Why Antonia Prebble digs the 70s

TV3

A first sneak peek of the Outrageous Fortune prequel Westside has been released.

Rita West was a character from Outrageous Fortune who was seen only in flashbacks and photographs. As the late wife of Ted (Frank Whitten), she was spoken of fondly by him and referred to in not-so-glowing terms by his fiery daughter-in-law Cheryl (Robyn Malcolm). In the hotly anticipated prequel series Westside, set during the 1970s, viewers will get to find out what kind of woman Rita was.

In the first episode, she is all short skirts and backcombed hair awaiting the return of Ted (David de Latour) from a three-year prison stint. Aside from caring for Wolf, their son, Rita (played by Antonia Prebble) has been keeping herself busy in ways her husband almost certainly wouldn't approve of.

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Antonia Prebble and David De Lautour star as Rita and Ted West in Outrageous Fortune prequel Westside.
MATT KLITSCHER

Antonia Prebble and David De Lautour star as Rita and Ted West in Outrageous Fortune prequel Westside.

"She's someone who wants to get the most of out of life," says Prebble. "She loves new experiences, having fun, having a good time and getting her own way. She's very smart and just sort of does whatever she wants. She's quite impulsive and doesn't spend a lot of time reflecting on her actions.

"She's a pragmatist so if something goes wrong, or different to how she imagined it or how she intended it, she just reacts accordingly."

Rita is clearly a complex woman. But Prebble insists she is also a good wife and mother. "Everything Rita does is for her family," she says.

Antonia Prebble as Rita West.

Antonia Prebble as Rita West.

If you are wondering why Prebble, who played Cheryl's daughter Loretta in Outrageous Fortune, has been cast as Rita, the reason is simple – she played the character in Outrageous Fortune flashbacks.

"They had no choice but to give me the role," says Prebble. "It was really lucky for me."

Also starring in the production is Nothing Trivial's Will Hall as Mike McCarthy, a moustached policeman with a penchant for safari suits, while Esther Stephens (When We Go To War, Go Girls) plays the sharp-tongued and proud housewife Ngarie Munroe. Other actors in the comedy drama include Xavier Horan (The Dead Lands), Pana Hema-Taylor (Brokenwood), and Glen Levy (Auckland Daze).

TV Guide is in shops every Thursday.

TV Guide is in shops every Thursday.

Created by James Griffin and Rachel Lang, who were largely responsible for Outrageous Fortune, Westside comprises six parts, with each set in a different year. The opening episode takes place in 1974 with the final one set in 1979. To prepare for her role, Prebble watched a documentary about life in suburban Auckland in the 70s. She also talked to her parents.

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"They said New Zealand was so different and people just stayed at home and you didn't go out at all," says Prebble. "There were hardly any restaurants and no cafes. Life was a lot simpler. People had a lot less money so they just stayed at home with the family. The family house was where everything happened."

Prebble said wearing 70s attire helped when it came to getting into character.

"The costume designer was wonderful and really open to collaboration," she says. "I just loved the process where I'd go in and have fittings. In the first fitting I didn't really know who Rita was and neither did she. We were both like, 'Well, OK. Let's just find her together.' For me, clothes help so much in terms of figuring out who a character is."

But it wasn't just the clothes that helped Prebble with her 70s look. "They wanted to make me look as different as possible from Loretta," she says. "They suggested a wig and I was all for it. I love wigs. It got a little bit itchy sometimes but not too bad. I did get a little bit of a reaction on my forehead with all the glue but they just reduced the amount of glue and it was fine."

Although Westside has a lot in common with Outrageous Fortune, it definitely stamps its own identity.

"It's going to feel satisfyingly familiar to fans of Outrageous but also it creates its own very distinctive world. It finds a really nice balance between holding on to what made Outrageous special which is the fact that it's racy, it's raunchy, it pushes the boundaries and it represents Kiwis in a way that we can really feel proud of.

"But it's departed from Outrageous in the way that these characters, while they are familiar, they are totally distinctive. I think after you watch it for 10 to 15 minutes you get absorbed in their stories, their world."

Westside, TV 3, Sunday

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