Why Westside's Sophie Hambleton and her actor dad are literally trading places

'We’re looking for something that we can do together. I really want to find that. I actually think Sophie should direct me.'

By Amy Prebble
Westside star Sophie Hambleton and her actor/director dad Peter have decided to swap lives. Sophie (33) is moving back into the family home in Wellington while rehearsing for Seed, a play by Elisabeth Easther. Meanwhile, Peter will move into her Auckland house to tread the boards at the Basement Theatre.
Sophie and her boyfriend, actor and musician Tom Knowles (26), will be away, so Peter won't exactly be flatting – but he will be sharing Sophie's house with her friend, another Wellington-based actor. "It's going to be actor central!" laughs the Hobbit actor.
He's looking forward to a stint in the City of Sails so he can catch up with friends and work on Near Death Experience, a new play written by Sophie's friend Natalie Mender.
"It's about a young woman's struggle with depression," Peter tells. "It's challenging, but it's a very clever, entertaining piece. I'm going to be working with some great people."
Sophie is also very pleased about the cast of Seed, which will tour New Zealand for four weeks and then play in the capital for a week. "This is going to be a special experience because my boyfriend is actually in the show as well. So we're touring together with friends."
Tom will portray 15 different characters in the play – ranging from husbands and doctors to a Russian receptionist – and four women play one character each.
"It could be make or break!" Peter points out cheerfully.
So would father and daughter ever work together?"
"Absolutely not!" Sophie hoots. "Nobody wants to take on two Hambletons! Actually, we would love that if that was to happen. When I was in my final year of drama school, I was seconded to a Shakespeare production of Othello. Dad was playing Iago. I spent time with him and his contemporaries. It was a pretty cool experience."
Peter agrees, "We're looking for something that we can do together. I really want to find that. I actually think Sophie should direct me."
Peter is very proud of his daughter's talent and her work ethic. "People love working with her. I know that for real – my friends report back to me," he says. "She works bloody hard.
"I think as parents we both had complicated feelings because we know how tough it can be to try to survive and keep going in this business. But obviously we're enormously proud of her. As we are of both our kids."
Sophie's brother Joe (28) is also in the industry, working as a filmmaker in Canada. Sophie says they both went into show business with a very realistic idea of what life would be like.
"I guess because I grew up with an actor for a father, I saw the reality – both how hard and how wonderful it can be," she tells.
"Both of my parents are incredibly supportive and my mum Aileen (65) has worked in many, many different fields and also did her masters while we were growing up. So I've got the creative inspiration from Dad and the learning to work really hard and diversify and tackle everything thrown at me from Mum. So I think it's quite a good blend."
Peter is particularly looking forward to seeing Sophie in Seed and says, "I've seen a production of it in Wellington. It's a really terrific play, which explores the struggles that people can go through with fertility issues."
"It's a hard topic to grapple with because people don't really want to talk about infertility," adds Sophie.
"It's not an easy thing to talk about. But the weighty topic is balanced with some good laughs, which you need."
Infertility is something that is still haunting Sophie's character Carol in Westside.
"I do think about dear Carol and how much she would enjoy this play," Sophie muses.
"This season, Carol gets a furry friend, a baby replacement, I guess. She's still very much focused on this idea of wanting to have her own baby and, of course, we found out young Cheryl is pregnant at the end of season three. She's putting on a brave face.
"I think one of the brilliant things that the writers of Westside have done is made this – a woman's struggle of trying so desperately to have a baby – talked about. This season is quite incredible. I think it's really going to blow people's socks off."

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