They say showbiz runs in the blood, and that couldn’t ring any truer for the bright and bubbly trio of sisters, Grace and Eve Palmer, and Faith Gunn.
The girls’ mother is TV producer Janine Morrell-Gunn, while Faith’s dad is none other than iconic Kiwi star Jason Gunn. And just to keep the theme running, Eve and Grace’s father Tony – who separated from Janine when the girls were little – also works in television!
“It was never a question if acting was what I was going to do,” tells Shortland Street star Grace, 21, who plays loved-up nurse Lucy Rickman. “In my mind, it never seemed like a far-fetched concept, but that also comes with the fact that I have this massively supportive family and never once did my parents second-guess my dream.”
Eldest sister Eve, 27, is the host of TVNZ 2’s youth programme The Adam & Eve Show, and 18-year-old Faith is also eager to join her siblings in show business, but the girls insist that there wasn’t any pressure to follow in the family footsteps.
“There was just never anything else I was ever passionate about,” says Grace. Even as keen youngsters, Canterbury cuties Eve and Grace had a taste for being in front of the camera. Grace got her start in TV presenting and performing skits on What Now, while Eve did her time as a camera operator on the same show.
“It was a family business and we all got involved where we could,” smiles Grace. “I did a lot of theatre during high school and moved to Sydney, where I worked in a bar and did acting courses where I could. Then I got a guest role on Home and Away and, that same week, my role on Shortland Street came up. I had a few days to get my stuff packed up and move to Auckland.”
For big sis Eve, it wasn’t as clear cut as her siblings. She jetted off to London for a gap year straight after school and spent a month studying film in Italy, but says she “didn’t know how to make that a full-time job”.
“When I got back from England, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I went to university to study psychology, international relations, politics and Maori studies,” explains Eve. “I thought I might work for the United Nations or be a child psychologist.”
But the draw of the limelight was always there, with Eve auditioning throughout her studies and eventually enrolling in drama school. Not long after, the lively presenter nabbed the role hosting The 4.30 Show, which then became The Adam & Eve Show.
“I’m doing this job, but it won’t last forever – I’ll get too old for this time slot,” she says. “But I’m open to other gigs. There are heaps of other things I want to try. I would like to go to the Olympics as an equestrian. People don’t think that’s possible, but Mark Todd was 28 at his first Olympics and now he’s 60!”
“What are you on?” laughs Grace. “And how did we get on to Mark Todd?”
For the youngest girl in the family – they also have a 13-year-old brother named Louis – Faith’s goal is firmly set on the stage. Currently in her last year of high school, she recently made her stage debut in the Isaac Theatre Royal production of Hairspray.
“That was the first time I have ever performed in front of people and it was an insane experience – I loved every minute of it!” gushes Faith, grinning widely. Of course, the whole Palmer-Morrell-Gunn gang was there to cheer her on.
“When Faith came out on stage, we all cried,” recalls Eve. “I don’t cry much, but I couldn’t help it. It was so cool seeing her do something she really loves. It looked like she was in the right place, doing exactly what she should be doing.”
On cue, a phone is whipped out and passed around with photos of Faith from that night – much to her embarrassment. “As long as they’re happy, it doesn’t really matter what these guys do, whatever their dreams,” beams Eve. “But it just so happens that we share this one.”