Westside's Antonia Prebble reveals Rita West's stance on feminism

South Pacific Pictures

Quick-fire questions with Westside actress Antonia Prebble.

Don't expect to see dramatic wardrobe changes for Westside's latest season. 

When the New Zealand comedy drama aired last year, it was set in 1981 and based around the impact of key events such as the Springbok tour and the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

This time around the show takes place in 1982 and the characters' costumes have been tweaked – but only just. 

Antonia Prebble says her Westside mullet wig "has had a slight haircut".

Antonia Prebble says her Westside mullet wig "has had a slight haircut".

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"My mullet wig has had a slight haircut," says Antonia Prebble, who plays family matriarch Rita West.

"It's updated a little bit but I don't actually know if the viewers would notice that."

Antonia Prebble and David de Latour play Westside's criminal couple Rita and Ted West.

Antonia Prebble and David de Latour play Westside's criminal couple Rita and Ted West.

In case you're not up to speed, chain-smoking, potty-mouthed Rita is married to Ted (David de Lautour) and they have a son, Wolf (Reef Ireland). The Wests break the law to pay the bills and don't suffer fools gladly. Fortunately, most of their friends, such as Lefty (Dan Musgrove) and Phineas (Xavier Horan), are criminals too.

Westside was conceived as the prequel to Outrageous Fortune and thanks to its blend of humour and drama, plus its nod to 1970s and 1980s Kiwiana, the show is now in its third season. Westside also boasts a killer soundtrack with episodes often featuring memorable tunes from the likes of Th' Dudes, Hello Sailor and Sharon O'Neill.

"I think it's the best one yet," says Prebble of season three. 

"It's really solid in the West world now because we are focusing more on the characters. Without having to connect it to anything external, we really are getting a far more insightful look with a lot more depth into their world. We just find out so much more about these characters who are both hilarious and devastating at the same time. It's funnier and darker simultaneously."

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One of the big things to happen this season is the arrival of Cheryl, the character played by Robyn Malcolm in Outrageous Fortune.

At this stage Prebble is sworn to secrecy about the actress chosen to play the young Cheryl, the tough-talking woman who will eventually marry Wolf, but she reveals feminism will take front of stage.

"In a way it's a thread running throughout the series but it's brought to the fore in some of the later episodes between the women on the show," she says.

"There are different ideas about feminism and what it is to be a feminist in 1982 as opposed to what it means to be a feminist now and Rita, as you might imagine, has some quite controversial ideas about it. 

"She says she's actually not a feminist. Her ideas about being a woman is to use what women have got in order to run the show, but in a quiet way so men don't know you're doing it.

"There is a lot of discussion about the role of women in society in 1982, which is interesting, and also homosexuality does come up again and I think it's handled really well in a really interesting way."

Outside of her Westside work, Prebble, 33, leads a busy life. 

In between seasons two and three she took part in an episode of DNA Detectives, flew to Melbourne to film the first episode of Sisters (a drama about three women who, later in life, discover they are related), and had a role in the Pork Pie movie. She also visited Los Angeles for pilot season.

Prebble's on-screen husband David de Lautour, who plays Ted, lives in Los Angeles. He says he's just as comfortable behind the camera as he is in front of it. 

After Westside season two wrapped, he also immersed himself in his adopted city's pilot season and did a few other projects, including directing a music video for Kiwi pop singer Gin Wigmore. 

He also used his directing skills on Westside's latest season.

In front of the camera he is often filmed with his Westside male mates drinking beer at the pub – which isn't quite as much fun as you might think.

"It's a non-alcoholic beer," says de Lautour. "It tastes like beer the first sip but after eight hours of doing pub scenes, it starts to taste pretty bad by the end of the day."

Luckily for Prebble, her Westside character isn't a fan of lager.

"Rita's drink of choice is gin and tonic and in TV-speak that means soda water so I just get hydrated."

Westside, Three, starts Monday 8.30pm.


 - TV Guide


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