They've only been in the room for 10 minutes, and already Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson are taking the mickey out of each other like a pair of old friends. But the new The AM Show hosts have only recently met.
"Mark and I are new besties," Amanda (40), the show's newsreader, says. "But Duncan and I go way back," she adds of the team's other co-host, Duncan Garner, with whom she's worked with for 20 years.
"Fortunately for me, I still go way back," chides Mark (45), a former Black Caps batsman and host of The Block NZ and evening sports show The Crowd Goes Wild, as Amanda rolls her eyes.
The trio are the first faces Kiwis see when they wake up, thanks to their new gig on TV3's breakfast television offering The AM Show. They're starting with their foot on the accelerator, especially when it comes to discussing issues and, of course, the banter.
"Yeah, we all seem to get on," Mark notes. "But that's not good is it, are we meant to? When we have a heated discussion, that will be good."
"Yeah that will be feisty," adds Amanda jokingly. "I just said I think I'm ruining Mark's reputation because I keep saying how lovely he is," jokes Amanda.
"But there's good banter between us and we had it from the first time we all got together. It's just been so much fun!"
Breakfast television is one of the pinnacles in broadcast television, but it's also known as something that's very taxing on personal and family lives with the brutal hours.
For Amanda, who doesn't drink coffee, January saw her on a health kick preparing for the lifestyle change, but she has been pressing Mark – who did breakfast radio for The Sound last year – for advice.
"I've tried to stay pretty healthy and stopped drinking the past month," she tells. "Everyone who's done the shift before has said to me that you've got to have a nana-nap and that early to bed will help me survive. Which won't be a problem because I'm a nana at heart!"
For Mark, moving to the other end of the day from The Crowd Goes Wild means he'll get to pick up his nine-year-old twins Charlie and Annabel after school.
"I reckon if you're just doing one end of the day, it can have a positive effect on your life, especially if you have a family.
"I used to leave before the kids got up and then I'd come home when they're already in bed. So now at least we'll get some quality time," he says.
The pair are excited to be sharing the fun with early-rising Kiwis.
"I can't do nice – nice is boring in a broadcast sense. You have to enjoy what you do and winding people up is what I enjoy," tells Mark.
Amanda testifies to that, saying she was "gobsmacked" when she first started chatting with Mark.
"I had tears of laughter with what he was saying. I can give it back, but at the moment it feels like a tennis match between him and Duncan, and I'm in the middle. But you have to hold your own, you can't let them get away with anything," she says.
"Amanda has fallen into the camp mother role which is good for Duncan and I," Mark nods.
"The moral compass, you could say," laughs Amanda.
But for all the jokes to be had, both are certain of not shying away from the serious issues they are covering.
Mark isn't getting away without comment either – Amanda is quick to share a surprising fact she's learned about her co-host.
"Mark knows his stuff," she tells. "He is knowledgeable on all things current affairs and has strong opinions – I'm really surprised! He's even got a bachelor's degree in business and commerce."
"I was also supposed to do a masters in industrial relations," Mark adds. "I definitely want to have more of a say on general knowledge stuff and current affairs. I want to be the everyday bloke in terms of the comments on general knowledge."
Sharing more of herself as a presenter is what veteran journalist Amanda reckons will be the biggest change for her.
"Being a presenter was never on my radar. True story! I didn't even know where our new studio was. They moved it 10 months ago and the first night I filled in on Story, I had to ask Duncan where the studio was that morning!" she laughs.
"I've stood in hurricanes, been taken on by prime ministers... but in my entire life as a journalist, I haven't been able to have an opinion on the news. So that'll be an interesting side to the job. I'll have to back myself – and not read the comments on social media!" she says.
Both are quick to say that coming after "the genius" of Paul Henry will be a difficult act to follow, but they are ready to wake New Zealand up.
"There will be comparisons, it's inevitable," Mark says. "But the great thing is this is a three-person show. Even though there is one leader who will play the main part – which is me" he says with a cheeky laugh.
"No, no I joke. Duncan can have the hard job."
Words: Ciara Pratt
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