Hamilton actress takes on Aussie

Last updated 14:01 14/01/2014
Robyn Paterson
Chris Hillock/Fairfax NZ
Actress Robyn Paterson.

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If Robyn Paterson's face seems familiar it should be.

Chances are you will have seen her in Shortland Street, or maybe The Blue Rose or Go Girls. Younger viewers might have spotted her in Power Rangers, playing the charity worker Miss Snell. And then there are her appearances in television commercials for KFC and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.

Or maybe you have just seen her out and about in Hamilton, where she spent most of her school years.

But even if you can't recall her, chances are you soon will. The ambitious 26-year-old actress and Waikato Diocesan old girl has now relocated to Australia, where she has recently finished filming Anzac Girls, a major six-part mini-series about the New Zealand and Australian nurses serving in World War I, which will screen later this year to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of that terrible conflict.

Strict secrecy enforced by television network ABC means Paterson can say little about her role as New Zealander Lorna Rattray, and even the publicity are being kept under lock and key.

Based on the book The Other Anzacs by Peter Rees, the six-part series tells the true story of the young women who experienced the horror and heartbreak of caring for the original Anzacs at Gallipoli and the Western Front.

"Each episode is focussed on a real person and their stories, what they went through and saw," Paterson said. "They are the real unsung heroes of World War I. They say behind every great man is a great woman and this was particularly true of these girls."

The series also features fellow Kiwi Antonia Prebble and Underbelly: Razor star Anna McGahan who, Paterson said, was a joy to work with.

"She was so generous and open and giving on set, that you cannot help but reciprocate and give your very best [performance] back to her.

"Anzac Girls is going to be very authentic - even the buttons on the New Zealand uniforms are exactly the same type they wore. It was so well done you become totally absorbed by the role."

Paterson, who moved to Sydney in March 2013, is also set to showcase her award-winning one-woman show The South Afreakins in Sydney's Short and Sweet festival in March, 2014. It's a subject she is at liberty to speak much more freely about, given that she is also the writer and director.

"It's based on my parents - When I was 24 I wrote a play called Mooi River, which was where I grew up in South Africa. It actually came third in an under 25 playwrights competition in New Zealand. This will probably come across really badly in print, but that story was based on the murder of my parents. It really wasn't as bad as that sounds.

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"The South Afreakins is very much a comedy. My parents are both hysterical, really funny people and I am playing both of them. It just so happens I can impersonate the both of them really well." The play tackles the sense of alienation people experience when they emigrate to a new country, and how even though the cultures are very similar, the subtle social mores and rhythms of life are distressingly different.

Between stage and screen gigs, Paterson also works as a film and television acting coach at the Point Break Acting School in Sydney. One of her young students recently landed a role in Angelina Jolie's film Unbroken, which is now shooting in Sydney.

And like that boy, who seized his moment to make a breakthrough, the vivacious actress is intent on making the most of the opportunities being based in Australia and Anzac Girls has presented her with.

mike.mather@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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