Celebrity News

Antonia Prebble’s new challenge

She loved playing a murderous church leader, but the actress is now expanding into podcasts, TV production and, hopefully, wedding planning

Thrashing around desperately in a pool, trying to avoid being drowned by your lover – who is the mother of one of the people you’ve murdered – was the perfect climactic exit for Antonia Prebble’s Shortland Street character Rebekah.

“I realised that in my whole career, I’ve never done any acting in a pool!” says the actress, who starred in six seasons each of iconic Kiwi shows Outrageous Fortune and Westside. “It was so fun. Now I will only act in a pool. Anything else is not OK.”

Antonia always knew that playing the unhinged televangelist on New Zealand’s favourite soap would be a short-term gig, but she’s glad Rebekah didn’t meet a watery end.

“For a villainous character like her, either she goes to jail or she dies. I was quite pleased when I read that she goes to jail because then she might come back!”

Not that Antonia will be twiddling her thumbs waiting for Rebekah’s return. After her chat with Woman’s Day, the actress is heading off to film the last day of shooting for a top-secret new show for Three.

She and her partner Daniel Musgrove also have two TV series in development, plus the first series of her new podcast, What Matters Most with clinical psychologist Jacqui McGuire, recently hit number two in New Zealand on the Apple Podcast charts.

“With the Three show, I had three weeks’ crossover with filming for Shortland Street. And with Shorty, I had several weeks crossover with the play North By Northwest, which I did last year. Before that, I was in Melbourne filming Safe Home, so it’s been very busy since last August.”

Extinguishing another life as Shorty villain Rebekah.

But Antonia’s grateful she’s had the opportunity to fit in these incredible opportunities with parenting three-year-old Freddie and one-year-old Gus.

“Historically, because the hours are so long, people have had to choose one or the other – ‘Are you a stay-at-home parent or do you work in film and TV?'” says Antonia. “I was really touched by Shortland Street’s willingness to work around the hours I could offer them. They wrote scripts around my availability. I know how challenging that is on any show, but particularly Shorty, which moves so quickly.”

Freddie and Gus came in to see their mum every day that Antonia was filming. “We would hang out in my dressing room and wander around on set during lunchtime,” she says. “Our publicist gave Freddie his own stethoscope, which he was thrilled with! I hope that other actors can see that if having children visit on set worked for me, perhaps they can ask for the same thing.

“I really enjoyed my time on the show, and it was interesting because I’ve never played a character that has such different political and moral views from me. I just had to remember that you can never judge your character.”

Although she relished the role of Rebekah, she’s looking forward to having a break from the show’s relentless schedule. “I take my hat off to everyone on the show. You come back from a day’s filming and

you might have 50 pages of dialogue to learn for the next day. It’s a lot to keep on top of.”

She adds that she and podcast co-host Jacqui, who is also mum to two young children, only managed to get What Matters Most – which examines issues such as procrastination and the pursuit of happiness – done by recording after 9pm.

“That’s how we were able to make the show, by recording at night, after the kids were in bed, and by sending hundreds of voice notes to each other because it’s very hard to have a conversation on the phone when you’ve got little ones.”

Aside from preparing for the second season of the podcast, Antonia will also be putting on her producing hat for the two shows that she and Dan are currently working on.

“It’s a lovely next step for me. Dan is an actor, but he’s mainly a writer, so he makes a lot of his own work – that is his main role now. But this is my first time stepping into this kind of mode. I really love it. It’s so nice to feel like you’ve got some agency in the process and I’m learning so much.”

Antonia, Dan and the kids are going on holiday over Easter, and then she hopes to work at a slightly slower pace for the following few months.

A break with family is Antonia’s next priority.

She may even be able to start organising her wedding. She and Dan have been engaged since 2018 but haven’t managed to set a date.

“We both really want to do it!” she enthuses. “But it just got too hard this year. So we’re hoping we’re going to be able to do it next year, once we have a bit of bandwidth to actually focus after this busy

work period. I really hope that the next time we talk, I can say, ‘Yes, it’s all planned!’ Rather than, ‘I’m still working on it!'”

Related stories