Westside: tackling sexism amid the bad wigs and burnt orange bathrobes

South Pacific Pictures

Quick-fire questions with Westside actress Antonia Prebble.

Big hair, tight jeans and criminal behaviour are returning to our screens with the third season of spin-off drama Westside.

This time around the Outrageous Fortune prequel series is set in 1982, the year in which the country's first Warehouse store opened and war broke out in the Falklands.

Season two took place in 1981, when the Springbok Tour divided the nation and Diana Spencer and Prince Charles tied the knot at St Paul's Cathedral in what was then considered "a fairytale wedding".

If you haven't seen it yet, Westside is a local comedy drama which centres on the lives of law-breaking couple Rita (Antonia Prebble) and Ted West (David de Latour) and their son Wolf, played by Australian actor Reef Ireland.

Will Hall describes his Westside character as "a modern gentleman" - at least for 1982.
BEVAN READ

Will Hall describes his Westside character as "a modern gentleman" - at least for 1982.

READ MORE:
*A day in the life of Westside actor Shane Cortese
*Westside filming begins in west Auckland
*At my place: Westside actress Sophie Hambleton

This season an actress whose name is so far a closely-guarded secret portrays a young Cheryl, the character Robyn Malcolm made famous in Outrageous Fortune. And former Nothing Trivial star Shane Cortese - who is now a real estate agent - plays the father of his original Outrageous Fortune character Hayden.

"I think Shane is unrecognisable," says Prebble, who also played Rita's granddaughter Loretta in Outrageous Fortune, a character who had a relationship with Hayden.

Will Hall and Esther Stephens play Mike McArthy and Ngaire Munroe in Westside.
BEVAN READ

Will Hall and Esther Stephens play Mike McArthy and Ngaire Munroe in Westside.

"He wears a terrible wig and terrible clothes. He does not look like the handsome man we know as Shane Cortese. If people still recognise him I still don't think it's a problem, because the character is so different and the dynamic between the characters is so different. 

"But on a personal level we loved it. Shane and I are really good friends. We don't get to see each other much because of busy lives and everything that goes with that but we immediately fell back into the same rythm that we had on Outrageous."

Returning cast members from Westside's previous seasons include actress and singer Esther Stephens, as Rita's friend Ngaire, a separated mother-of-two who shacked up with Will Hall's Detective Mike McCarthy after walking out on her chauvinist husband Lefty (Dan Musgrove) – a man who just happens to be one of Ted's good mates.

Lefty's jealousy and resentment eventually led to a punch-up with Mike.

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"The last thing I shot last season was the fight with Dan and that was pretty full on," says Hall, who says his favourite wardrobe item of Mike's is a burnt-orange bathrobe.

"We had a director barking orders at us, rarking us up, getting us more and more physical because he was worried it wasn't rough enough. It got rough."

This season there is still tension between Lefty and Mike.  

"I was expecting a lot of bruises within the first month of shooting but it didn't happen," says Hall, whose cv includes Hillary, Nothing Trivial and Shortland Street.

So what's in store for Ngaire and Mike this season?

"Well I can tell you that Mike's been in the kitchen," says Hall. "No pinny. But he does have a tea towel and he's preparing dinner. I wonder how many men were in the kitchen in '82? He might be a bit of a trendsetter there. He's a modern gentleman."

Westside is known for its humour, not to mention the odd bit of violence and occasional sex scene.

"On the sex thing, I did not anticipate Mike McCarthy ever having sex, let alone so much sex," says Hall.

"In the first season I thought he'd just be a policeman, now he's like this sex candy guy. Had I known that I wouldn't have decided to play him slightly overweight."

Stephens says Ngaire is "navigating what the new social dynamic is between herself and Rita and the gang members"

"Obviously she's very on the outer and one of the foundations of the gang code is 'We don't fraternise with pigs' and so Ngaire has completely broken that side of the gang code. So her journey this season is figuring out where she fits with her new man and old friends."

Earlier this year Stephens appeared in three episodes of the popular Kiwi-Aussie TV drama 800 Words and back in March she belted out Aretha Franklin tunes on stage with fellow vocalists Annie Crummer, Aaradhna and Bella Kalolo as part of the Auckland Arts Festival. Stephens formerly fronted the group Esther Stephens And The Means before playing the lead in the rock opera That Bloody Woman (the story of suffragette Kate Sheppard) and is touring the show again next month.

Stephens most recent acting gig is a guest role on the upcoming fourth season of New Zealand crime drama The Brokenwood Mysteries playing "an extreme sports junkie with a rather controlling boyfriend".

"It's fun to be doing a flat-shoes, short-nails character for a change," she says.

For her Westside role, Esther is all early eighties suburban glamour with pretty blouses, carefully styled hair and painted talons.

While domestic life is still a key part of the series, questions are being raised about the role of women in society.

"Some of the other female characters this season address this burgeoning feminism and women's rights which I take a personal interest in, having done Bloody Woman, " says Stephens.

Westside is big on Kiwi nostalgia and referencing real-life issues and events of the day.  

But whereas 1981 was a big year for the show it seems Westside in 1982 is less about important historical markers and more about the characters themselves.

"I guess a lot of research was done for 1981 and it was just a progression on from that and I didn't look too deeply in 1982," says Hall.

It's a sentiment echoed by Los Angeles-based David de Latour who portrays Ted West.

"The nice thing now is that [Westside is] more about the characters because we know the characters so well," says de Latour.

"I feel like this season is more about the family and the two gangs and the surrounding characters rather than the big social issues. There is still some stuff that threads through and the main job at the end of the season is based on something that did actually happen in New Zealand. But I really feel this season it comes through as its own show which is really cool."

Westside, Three, Monday July 10, 8.30pm. That Bloody Woman tours nationwide August 29-October 20.

 

 

 

 - Sunday Star Times

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