TV Pick of the week: Super City

Madeleine Sami as Pasha in her TV series Super City. Photo / Supplied
Madeleine Sami as Pasha in her TV series Super City. Photo / Supplied

Madeleine Sami never expected her television show to take so long to make.

Super City, her new comedy series directed by Taika Waititi, required a year of research into different subsections of Auckland city.

Sami plays five characters who represent different corners of Auckland; Pasha, the cheerleader; Jo, the personal trainer; Azeem the taxi driver; Linda, the art enthusiast; and Georgie, the homeless girl.

To perfect the art of cheerleading to play Pasha, Sami hung out with members of Auckland cheerleading squads and, other than actress Rose McIver, her cheerleading buddies were played by actual cheerleaders.

Sami says the girls she spoke to claimed cheerleading was something that helped them get through university, rather than being a career path. But Sami's character Pasha, the Indian cougar with blonde hair and blue eyes, clings to a youthful lifestyle. She is turning 30, but has no intention of giving up her white pants and pom-poms - nor preying on young men in trashy bars.

Jo, the personal trainer, needed less research, as she was based on people Sami knew very well.

Sami played a lot of sport growing up. "I was a bit of a jock, I don't know if you know that about me but I was the dux of sports at my school. Jo's kind of in honour of a lot of those girls I played sports with," she says. Jo, with the short, spikey and frosted hair is athletic, tough and competitive. She has a hot boyfriend, but clearly harbours some repressed feelings for other trainers in the women's gym. Sami says she attends spin classes at Les Mills, which is where a lot of Jo's scenes were filmed: "I have been to spin since filming and they have said stuff - I deliberately tried not to rip off people's actual lines - but then I would go into class and so often I would think 'oh, no, they're going to think I copied them'."

Jo was a lot of fun but Georgie, the naive but street-smart homeless girl, was one of the most liberating characters to play, Sami says. "She has a crazy imagination. She's just completely free, I could wear the same clothes every day and roll around in the mud."

Some of Auckland's real homeless people star as her friends at the City Mission. "But lot of them got really bored because TV takes a long time," Sami says.

A lot of actual taxi drivers star in the scenes in which Sami plays Azeem, a driver for Discount Taxis.

Sami spent a lot of time learning the ropes of the taxi business, and testing gags on the drivers.

"They didn't recognise me when they first saw me as Azeem, they were just like, who is this strange-looking, tiny, hairy-faced man with beautiful long eyelashes. It was funny when I went in and the boss said it was uncanny, there were so many drivers like him," Sami says.

The other character that required a fair amount of research was Linda, the art enthusiast and wannabe philanthropist from Parnell. She's the sort of woman who has a lot of time on her hands, so likes to visit art galleries - often with her daughter who has Tourette's syndrome. She would love to give something back by supporting an underprivileged artist. To learn more about the scene, Sami hung out at a community art school in Howick, and in the end one of the women at the school was cast as one of Linda's fellow "critics".

"She's amazing, she's properly clued up on art. Linda on the other hand, is not clued up at all but that's just part of her charm - a bit doddery. Her heart's really in the right place."

*Super City completes TV3's Friday night comedy line-up and follows the new season of 7 Days, which screens at 9.30pm.

- NZ Herald

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