It’s been a big year for Antonia Prebble, the 33-year-old Kiwi actress best known for her role as angsty teen Loretta West in local drama Outrageous Fortune.
From ‘Westside’ To ‘Sisters’
The third season of Westside, in which Prebble plays Loretta West’s grandmother, Rita, premiered in July, and Prebble says stepping into the role of a character she felt she knew intimately came with its challenges. “When I turned up on the first day to film Westside they told me, ‘Everything you think you know about Rita, forget about that’… I found it hard to unpick what I already believed I knew about her.”
Now with the third season under her belt, Prebble couldn’t be happier. “[Rita] is equally flawed and fabulous; she’s so brave and cutthroat, but she’s also pretty broken on the inside. I’m drawn to characters that are multidimensional,” she says.
Prebble says even she has been shocked by Rita’s behaviour at times. “I always send my family a warning text if there’s going to be anything X-rated involving me, and Mum always says, ‘Don’t worry, we know it’s acting’.” But Prebble says she’s never been able to watch an episode with her family. “My family, cousins and all, were getting together in Wellington to watch the premiere of the second season and I decided to go back to Auckland a day earlier as I knew there were going to be some raunchy scenes in it. They’re better at it than I am,” she laughs.
Prebble’s most recent role is in the Australian drama Sisters, which has already garnered widespread praise. “The show is about three women who discover they’re sisters at the age of 30, when their father [a renowned fertility specialist] confesses on his thought-to-be deathbed that he anonymously donated his own sperm to his fertility patients in the ’80s.”
Prebble plays Edie, who she describes as a hard-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside lawyer. “She’s at an interesting point in her life, dealing with many questions concerning her identity and what she really wants.” As for what attracted her to the role, it was award-winning writer/producer Imogen Banks, one of the minds behind family drama-meets-comedy, Offspring. “I really admire what she’s doing in the industry. The pilot was such an amazing experience. The environment was wonderful; to be around strong, intelligent women, it was exactly where I want to be.”
“From a very early age I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” Wellington-born Prebble says. “I had this desire to perform and this spark that went off whenever I did it.” Instead of leaving school to pursue acting, Prebble took roles that let her focus on her education. “I was lucky I was working on productions that were very supportive of me and my desire to not give up school,” she says. “The hours were long, it was very hard work, but some kids had a newspaper run and I had a TV show as my part-time job; I was able to do what I love and I didn’t have to sacrifice any normality.”
Leading a normal life came fairly easily for Prebble; something she attributes to the fact many of the shows she made weren’t overly popular locally. “I did The Tribe for five years, but it wasn’t made for New Zealand, so I didn’t have to deal with any issues of being recognised as a teenager.” It’s an experience Prebble is grateful for. “It would be hard to cope with that kind of scrutiny, and I’m also fortunate social media wasn’t around. It’s pretty difficult growing up in that environment now.”
Living a life out of the spotlight is something Prebble’s strived to maintain in adulthood too; you won’t catch her gracing the party pages of gossip magazines. Prebble says she shies away from off-screen attention but has come to terms with the fact that getting recognised is part of what she does. “A few years ago I made a decision not to let it bother me; I was the only one who had control over that.”
Off-screen, Prebble keeps herself busy working with children’s charity Variety and as an ambassador for Smith & Caughey’s. And while acting remains her primary passion, perhaps rekindling her childhood passion for creative writing could be in Prebble’s future. “I think as I get older I’m more interested in having a hand in the production of what I’m working on,” she says.
As for her ideal role, Prebble recalls daydreaming about becoming best friends with Christina Hendricks. “I imagined her calling Matthew Weiner and saying there’s this girl from New Zealand, she has to be in Mad Men.” Although that ship may have sailed, it hasn’t put a dent in this Westie’s determination and focus.