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Westside star Sophie’s heart wrenching move

The beloved actress has had to make a tough decision for her family
Sophie in a bright purple and mustard Mexican Day of the Dead outfit

Sophie Hambleton’s second appearance in The Brokenwood Mysteries is a colourful one. Set amid a Mexican Day of the Dead festival, this coming Sunday’s episode sees the actress glammed up in a bright costume, complete with bejewelled face paint.

“The makeup and wardrobe department created amazing looks for each actor, including beautiful colour-matched headpieces,” recalls the star. Sophie’s most famous for her role as the hilariously ditsy Carol O’Driscoll on Westside.

“It was so much fun, but I had to wash off the makeup before I left the set so it didn’t stain the hotel linen!”

Hotel life has been a recent theme for Sophie, 39, when she made the tough call last year to move from Wellington to Auckland, where The Brokenwood Mysteries is shot. Her partner, actor/musician Tom Knowles, and their two-year-old daughter Marley Rose came with her.

Selfie with Marley-Rose and partner Tom
Loving family life with partner Tom and cutie Marley Rose.

“It was a heart breaking decision because Wellington is my hometown and we have so much family support there,” admits Sophie. She’s referring to her parents, veteran actor Peter Hambleton and retired actress/drama teacher Aileen.

“My mum and dad lived across town. They were always able to look after Marley Rose when we were away for work. We’d regularly have dinner at each other’s houses, which I really miss.”

Leaving her tight circle of friends, some of whom she’s had since school, has also been a wrench, says Sophie.

“There’s just more work for both of us in Auckland, especially in television. It also makes going to auditions a lot easier as sometimes producers don’t want to fly actors up.”

Sophie in one of her Westside outfits

Sophie admits her landlord made her feel slightly forced by their decision to sell their Wellington flat.

“We were on holiday in Europe when we found out that he was selling it, so we thought that if we have to look for a new flat, then we may as well do so in Auckland.”

Sophie’s no stranger to Aotearoa’s largest city, having previously lived there while filming Westside and the upcoming feature film about 2010’s Pike River mine explosion, in which she stars alongside Robyn Malcolm and Melanie Lynskey. But finding somewhere to live while still based in the capital caused a few headaches.

“We couldn’t keeping flying up to see flats, so we got our friends to view rentals for us. It was coming up to Christmas and we were getting a bit desperate! We thought we’d like West Auckland because I fell in love with it when I was filming Westside, but by the end of our search, we were like, ‘We’ll take anything anywhere!’”

Eventually their mates found them a house in Titirangi that met their need for a place surrounded by native bush.

Selfie with Marley-Rose holding her hands above her head

Sophie tells, “I’m not really a city person – we like the beaches and the bush. Our friends did well finding this place because we have native birds all around, as well as lots of great parks, playgrounds and the beach nearby, which Marley Rose loves.”

Sophie – who met Tom in 2017, while they were both appearing in plays at Circa Theatre – is also happy the move puts her closer to her Westside co-stars Antonia Prebble, Esther Stephens and David de Lautour, as well as pals from drama school.

“We’ve all got kids around the same age, which is great for Marley Rose – and us. For so long, Tom and I had either my parents or his family in Blenheim. But now we’re relying on our friends for that support.”

When the actors get together, it’s usually for takeaways at one of their houses.

“I love having kids in the house, watching them play. We’ll order pizza, put on a movie for the children and maybe even attempt to finish a drink without interruption. Or we’ll go to a playground to drink coffee while we watch our kids throw themselves off things.”

On set with Antonia and Esther
With Westside co-stars Esther Stephens (left) and Antonia Prebble.

When Woman’s Day calls, Sophie has actually moved back to Wellington for a few months to star as former PM Dame Jacinda Ardern in Dame Miranda Harcourt’s play Transmission: Beta. Tom’s also in the capital to work on another show.

“It’s great we’re both able to be in Wellington with Marley Rose,” smiles Sophie. “It also means my father can use our flat in Auckland because he’s currently filming a show there!”

Watch Sophie in The Brokenwood Mysteries at 8.30pm Sundays on TVNZ 1 and TVNZ+.

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