Family

Kiwi actress Sophie Henderson’s role of a lifetime – motherhood

Life’s been a whirl for Human Traces and Outrageous Fortune star Sophie Henderson since Matilda arrived.

Sophie Henderson was just eight weeks’ pregnant with her gorgeous daughter Matilda when she started work on her new film Human Traces. She let the wardrobe department know so they could buy her some bigger pants, but she was going to keep the happy news a secret from the rest of the cast and crew – after all, she hadn’t even told some of her family.

However, the Outrageous Fortune and Auckland Daze star’s plans fell apart within hours, when she violently threw up after a long, windy road trip to the remote South Island set of the psychological thriller.

“I could have blamed it on the car journey, but I was so sick, so grumpy and so sleepy,” recalls Sophie, 32, who is best known for playing love-rat lawyer Bailey West on Outrageous Fortune.

“I thought people would think I was unprofessional if I didn’t tell them. It was hideously bad, but everybody was so understanding – they bought me a lot of ginger tea!”

The nausea and hormones also triggered crippling anxiety, she tells. “I was really worried about being apart from my husband and not knowing whether I was able to be a good enough actor because I felt so awful.

“At one point, they found me curled up in a ball underneath a tree, rocking back and forth. The worst thing was, I’d just been joking to my doctor how I felt like I was missing out on morning sickness.”

Fortunately, in the film – which won rave reviews at film festivals in Australia and Canada – Sophie was playing a Department of Conservation scientist who discovers she’s pregnant while trapped on a subantarctic island 750km south of New Zealand.

She smiles, “My character is obviously desperate to go home and anxious because she’ll have to give birth without medical help, so I didn’t have to act too much. By getting pregnant myself, I was accidentally method acting!”

Sophie and actor/director Curtis Vowell, 38 – the husband – and-wife team behind the internationally acclaimed 2013 movie Fantail – were living in Melbourne, where she was working as a screenwriter for the Aussie series The Beautiful Lie, when they began trying for a baby.

Sophie and her husband Curtis’s big day in 2013, three months before they started on the film Fantail.

“We thought it might take some time, but it happened immediately, which was unexpected but exciting,” says Sophie.

“We loved Melbourne and thought we’d be there forever – we’d bought a houseful of furniture – but when we got pregnant, I was like, ‘We have to go home! I don’t know what this is going to be like and I need to be near my family.’”

The pair returned to Auckland soon after Sophie had finished shooting Human Traces – which also stars Sara Wiseman, The Hobbit’s Mark Mitchinson and Filthy Rich’s Vinnie Bennett – and the mum-to-be became so calm, she didn’t even bother with a birth plan.

She laughs, “My dad’s an obstetrician, so I had a lot of understanding by osmosis. I knew the birth would be unpredictable, but looking back, maybe I should have read one book.”

Seven weeks before Matilda was due, Curtis was filming an ad in Tekapo and a lonely Sophie was visiting her parents when her waters broke.

She recalls, “My dad switched straight into obstetrician mode. He said, ‘We’re going to hospital, where you’ll take some drugs to prevent labour and everything will be fine.’”

But nine hours later, on May 6, 2016, the beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed baby was born, premature but perfectly healthy, with Curtis arriving just in time for the epidural and delivery.

Sophie tells, “There were some scary moments, but it was the best day of my life.”

Matilda stayed in hospital for two weeks, which was “the worst thing ever”, the new mum tells. “It went against all my instincts as a mother to leave my baby behind at the end of each day.

“But we were there from 6am to 11pm, only going home to sleep, and we got a masterclass in parenting from the incredible paediatric nurses.”

The first year of her girl’s life was “exhausting but amazing”, says Sophie. “Now my heart lives outside my body. It takes the focus off me and on to another little person.

“Matilda is very much her dad’s daughter in that she’s very fearless, which is a bit terrifying. She’s always climbing things and trying to jump off the deck, and she loves dancing.”

Sophie returned to the stage earlier this year for the play Revolt . She Said. Revolt Again. and is now working on several writing projects, including the film Man Made, to be directed by Curtis, about a lonely singleton who builds her own boyfriends.

Both Sophie and her husband say they’re looking forward to giving Matilda a little brother or sister eventually. But the actress laughs, “We need to have our film babies first!”

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