Westside star Antonia Prebble's connections to the 1981 Springbok tour

Antonia Prebble stars in season two of the local drama Westside

Antonia Prebble stars in season two of the local drama Westside

It's 1981, a year of big hair, shoulder pads, a royal wedding, political turmoil and, for Rita West, freedom.

Westside is back and Rita (Antonia Prebble) is out of jail. She served time after taking the rap for son Wolf, who shot Horseman gang member Cannonball. A lot has happened in the two years that Rita has been locked up.

"The West rule is that when anyone is in jail, they have hardly any contact with the family outside and, in particular, aren't informed of any trouble," Prebble says. "They figure when you're in jail you can't do anything about it and it's too stressful to know that there are issues with the people they love but are completely powerless to help.

Antonia Prebble and David de Lautour as Rita and Ted West

Antonia Prebble and David de Lautour as Rita and Ted West

"Basically she comes out and Wolf is not in a good situation and she has to immediately click into gear to try to save him."

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While the first season of Westside, the prequel to Outrageous Fortune, featured six episodes (each one spanning a year, starting in 1974), the second season has 10 episodes, which are all set in 1981.

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It was the year of the Springbok tour – which provides a backdrop to the storylines – and Prince Charles' wedding to Lady Diana Spencer.

"The 80s are actually one of my favourite decades," says Prebble, who was born in 1984.

"I really like the 80s because I am a big fan of shoulder pads and sparkles, so when I heard we were doing the 80s I was really pleased. The style is definitely grungier than last time and probably a bit more bogan. It's the west Auckland version of the 80s as opposed to the glam version of the 80s. Some of the outfits, from the outside looking in, you might think are rather tragic but it's just kind of hilarious and appropriate for the characters."

Prebble says Westside's wardrobe department staff did a lot of vintage shopping to find appropriate clothes and she even raided her own wardrobe.

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"I donated one of my skirts this time. Rita is wearing one of my actual skirts. It looked very appropriate – suede and tassels," she reveals.

Prebble is not just well-versed in the fashion of the decade. She is also knowledgeable about the upheaval caused by the 1981 Springbok rugby tour of New Zealand.

"I knew about the tour. My mum was protesting and my grandparents set up a casualty clearing centre in their front yard in Kingsland, so I had lots of connections to it even though I wasn't there myself," she says.

While reluctant to give away any secrets, she says the West family – and their cronies – definitely use the Springbok controversy to their own advantage. "They're trying to profit from it," she reveals.

Prebble also welcomes the show's change in format. While each episode of season one focused on one year and a significant event in that year, the second season is much more serialised.

"The stories can follow on from one episode to the next so you've got a real chance to develop story and character which we didn't have last year. That's really exciting as some of the storylines are threaded through the entire season this time."

She hopes the Wests will be around for a few more seasons yet, admitting she's really enjoying the opportunity to get to know the character she initially played in flashbacks in Outrageous Fortune. Her Outrageous Fortune character Loretta was Rita's granddaughter.

"I feel very lucky because in Outrageous they always said Loretta was the spitting image of Rita and I actually did play Rita in home movies. That was purely just by chance. I think the writers just thought it would be a cool idea at the time but with no thought to the future. Westside definitely wasn't on their radar at that point," Prebble says.

"There was all this mythology, all the way through Outrageous, about Ted (played by the late Frank Whitten and recreated by David de Lautour in Westside) when he was in his heyday, about the hi-jinks he got up to with his wife Rita and he had this incredible, lovely story.

"They were just the loves of each other's lives and it was all so fascinating. And now we go back and show all that stuff we talked about. It made a lot of sense to me. I thought it was a great idea and I'm glad to be part of it. I'm very lucky."

Westside, TV3, from Sunday June 12

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