Weekend Rewind: Our favourite NZ on-screen mums

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It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow and that gets NZ On Screen’s Nicky Harrop thinking about some of our favourite screen mums.
From Cheryl West, Shortland Street's Marj and Camp Mother, these are some of our all-time favourite screen mums. Photo / NZOS
From Cheryl West, Shortland Street's Marj and Camp Mother, these are some of our all-time favourite screen mums. Photo / NZOS

It would be fair to say that New Zealand's film and TV history is not short on maternal influence. From Close to Home to Shortland Street and Filthy Rich, matriarchs abound. From Camp Mother to Mrs Semisi, Kiwi mums of all kinds have found their way onto our screens, and into our hearts.

Perhaps our favourite screen mother of them all is Outrageous Fortune's Cheryl West (played by award-winning actress Robyn Malcolm). Over the course of six successful series, we saw Cheryl deal with plenty of life's ups and downs. From her husband Wolf being sent to prison in episode one, to the teenage pregnancy of daughter Loretta and beyond, Cheryl had her work cut out battling to keep her family on the straight and narrow. But little could challenge her fierce protectiveness, or her ability to delivery her legendary fish pie (albeit with a side of rum and coke).

See Cheryl in the debut episode of Outrageous Fortune here:



Much like Cheryl, things started badly for Shortland Street mum Marj Neilson. The show's debut saw her son Stuart involved in a car accident, while rushing the alleged mother of his child to hospital in labour (the first Marj knew of the pregnancy). Things continued to go south later in the series when husband Tom stepped out to the dairy for some cream, disappearing for months in a cult, before returning and succumbing to a heart attack. Just when we thought Marj couldn't take any more, love appeared in the form of Laurie Brasch (the late Chic Littlewood). The two eventually married, and Marj left Shortland Street to become a politician, but not before actress Elizabeth McRae managed to turn Marj in to one of our favourite TV mums.

Watch Marj in episode one of Shortland Street here:



While Once Were Warriors' Beth Heke might not fit the mould of your average screen mum, her journey from struggle to strength makes her one of our favourites. Fighting her way out of an abusive relationship, she finds her power in her heritage, using it to start leading her family back from tragedy. Rena Owen's extraordinary portrayal of Beth launched her international career and gave us one of New Zealand cinema's most powerful female roles.

Watch the trailer and 'making of' material for Once Were Warriors here:



Camp Mother and her sidekick Camp Leader are two of the Topp Twins' most beloved comic characters. Fond of a fashion statement, this clip sees Camp Mother swap her trademark velour jumpsuit for a swimsuit, as she hits the beach at Mount Maunganui, enticing a local lifeguard to help apply her sunscreen.

See Camp Mother in action in The Topp Twins - The Beach here:



The Semisi family anchored comedy series Skitz for four series, before landing a spin-off series of their own. Ruling the household was matriarch Mrs Semisi, brilliantly played by actor Hori Ahipene, who manages to sneak into our list of favourite screen mums even though he's a man in a frock.

View Mrs Semisi in these Skitz 'best of' excerpts:



And what screen mums tribute could be complete without paying due to "Mother of the Nation" Judy Bailey. Bailey's 17 years in TV news-reading endeared her to the hearts of the country. This ScreenTalk interview sees her recount her journey to primetime and beyond.

You can watch Judy Bailey's ScreenTalk interview here:



- NZ Herald

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