Interview: Roz Turnbull

Chelsey chats to Roz Turnbull, known for her roles on Outrageous Fortune and Shortland Street. Roz is also a cast member of The Red Chair, a unique blend of New York cabaret and an intimate European piano bar. The Red Chair is coming to Auckland’s Q theatre for just two weeks from September 21 – October 6, 2012.

We understand you will be performing in a cabaret show at the Q Theatre.

It’s called The Red Chair, Obsess and Confess. It’s really exciting for me because I come from a musical theatre background.

Is that how you got into acting?

I studied at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, so I’ve got a degree in musical theatre which was three years of intensity but really awesome. I think that’s where I got my grounding for my acting career which has obviously been a bit more in the forefront in New Zealand.

How long were you over in Australia for?

I did the degree for three years, and then I stayed on for another year and did Ben Elton’s Popcorn, so strangely enough my first professional job was a play. I lived in Sydney, living the dream for a little while. Then I came back [to New Zealand] for my sister’s wedding not long after that and was really just flying by the seat of my pants. I had no ties, had nothing, had no money, so it didn’t matter. I ended up getting a lot more interest here. I was auditioning for things and getting jobs. I must have done a dozen commercials in my twenties. Eventually I started working for South Pacific Pictures and getting jobs on Jackson’s Warf and Mercy Peak, and then obviously Outrageous Fortune. I just kept working so there was no reason to go back.

We all just loved Outrageous Fortune. Can you tell us a bit about your character, Rochelle, and about working on the show?

She was like that relative that you love, but you’re a little bit embarrassed about! It got to the point with all of us that the scripts were so in tune with how everything was going and that’s why it was such a huge success. We were all really good mates and worked so well together. There was a minimal amount of improvisation and we toyed with it a little bit and we were allowed to because if it was in character and it was funny, then they kept it. So there was a lot of play and fun. I think the costumes really helped us – could the jeans get any tighter? You’d have all the jewellery laid out because it would take forever to get all the rings on the right fingers.

On Shortland Street, your character’s been portrayed as a bit of "home wrecker". Have you had any negative feedback from the public?

I went onto Shortland Street’s Facebook page out of curiosity to see what the comments were, and they were rough! Some of them were quite intense and I never took them personally but there was a lot about the character, with some really strong words – “I hate her”, “get rid of her”, “she’s a slapper”, “she’s a homewrecker”.

New Zealand is well known for having two degrees of separation, and most professions are fairly close knit communities, so I can only imagine that acting must be an incredible close-knit profession. Do you still keep in touch with people you’ve worked with in the past, for example, the cast of Outrageous Fortune?

We filmed a skit for the Cure Kids comedy festival recently, and it was like a big Outrageous Fortune reunion. It really made me appreciate the show too – more so than when I was actually on it! I also saw Antonia [Prebble] the other day, and she’s working on a new production at South Pacific Pictures. I keep in touch with some of the others because we’re part of a family now and we always will be!

New Zealand actors and actresses are well known for running off overseas, but what are the best and worst things about being a Kiwi actress in New Zealand?

When you’re working, it’s great! When you’re not… it’s not. Because there’s not a lot of work and there’s a lot of very good actresses around here. I think the key to being a kiwi actress is to stay grounded, and I have struggled over the years to do so, because you put so much into it – your heart and your soul. For me though, it’s great being a Kiwi actress because I have my family here – my husband, my children, my home.

Who is the most memorable person you’ve worked with?

In different ways, everyone is quite memorable! One that popped straight into my mind was a young Maori girl who was an extra on Outrageous Fortune. We were all waiting outside the studios to go in because we were all in the next scene (there were a lot of party and pub scenes). I got chatting to her, and it suddenly just came out of her that she’d lost her boy at the beach in a tide, and she’d tried to hold onto him and she couldn’t. I just grabbed her and we went outside and we talked for about fifteen-twenty minutes. I suppose I could have said that any high profile person was memorable, but for me, it was her.

The life of an actress seems very glamorous from the outside. What would we find you doing on a typical day off?

Get the kid’s fed and out the door and off to school while I stumble around yelling! I try to exercise  - I’m doing the Auckland half marathon in October so I’m trying to run. My days usually go really fast because my littlest is nearly four and only in day care a couple of days a week. Then it’s the school run pick up, home work, dinner…

If you hadn’t ended up in acting, what would you be doing now?

Probably teaching. I love kids although I’m not sure that I’ve got the patience for it now. I come from a long line of teachers, and I fought it, but it’s where I get drawn back to. I do a bit of singing teaching when I’m not working, but the little ones are the ones that interest me.

What has been your most challenging role to date?

It’s probably going to be The Red Chair! It’s a cabaret so it’s song, but there’s so many words! I’m playing my CD continuously in the car and the kids are going to learn it but I think getting that part of my brain working again will be challenging. With television, you learn what you need to, then dispose of it again because you wont do it again, whereas this is high stakes and character driven pieces that have got a lot of words. I’m really excited but petrified!

 
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