Standing smack in the middle of an Auckland laundromat, dressed in stilettos and a fancy frock for our Woman’s Day photo shoot, Tai Berdinner-Blades looks a tad out of place – and
the customers are starting to stare.
The looks only get stranger as, surrounded by bustling tumble-driers and the strong smell of detergent, the Dirty Laundry actress begins to fold herself into one of the machines.
“I feel like a contortionist!” laughs the Wellingtonian as she poses for the photographer. “I have never tried to fit my butt into a drier before!”
Tai, who first captured our attention as Bennie Keegan on Go Girls three years ago, will do whatever it takes to promote her lead role in the new TVNZ 1 series Dirty Laundry, which sees her acting alongside Kiwi great Jennifer Ward-Lealand.
Smiling at her luck, the 25-year-old spills, “On one of our first days together on set, Jen leaned in and said to me, ‘If you need anything from me performance-wise in this next take, let me know.’ The fact that someone of her calibre and experience wanted to open up a conversation with me about the scene was so refreshing.”
Tai didn’t stick around to see Dirty Laundry premiere in New Zealand. After our photo shoot – but before the crime drama began airing – she fled the country!
“It was quite a considered call,” says Tai with a wry smile, talking to us from Rome. “I said early on that I’m going travelling and getting out of here. I really don’t like watching myself. I will eventually watch the show, but I’ll do it in my own time.”
The screen beauty is jetting around Europe before heading to Los Angeles to take on Hollywood. It’s her second time in Tinseltown, where Tai secured herself an agent on a visit last year. But she’s staying realistic about her prospects of instant stardom.
“For me, LA is a long-term thing,” she explains. “It’s not something that will happen overnight. I’m still figuring out what that looks like and if it’s even a place I want to move
to, especially because there is a lot of my type over there – tall, blonde girls – and they already have an American accent and can work without needing a green card or a visa.
“Also, diversity is a big thing at the moment. The casting agents aren’t after a generic white girl – which is fantastic and should have been done a long, long time ago – but it means I won’t fare so well.”
What does help with the uncertainty is having a gang of supportive Kiwis who are all in the same boat – and there are plenty Tai can lean on, including her friends Jessica Grace Smith, of Home and Away fame, and Shortland Street hunk Cameron Jones, who she met in drama school.
“It’s vital to have people that you know there, who can normalise it for you,” she smiles. “As much as we see American culture and hear the accents on our screens, I forget we are different.”
Tai grew up in Wellington as one of five in a close-knit family and always saw herself being on stage, once imagining a career as an opera singer. “I can’t sing opera,” she laughs. “That was just because, at five, I thought opera singers were amazing and so I wanted to be one!”
For now, though, she has her sights set on a Hollywood role, but if LA doesn’t work out, Tai will pursue another avenue – directing – when she returns to New Zealand in November.
“I’ve been really interested in creating my own work recently, but I’m not entirely sure what that looks like,” she admits. “However, there is a lack of female directors of television in New Zealand and that needs to change. I’d like to be the one who changes that.”