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Behind the scenes with Westside’s Antonia Prebble

The Kiwi actress remembers that outrageous decade.

It was a decade filled with a haze of hairspray, forever remembered for its bold hairstyles (who can forget those sky-high perms and edgy mullets?), statement make-up and shoulder pads.

But besides the fashion crimes that took place in the ’80s, it’s a decade that will go down in history for its defining moments – among them, of course, the spectacle that was the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, and the Springbok tour that also took place in 1981 that completely divided our nation.

While Antonia Prebble was just a wee tot during the 1980s, she has strong recollections of her favourite fashions of the era and the events that shaped New Zealand.

It’s all come in handy as she reprises her role as Rita West in a new series of Westside, which picks up from where last season finished, this time centring on the 1980s.

The Weekly spoke to Antonia (32) about stepping into Rita’s leggings again and her memories of the ’80s.

Rita’s wardrobe is straight out of the ’80s – are you a fan of the fashion of that decade?

I am such a fan of ’80s fashions! I love the onesies, shoulder pads, the sparkles, all of it, so I was thrilled this series was set in that era. Rita’s take on it isn’t exactly my take on the ’80s, though.

There’s none of the fluoro colours I wore. I remember having these bright pink tights and neon green slouch socks! That was at the latter end of the ’80s, though. With Rita, there’s a lot of black and then there’s her hair… There’s more of a mullet happening. There’s a lot of shoulder pads, a lot of make-up, a lot of hair – there’s a whole lot of Rita happening!

She is fierce in this decade. I gave myself a fright when I’d walk past the mirror in costume.

You are a child of the ’80s – what other memories do you have of that time?

My earliest was when I was three and a half and I have this faint, blurry memory of looking up at Mum in this massive bed in hospital with my brother, just after he was born. My sister and I were both given dolls that day. That would have been in 1986.

The other big event was breaking my arm. I was jumping on the trampoline with my sister Becky – she’s two years older than me – and after that the “only one person is allowed on the tramp at a time” rule was put in place.

Expect tense times ahead for the Kiwi crime couple this season.

It took place a couple of years before you were born, but we hear your family was involved in protests against the Springbok tour, and it was an important milestone for them in the ’80s?

Yes, during the Springbok tour, my mum was pregnant with my sister, but she still went along to one of the marches in Wellington. She was feeling a bit nervous and vulnerable, being pregnant, so she marched but she ducked out before it got to parliament.

My grandparents were also involved in the protests – they were living near Eden Park in Auckland and my grandmother was a nurse, so they set up a temporary space on their lawn treating people who had been injured in the riots.

I’m proud that my family were anti what was going on and were active in expressing that.

For you, what’s changed since last season of Westside?

I feel more comfortable in the role than last time. I had to find out who Rita really was in the last series, she almost felt like this mythical creature to me. I still feel like I don’t have a complete handle on her – she’s so complicated and every time I think I understand her, something else happens and I see her in a whole new light.

I do love that about her, though, because it means she’s a great character to play and I’m always stretched as an actor.

Antonia and David De Lautour as Rita and Ted West.

David De Lautour

Christchurch-born David (33) also returns this season to Westside, playing Rita’s husband Ted West. He says this series promises to be the best yet.

You’re a child of the ’80s – what are your strongest memories from that decade?

Trying to match my best friend at school, Jamie Anderson, at how high he got his undercut!

Which fashions did you sport in the ’80s – do you look back on in horror now?

Weirdly, the undercut seems to have come back into fashion now, so I guess I can’t say that. So, slap bracelets?!

What were the biggest challenges of filming a show set in the ’80s?

In terms of technical obstacles, you can’t shoot any of the Sky TV satellite dishes! But for me, it was interesting to see how far the family dynamic has come. The “women stay at home, men earn a living” mentality was an interesting thing to get inside of.

Without giving too much away, can you let us know what might be in store for Ted this season?

Tension. A whole lot of tension between Ted and Rita, Ted and Wolf, and Ted and the gang. It’s going to be a great season.

Words: Alice O’Connell

Westside season two screens Sundays, 8.30pm on TV3

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