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Antonia Prebble’s exciting milestone

The livewire actress is relishing the chance to pause and ponder what matters most at 40
Antonia leaning on a post on her porch wearing Fluro pinkPhotos: Babiche Martens

This month, Antonia Prebble has turned 40 and despite ticking off so many of the lucky life achievements one associates with that age – great career, newly married, two kids – she admits the reality of the milestone birthday is a world away from what she expected.

“When I was younger, I always thought 40 was really old,” she laughs. “Someone who was 40 was a real grown-up. They knew what life was about, they had it all figured out. But now, being 40 myself, those ideas have absolutely fallen away. I definitely don’t have all the answers and I also don’t feel old! I’m just on the journey of life.”

The tail-end of Antonia’s thirties were extremely adult in nature. She gave birth to Freddie, now four, and Gus, two, starred in multiple television series, including Westside, Shortland Street and Double Parked, and “managed to squeak in” marrying her long-term love Dan Musgrove after a pandemic and a devastating house fire delayed their big day for years. This long list of achievements, coupled with the challenges, might also explain why she feels such a “seismic shift” at reaching the milestone.

Antonia and Dan pose for the camera at their wedding
Tying the knot with longtime fiancé Dan back in March.

“Turning 21, turning 30… they just felt like an excuse for a big party,” she smiles. “But turning 40 does feel different. It feels like quite a significant milestone because even though I don’t feel how I thought I would, it does seem like the beginning of a new chapter.”

There are plans for a party lined up for later in the year, but she and Dan only just got married in March. Antonia jokes that it’s a bit too soon to bring everyone back together again for another gathering in her honour. There’s a quieter plan for a birthday dinner with her husband in the meantime, but also a gradual arrival of something that has eluded Antonia for a lot of her adult life: time.

“As I’m turning 40, we’re also coming out of the mist of having really young children,” she explains. She and Dan are finally starting to sleep through the night again. Now, both boys are attending kindergarten part-time during the week.

Antonia, Dan, Gus and Freddie at the park
The couple’s cuties Freddie and Gus are big kindy kids now.

“For the first time since having children, I have time to myself,” Antonia says, with a sense of wonderment. “In the past, whenever I’ve finished a film or a TV project, I’ve gone straight back into full-time parenting. So one kind of intensity was immediately replaced by another.

“But now, for a few days a week, I don’t have that. So the timing has been interesting as I’ve approached this milestone of turning 40. Of being a ‘real adult’. I have also had to adjust to the fact that I have time again.”

Antonia admits that she found the first few days of this freedom unsettling more than anything else. Particularly with the knowledge that as kindergarten leads into primary school, those stretches of child-free time are only going to get longer.

Antonia Prebble wearing a green shirt and green pants in an autumnal background, with her hands in her pockets
To Antonia’s surprise, she suddenly has a few hours to spare!

Even before she had children, she had always thrived on having a very full plate. As well as working consistently on screen as an actor since she was 12, she flew to Los Angeles regularly to audition for work there and completed a Bachelor of Arts. In the past five years of parenting, she’s also launched the mental-health focused podcast What Matters Most with her friend Jacqui Maguire, a clinical psychologist, as well as acting on stage and on the screen.

Indeed, Antonia has been used to an intense juggling act for a very long time.

Antonia in Shortland Street
Antonia in the role of Rebekah on Shortland Street.

“It really feels like as I’m entering into a new decade, I’m also emerging from the trenches of that really intense, 24/7 parenting chapter,” she explains. “There’s a newfound sense of space to consider what comes next. How do I want to spend my time? What interests me now? What do I find meaningful now? These are all interesting questions that I haven’t had time to consider for the past few years.”

One of the areas Antonia has most felt this shift into the next decade is in that of her acting career.

Antonia and cast in Westside
As Westside’s feisty Rita.

“I’m no longer the ingenue,” she laughs. “I’ll probably never play Juliet. I’ve really got to let that go. Because I started acting when I was 12, I used to always be the youngest person on set by a huge margin. Now I’m never the youngest person on set! In fact, I’m often one of the oldest.”

Luckily, the industry has improved how it generates work for women over 35.

“I feel lucky I’m turning 40 in 2024 as opposed to 10 years ago. Actually or even five years ago,” says Antonia. “For so long, the narrative, and in fact the reality, has been that roles dry up because no one is interested in what a woman over 40 has to say, like that was just not interesting to the world, which is absurd and ridiculous on so many levels!

Antonia and Madeleine in Double Parked
Alongside Madeleine Sami in Double Parked.

“But I try not to buy into that kind of rhetoric. Of having the attitude of, ‘Oh, it’s going to be really hard, I’ve had my time but now my career is over,’” she says. “I try to avoid falling into that pessimism because I just don’t think it’s helpful for me. Acting is such an uncertain career anyway, at any age. I never know what is around the corner, which is the best and worst thing about it.”

Because Antonia has such a deep enthusiasm for learning, she is always interested in adding extra strings to her bow. She still takes acting lessons and she has also moved into more behind-the-scenes roles, creating TV shows and films with Dan.

“I just want to keep growing and developing and getting better at the things I’m passionate about. Being able to diversify is very satisfying,” she tells. “And being part of a creative process from the inception of an idea does mean I feel a bit more in the driver’s seat than I do as an actor.

Antonia wearing fluro pink with her hand on her heart

“Being in this creative producer role, I’m able to be a more active participant in the process. That feels good and it feels grown up! It feels like what a grown-up would do. So that also feels right for this decade.”

It’s another part of creating a gentler set of goals for her next decade after the jam-packed years of her thirties, which is an intense period for so many women.

“You have to make decisions about all of the significant pillars of your life at the same time and try to navigate what that will mean for you,” she explains. “No wonder women can feel like they’re in a state of panic the whole time.”

Antonia Prebble wearing a green shirt and green pants in an autumnal background, laughing at the camera

Antonia is hopeful in her forties of continuing to grow not only in having a sense of space, but with a sense of peace as well. She’s looking to take the pressure off herself in terms of what comes next.

“Even though 40 is definitely grown up, I haven’t unlocked the key to life. I’m still figuring it out. And I think that is such an important life lesson. We can remove the pressure of feeling like we should be at the point where we’ve got it all sorted because I don’t think that point exists.

“We’re all just doing our best with what we know at the time. And if that was true at 20 and at 30, and now at 40, then it’s probably true forever. And that’s quite a reassuring thought!”

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