Brokenwood filming goes to the dogs

Miranda Harcourt and Peter Hambleton in The Brokenwood Mysteries.
Geoffrey Short

Miranda Harcourt and Peter Hambleton in The Brokenwood Mysteries.

Most actors believe children and animals are best to be avoided on stage or screen, but Mrianda Harcourt thinks the opposite. 

In her guest appearance on The Brokenwood Mysteries, Harcourt plays Paula Worthington, an amateur thespian starring in a local production of Hamlet who also has two dogs, aptly named Viola and Sebastian after the twins in the Shakespeare play Twelfth Night

"The best thing you can do is to work with animals and children," Harcourt says. "There's no bull****. You can't be doing your acting when you've got dogs flocking around because the dogs will want to either eat something or run away."

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And run away is just what one dog did. One of Harcourt's character's dogs made a break for it during filming, and it happened to be named Molly and belonged to the show's producer Chris Bailey, who is married to former newsreader and mother of the nation Judy Bailey.

"The little dog who was a vital part of the scene found a massive pile of swan poo down by Lake Pupuke," Harcourt says. "She rolled in the swan poo and by the time we came to shoot the scene she stunk and was a completely different colour than she was supposed to be. She was a horrible brown colour... Chris had to ring Judy and go, 'I'm terribly sorry, Judy, but you're going to have to wash the dog'."

As well as Judy Bailey's dog, Harcourt had a few other famous friends joining her in the episode which airs on Prime this week. Taking part in Brokenwood's fatal amateur production of Hamlet are the experienced actors Bruce Phillips, Peter Hambleton and Robyn Malcolm. Filming was more like a reunion of old friends. "It was just a huge amount of fun to spend time with them," Harcourt says. "In fact we got told off a lot by Murray Keane, the director. "I haven't been told off that much since I was in secondary school. We got into a lot of trouble for too much giggling and too much irresponsible, bad behaviour. There were three young actors who were just out of drama school and they were horrified. We were horrified at ourselves too. Luckily there was no alcohol on set. That would have been even worse."

While Harcourt has plenty of experience on stage and screen, her character Paula actually might have one up on her when it comes to Shakespeare. "To be honest, Paula Worthington has probably got more experience than I have with Shakespeare," Harcourt says. "I've never played Gertrude and Paula has and I've never played Juliet and Paula has... I love going to see Shakespeare but I haven't been in so many Shakespeares. Now I feel like I've had my go playing Gertrude and it's awesome because I don't actually have to do it."

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 - TV Guide

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