahanui teen arrived home late last year after filming her second season as Dorrit, Carrie Bradshaw's rebellious sister in The Carrie Diaries, the HBO prequel to Sex and the City.

"I'm lucky because I get the best of both worlds," she said.

"I have the crazy life where I get to do something I really love and I'm passionate about, and my second life is being able to be a 16-year-old who can go to school and be with friends."

Stefania and her father, Mark, spent from July to November in New York in each of the last two years.

"I have so much fun when I'm over there," Stefania said.

"The people [the cast and crew] are so amazing. We're so close, we're like a family."

Despite falling in love with the Big Apple, the Chilton St James year-12 student said New Zealand would always be home.

"Being away just makes you appreciate home so much more," she said.

"It's so grounding here and I love just being with my family.

"When I come back I kind of analyse everything that has happened to me, because when I'm over there everything is happening so fast."

She said being with friends and family in New Zealand was what she appreciated most.

While in New York there was one Porirua icon she missed a lot - Whittaker's Chocolate.

"Last time I was over there I brought over some chocolate from here. Every time somebody would come over, I'd give it to them and they loved it," she said.

Unlike many of her showbiz peers, Stefania did not start out wanting a career as an actress.

"It was still just a fun thing for me to do. It wasn't like, 'Oh, I want to be an actor'. I never thought that," she said.
Stefania said she enjoyed the company of all her castmates.

"No-one is my favourite. Everyone is so amazing. We will go shopping, we will have sleepovers, we bake together.
"Simple things like that that you do as a family. It's really like that. It's especially nice for me since I'm used to having my sisters around."

Stefania said that although she loved her new life, her recent fame had brought fake friends and being recognised often.

"It's still weird for me that people see me as an actress. I see myself as Stefi the dork," she said.

The American-born actress has been working on The Carrie Diaries for two years, but said only after coming back to New Zealand this time did people really recognise her.

"When I'm over there I'm used to people recognising me now, because I'm there to act. It's why I'm there," she said.

"But here, this is my normal life, where I went to school. It was just weird because this is home."

Despite living in New York half the year, Stefania still needs to balance school work here.

She passed NCEA level 1 with excellence last year, before leaving in July. She has a tutor in New York.

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"I'm a person who if I set myself something, I have to get there. I can't just do it halfway."

When the question of how much she earns was raised, she simply said she was happy with it.

"It's a good amount and I get to take my parents out for dinner."

A small role in Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, auditioning for American film Let Me In and a central role in short-lived comedy Running Wilde, with Will Arnett and Keri Russell, gave her the confidence to audition for The Carrie Diaries.

"Everything kept progressing," she said.

"I realised I loved it [acting] and wanted to do it."

With fame has come 57,000 Instgram followers.

"It's funny because you can't reveal too much, but you have to reveal enough. People want to feel like they know you and want to know what you're doing."

She said she gets about 100 new followers a day.

Stefania gets invited to A-lister events and even has Vanessa Hudgens' number in her phone, but it's a New Zealand celebrity who has left her starstruck: singer-songwriter Brooke Fraser, who lives in the same building in New York.

"She's what you imagine her to be. She is so nice," she said.

"That was one of my freak-outs. Her songs are on my iPod right now."

Stefania's character Dorrit in The Carrie Diaries is a rebellious teenager who wears dark makeup and clothes, but the actress said she was much more fresh-faced in real life.

"My rebelliousness lives through her, so I don't have to go through my own streak of rebelliousness.

"We're similar in the way we know what we want and what's right."

Stefania said that while she was nowhere near as rebellious as Dorrit, she was still like any teenage girl.

"I sometimes have an attitude with my parents, but it's part of growing up," she said.

If The Carrie Diaries does not get picked up for a third season, Stefania said she would continue schooling in New Zealand and keep auditioning.

And as for any secrets about season three, Stefania said she had no idea what might happen.

"That's the good thing about TV - even you are surprised. Things happen every episode that you wouldn't expect."

Although she loves New Zealand, Stefania said she would probably end up in the United States if she wanted to continue acting.

She wants to study at an American university and has big plans for travel.

"After school I want to go to Europe and travel," she said.

"I've found my buddy and everything."

The second season of The Carrie Diaries' is showing on TV2 on Saturdays at 2pm.

- Kapi-Mana News

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