Fans of Shortland Street were stunned and delighted to find Carla Summerfield once again back in Ferndale. And Elisabeth Easther, who plays the devilish therapist, is thrilled that she has returned for another round of fun on the iconic soap.
"You do the things you would never do in real life – I held a needle to somebody's neck," Elisabeth laughs. "Everyone on the show works so hard, and then I come in and just have a jolly time. I feel like I have the best of both worlds."
Naturally Carla has already managed to cause mayhem after she hypnotised the staff at Shortland Street Hospital and even managed to smother a prison guard.
It was only in May last year that Elisabeth made her dramatic exit from Shortland Street as her controversial character kidnapped Pele, the son of nurse Nicole Miller, played by Sally Martin, before mysteriously disappearing.
With almost 30 years between her first two appearances, no one thought Carla would be back after only months away – least of all Elisabeth herself!
"I always joked that I'd be coming back every 25 years, so this one's a little sooner than anticipated."
Though Elisabeth wishes Carla would change her evil ways, the Aucklander is still very fond of her infamous character, admiting, "I would hate it if anything happened to Carla."
And though her dream of a good Carla has still not been fulfilled, Elisabeth was thrilled when she read the script to see that fans would finally get some explanation as to why the former nurse, who was famously the first killer in Ferndale's history, bludgeoning her husband Bernie to death, acts the terrible way she does.
"I feel like Carla is starting to look into herself with more depth and come up with some tangible reason for why, you know, she's not just crazy. She has had a tough time and I think some of that comes out this time. It's redemption."
During her first stint on the show, Elisabeth would regularly be recognised in public and often chastised over the evil deeds her character had committed that week. But after her return last year, she hasn't noticed the same attention, although laughingly admits, "My eyesight's not great, so if people are staring from more than three metres away, I can't see them!"
And even when people do recognise her and ask her about the show, she often acts as though she doesn't know what they are talking about.
"It's terrible, but sometimes when people say, 'Are you Carla from Shortland Street?', I pretend I'm not and I'll say, 'Isn't that interesting? You're not the first person to say that.' It just pops out!"
When she's not appearing on our screens, Elisabeth is a keen traveller and travel writer, but her usual adventures were stifled when Auckland was in lockdown for months last year.
The mum-of-one says she already has big travel plans for this year to make up for lost time. While her summer break was spent relaxing at the beach, she is gearing up for an epic holiday around the South Island.
"I'm cycling from Kaikoura to Molesworth Station, and there'll be seals and a whale adventure," she enthuses. "It'll be several hundred kilometres of South Island, east coast, high country cycling. I'm so excited!"
Her usual travel buddy, 15-year-old son Theo, will sadly not be by her side for this particular trip as he will be busy starting his second-to-last year of high school. While she will miss him, Elisabeth is delighted he finally gets to be back in the classroom with his friends.
After spending the long lockdown with just the two of them, Elisabeth says the hardest part was seeing how much it impacted Theo, who had to finish his first year of NCEA at home and couldn't spend time with his friends.
"We're so lucky because we've got parks around us and he had a friend in our bubble, but it's just not right for young people," laments Elisabeth.
"I'm supportive of the government's decisions, but I couldn't wait till we could be normal again because teenagers need to be out with their friends, not stuck at home with their mothers."
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