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Antonia Prebble reveals all

The actress bares her soul, and more, in her new film.

She looked every inch the composed and glamorous movie star, but actress Antonia Prebble admits attending the Auckland premiere of her new film White Lies was a nerve-wracking experience.

“I like going to premieres – they are a wonderful way to celebrate something everyone has worked so hard on, and to give it away to others, now that our work is finished,” says the actress.

“But they can be so scary. There is always stress and anxiety attached, because you don’t know how people are going to respond.”

Antonia dazzled at the White Lies premiere in a striking, white tassled dress by Auckland designer John Zimmerman, but finding it was a complete fluke. On a publicity shoot for the movie at Alberton House, Auckland, which is sometimes used for weddings, she flicked through a bridal magazine, which featured John’s work. When she visited his shop, she spotted the gown: “When I saw the dress, that was it – it was perfect! You would normally spend hours trying on different things for these events.”

Antonia doesn’t really like seeing herself on screen, but watching some of the film’s harrowing scenes, including those with nudity, in a cinema full of people was especially overwhelming, as she knew her mum and dad were there.

“They knew what to expect,” says Antonia (29), who plays privileged Rebecca Vickers in the film, an intense drama set in colonial New Zealand.

It’s based on a novella by Witi Ihimaera, who is tipping Antonia for Hollywood success.

Antonia and her long-time love, Gareth Williams.

“I talked to them a lot when I was deciding whether to do the role, because of the nudity aspect,” Antonia says.

“They were fine with it, as it was all in context. But there’s knowing something in theory, and then there’s seeing it in reality! I ended up watching it through other people’s eyes and wondering if they would like it.”

Antonia was relieved to know that her parents, John Prebble and Nicky Riddiford, thought White Lies was “brilliant”, and were proud of her performance. Her partner of four years, comedian/actor/writer Gareth Williams, was also full of praise, especially as he knew what Antonia went through.

Stunning Antonia as the wealthy colonial, Rebecca.

“It took me a long time to come down from it afterwards. I felt bruised and raw,” the actress reveals.

Gareth described the film as “powerful and moving”, and Antonia, who is best known for her roles in TV shows Outrageous Fortune and The Blue Rose, says it was her toughest role to date.

“I’m proud of the movie, and I’m proud of myself because it was the most challenging thing I have ever done and I got through it! I did feel a huge weight of responsibility. But I’m really proud that we made a movie that poses some important questions about New Zealand that aren’t talked about. I hope it gets people thinking.”

Medicine woman Paraiti is singer Whirimako Black’s first acting role, at the age of 51. “I had a dream as a child that one day I might become an actress. It was a fantasy, I never anticipated having this wonderful opportunity,” she says.

Even more important than winning approval from her loved ones was getting positive feedback from the Maori community about the movie, which highlights racism, among other controversial issues. But, so far, Antonia says the feedback has been positive and encouraging.

“For me that was the most important thing of all,” she says.

Antonia and Gareth with her parents, Nicky Riddiford and John Prebble.

“I have always been very anti-racism – it is one of the things I just can’t stand. It makes my blood boil.“What it has done is teach me a lot about Maori culture, and the very sacred ideals around things like birth and healing. I didn’t know much about it at all, and a part of me has been opened up to these aspects of Maori culture as a result of working on White Lies. I felt very honoured to be invited into this sacred world.”

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