New to the Street

By Sarah Lang

Actress, musician, model, schoolgirl... at just 16, Pearl McGlashan has a lot going on. By Sarah Lang.

Pearl McGlashan is keeping her career options open. Photo / Supplied
Pearl McGlashan is keeping her career options open. Photo / Supplied

As the daughter of a musician and a choreographer, could Pearl McGlashan ever escape the entertainment industry? Actually, Shortland Street's newest recruit admits her parents did their darndest to steer her away from showbiz. "They said 'there's no money in it and we need you to look after us in our old age. It's a terrible idea - don't do it'," says the 16-year-old, laughing.

No, she's never felt self-conscious about being the daughter of Don McGlashan, lead singer of Mutton Birds, Front Lawn and Blam Blam Blam. "You couldn't have a better dad if you tried. I'm immensely proud of what he does," she says.

But she hasn't taken a ride on his apron strings, instead forging her own path in both acting and music.

Now that Shortland Street's McKay kids have grown up, 13-year-old Jasmine, whom Pearl plays, is one fifth of the soap's new nuclear family, the Coopers. We've already met mum Wendy and the kids, and from this week, as mystery dad Murray turns up, we'll be seeing the clan more regularly.

Jasmine, who was introduced as a victim of bullying, is going to find that history repeats, putting her health in jeopardy. It's something Pearl knows a bit about. "When I was really little I was bullied at primary school. But I learned to get back at them in a way that wasn't physical. I ignored it."

Getting the part of Jasmine was a whirlwind. After auditioning younger girls, Shortland Street's producers decided an older actress should play the role. "My agent called me up and said 'you've got to audition today', and I found out the next day I'd got it." She's had all sorts of good news recently. Short film Choice Night, a coming-of-age tale in which a boy has to choose between a girl (Pearl) and his mates, is one of two Kiwi shorts off to this month's BFI London Film Festival. And spot Pearl modelling vintage dresses in the new book The Dress Circle: New Zealand Fashion Design Since 1940 (Random House, $75).

Although Jasmine may be shy and quiet while Pearl's more outgoing, actor and character aren't polar opposites - and not just because they both wear glasses. "I'm a bit of a geek. I'm not ashamed to admit that." But the lead singer of breakthrough band Bandicoot is less geek, more geek chic. "I can't imagine Jasmine being in a punk rock band. It's loud, fast, screamy music."

Last year, Bandicoot's overnight success came as a shock to Pearl. After winning the People's Choice award at the Smokefree Rockquest, and becoming a staple of the bFM playlist, there followed two EPs (for free download) and lots of gigs. Metro magazine dubbed Bandicoot one of five "Bands to Watch", website kitchensink praised them as "best new music", they featured in the New Zealand Herald, and played at one of the world's top-rated music festivals, Camp A Low Hum. But after all the attention, Pearl has pressed pause on the band to concentrate on the soap. Although her role is part-time so far, which fits in with school, the part of Jasmine is expanding and has full-time potential (think Minnie, Sophie...).

For the past four years, McGlashan has watched the soap with her mum every weeknight. "I'm actually obsessed with it. I wanted to be Libby." And yes, it feels weird to be sucked into TV's vortex. "I'd catch myself staring at [famous] people, then I'd look away and it'd be awkward. But I've got a lot better at looking when they're not looking." Taking her under their wing, the older actors have been making her feel comfortable and giving her advice. "It's like being in drama school."

Tyler Read, who plays Jasmine's onscreen brother Evan, also happens to be familiar; he's a friend of Pearl's older brother.

So, is her biggest love acting or music? "They're pretty inseparable," she says. "I feel spoiled for choice, and lucky that I love so many things, because I don't think anyone should have to choose what they want to do too early in life. I'm keeping my options open.

"I'd quite like to travel," she admits. "There was talk of studying acting in the States." But why would you need to when you're enrolled in the Shortland Street drama school? "True! It's one of the best opportunities I've ever had."

Shortland Street screens weeknights on TV2 at 7. Choice Night screens as part of the nationwide Show Me Shorts film festival, which kicks off in November in Waiheke, Matakana, Devonport and Auckland City (showmeshorts.co.nz)

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