800 Words stars on babies, bonding and banter

It really is all fun and games for these four fab friends.

By Kelly Bertrand
Cian Elyse White (plays Hannah), Anna Julienne (plays Katie), Michelle Langstone (plays Fiona), Emma Leonard (plays Stacey)
Beautiful, colourful and just a little bit zany, the women of Weld stir up chaos on the hit TVNZ 1 show 800 Words.
We spoke to the fab four – Anna Jullienne (34), Michelle Langstone (38), Emma Leonard (32) and Cian Elyse White (28) – and got the scoop on friendships, babies and just who gets into the most trouble on set!
Your characters on the show are exceptionally tight. Do you hang out off set too?
Emma: [Joking] Nah, we try to avoid it as much as possible!
Cian: Anna has chosen to procreate, so we haven’t seen her too much! She’s removed herself from the equation, which is great because we don’t like her anyway.
Anna: I’ve just had my second baby, Jude, so I haven’t been anywhere except at home feeding! If we do another series again when I’m not having children, I’ll be out with the rest of them!
Michelle: All four of us went to the Logies [the Australian TV awards] and that was a brilliant time.
Did you expect the show to be such a big success?
Emma: I think we wanted it to and hoped it would! There was definitely the anticipation when the first series came out and we were over the moon with the ratings. We were incredibly excited for season two and now we’re filming season three!
Michelle: Last night, I probably got close to 20 texts from extended family members and friends who’d asked my mother for my phone number so they could gasp at what happened! There was someone who I don’t know who texted me, her name was Margaret – “Hi, Margaret” – who basically screenshotted me the story that she’d just watched.
You guys are all good friends – is that typical of casts in NZ?
Michelle: My only other experience of working with so many women was McLeod’s Daughters and I didn’t find the experience the same, but I didn’t work with the characters as closely as I work with these guys – our characters have so much to do with each other.Anna: And it’s a really lovely group of people!
Emma: The inclusive, warm, happy tone of the show is reflected in the cast. It’s so fun. Luckily!
Cian: It just feels like I’m hanging out with my mates! I think [co-star] Jesse Griffin is bringing board games tomorrow.
Michelle: Ooh, I might bring Cards Against Humanity then!
Cian: I heard someone was bringing Twister, but that might have been a joke… wardrobe would not be happy!
Emma, you had to move over from Australia for the show – how are you adapting to Kiwi life?
Emma: It was strange! It wasn’t too much of a culture shock because we’re so similar, but I did have to learn some of the Kiwi lingo and I was mispronouncing all of the town names, much to the amusement of my friends – Waiheke and Whangarei in particular.
Did the rest of the cast make you feel welcome?
Michelle: No, we didn’t! [Laughs]
Emma: They were awful! I had to do hazing, all these tests…
Cian: Initiations…
Anna: We’ve seen her in the nude – ain’t no-one want to be friends with that!
Emma: Exactly. But finally, I cracked through the Australian and I was welcomed into the coven. Hopefully I’m accepted, but I still watch my back, sleep with one eye open, you know. I’ve infiltrated. And Michelle ended up living in Sydney for a bit last year, so we hung out.
Anna, were you pregnant during the filming?
Anna: I was pregnant during the second season, so we had to hide it. I was thinking, “I’ll be 25 weeks at the end – I’ll only just be showing!” Wrong! I popped out really quick and had a whopper. There were lots of big canvas bags to cover it. At a certain point, the head of wardrobe said, “There’s nothing more I can do! I’m leaving you with the art department now!”
Was it tough working through your pregnancy?
Anna: The only hard bit was at the beginning, when I had really bad morning sickness. I also may or may not have been grumpy.
Michelle: Anna and I hassle each other quite a lot, and on the second day of filming, we were outside and I was giving her hassles about stuff she normally wouldn’t bat an eye at. I said something and she lost it!
Anna: My stress levels were high!
Cian: I chose my moments to call you “sausage”, and they weren’t on bad days.
We hear you entertained yourselves with something called “crafternoons”?
Emma: In the first season, as it got a little colder, Cian and I started doing some craft afternoons together. This year, I want to do pickling.
Cian: Like chutneys? I’m down for that!
Emma: Yeah, we can give them away to people!
Cian: We made a heap of dream-catchers that first year and we’re like, “What are we going to do with a table of dream-catchers?”
Anna: Catch a lot of dreams?
Cian: We gave them away.
What is the best part of being on set?
Michelle: I just find it really funny. I find the show so humorous and the actors we work with are very funny. I know every single day, I know I’m going to get in trouble three times for laughing. On one job, many years ago, I got New Zealand’s first giggle slab. A slab is when you get in trouble, like if someone’s phone rings, and you have to bring in a slab of beers. I got a giggle slab.
Emma: And when you get the giggles, everyone does!
Cian: They’re really good giggles. She’s off, she’s out!
Michelle: I get in trouble way more than anyone else. On the first day of season three, the director goes, “Oh God, she’s back!”
WATCH: Erik Thomson wins Best Actor Logie Award for 800 Words
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