Westside’s Antonia Prebble talks motherhood, career and how she nurtures her mind, body and soul

Known to us as one of the wild women on Westside, life is about to change significantly for Antonia Prebble.
Antonia Prebble pregnant 2019

After watching Outrageous Fortune, and then Westside religiously, the idea of sitting down with Loretta or Rita is frankly, a little petrifying.

But of course, it’s not Loretta, nor Rita. There’s no black leather jacket, no icy glares, no heavy eyeliner. From the get-go, the room is filled with the sound of Antonia’s contagious laughter, and thanks to the radiant glow of pregnancy, you would never guess that she has still been doing long hours on set every day.

The filming for Season 5 of Westside has just come to an end, and it’s something that has gone surprisingly smoothly, given that she’s had to hide a growing baby bump all the way through. There was initially talk of getting a body double, but handbags, black clothes and a leather jacket have done the trick to keep her expanding belly out of sight.

“Now it’s getting hard,” the actress admits.

“I have to hide behind things like tables, benches – even a car the other day – but people have embraced the challenge.”

Although she feels she has got away lightly on the pregnancy front, having read up on all the bodily changes and symptoms that can occur, the first trimester wasn’t without discomfort.

“I got really bad morning sickness, which was pretty awful. Up until about 14 weeks I felt toxic, but luckily, by the time we started shooting the nausea had left me.”

Antonia is more nervous about parenting than childbirth.

There are not many people who have faked childbirth on camera before going through the real thing, let alone five times, as Antonia has done throughout her career. I tease that surely, she must be a well-seasoned pro by now and it will be an absolute breeze.

“Absolutely not!” she exclaims with a big grin on her face.

“I’ll be in for a fully new experience, and I will probably realise I was terrible in all of those scenes and wasn’t being realistic at all.

“Luckily, I don’t have a lot of anxiety about it. I have way more anxiety about the actual parenting part, the part that is the rest of my life,” she laughs.

She pops out for a few minutes to try on outfits, and returns having suddenly remembered one of the main challenges of her pregnancy.

Of all the things I expect she might say – fatigue, soreness, mood swings or perhaps cravings on set – house fire definitely isn’t on the list.

After buying a house last year with her fiancé and Westside co-star Dan Musgrove, the couple heard banging on their front door one morning.

“I thought it was a really aggressive courier, but it was this guy walking his dog. He said, ‘Your garage is on fire! You need to get out of the house straight away!’

“I ran outside and there were plumes of smoke going into the air. Because of the way the wind was travelling, we hadn’t smelt the smoke yet and it hadn’t gotten into the house, so our smoke alarms hadn’t gone off.”

The fire department arrived quickly, but by that time the blaze had already spread through the house and into the roof.

“We bought that house with plans to have a baby and start our family, and then were literally uprooted six weeks into it, when I was pregnant and very sick. It has been extremely challenging.”

Despite the nightmare of watching their home burn and moving from place to place while pregnant, she exudes such a calm and positive energy while reflecting on the experience.

“It reinforced what we all know to be true – that anything can happen at any time and you just have to surrender to what is and go with the flow. There’s no use fighting or resisting it.

“I definitely have a tendency in general to worry and feel anxious, but I think when things are serious and it’s a genuine crisis or challenge, there’s almost no room for neurotic anxiety. You just have to put one foot in front of the other and do what needs to be done.”

When the going gets tough, it’s easy to assume that she could immediately channel the energy of her badass characters like Rita and Loretta.

“I wish! I think if I did meet them in real life, I would be absolutely terrified,” she says with a smile.

“It’s more about tuning into that deeper part of myself that I know can cope with anything, as opposed to listening to the noise that tells us that we can’t do something or that something is going to be too challenging.”

For this, she praises her regular meditation practice, something she has been doing for half of her life.

“It’s a really subtle yet significant change that I experience in my life when I meditate. It feels like my day just goes better. I feel calmer and I’m less affected by stressful or challenging events,” she explains, and meditation is something she strongly encourages everyone to try.

“It’s a game- changer. It’s such an amazing gift.”

Now in her thirties, she still reminisces about when she turned 18 and suddenly found herself up against experienced actors and struggling to get work after years of success as a child actor.

“I remember lying in bed one night and feeling really scared, thinking that acting is the only thing that makes me happy, and I’m not doing it.”

With her understanding of meditation and positive energy, she tried writing herself a daily mantra to affirm her openness to new opportunities. Within a couple of months, she had landed the part of Loretta on Outrageous Fortune.

“It sounds like a cliché, and sometimes it can be a bit misunderstood, but I think the fundamental truth of it is absolutely accurate – what you focus on, increases in your life.”

With her long-standing interest in mental health, psychology and mindfulness, she is thrilled to soon be launching a podcast and video series exploring the different elements and challenges of the human experience.

Scrolling through her Instagram, there are often snapshots of Antonia and fiancé Dan together on outdoor walks around New Zealand, and yoga takes a regular spot in her schedule too.

“I’ve changed my approach to fitness a little bit in the last couple of years. My natural rhythm is quite fast and I like doing things quickly with a lot of novelty and change in my life, so I used to do a lot of high-intensity workouts.”

As much as she thrived on this style of exercise, a decision to take her foot off the gas last year for a few months had a knock-on effect on her workouts.

“I started doing a lot more yoga, which in the past I avoided. I’m not very good at it, I’m not flexible naturally and I’m not good at doing things I’m not good at,” she laughs, “but I know that it’s really good for me and the more I do it, the more I really appreciate it.”

In a world where it is commonplace for actresses to embark on obscure diets, it’s refreshing to hear Antonia talk about food in very a reasonable way, describing her approach as “relaxed but healthy.”

Some nights, Dan is meticulously following a recipe, other nights she is throwing together whatever is left in the fridge, and other nights (of which there have been several during her pregnancy) they are eagerly waiting for Uber Eats to arrive.

“I don’t restrict anything, because as soon as I start focusing on restrictions and limitations, it turns food into an issue and something that is negative, as opposed to a great part of life.

“It’s an interesting thing, food and being an actress and body image. I feel so lucky that in New Zealand, it’s not that much of a big deal,” she says.

“In Los Angeles, it’s totally different and there’s so much more pressure. I hope we stay this way, that we don’t get more focused on that particular ‘thin’ aesthetic, because it’s no way to live your life, it’s not healthy. Also, I think it goes against the art of what we’re trying to do, which is to tell human stories.

“We come in all shapes and sizes, so why should we just focus on characters that look one particular way? I don’t think it’s right – it doesn’t make sense.”

From a very young age, Antonia felt a spark when acting, and at its best, acting is an experience she describes as easy and effortless, the ultimate feeling of being in flow.

“It feels like my whole system – my body, heart and mind – are all in alignment and working together in this beautiful cohesive way.”

On other days, she makes sure to point out, it can feel very different, and on particularly hard days, like wading through mud. If this feeling of flow or alignment is uncharted territory for you, her advice is simple: go in the direction of what brings you joy and what makes you happy.

“I think phrases like ‘follow your passion and dreams’ are super important, but it can feel quite scary to people. If they don’t have a particular passion or they haven’t tuned into what their dreams are yet, they can feel really overwhelmed and a bit hopeless,” she says.

“Uncertainty about which direction to take can often mean we lack the confidence to take steps in any direction, but I think that is the most important thing. Put one foot in front of the other, in the direction of something that brings you some level of joy.”

The birth of her first child, who is due to arrive next month, will undoubtedly be the start of an exciting new chapter, and while she knows that sleep, books and podcasts might have to be put on the backburner, her passion for performance is unwavering.

“It’s been interesting being pregnant, because it definitely does affect how I think about my life and priorities. In some strange way, I feel even more committed to pursuing an acting career than I did before. I need to keep following my own dreams.

“I just want to continue to grow and better myself – that internal feeling of knowing that I’m moving forward and hopefully getting better at all the things I love.”

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