Shortland Street's drama queen

By Rebecca Barry Hill

Fleur Saville has moved on from angst-ridden Eve

She pouts, she fumes and, according to one fan, she "throws great tantys". Yep, Libby Jeffries is the best thing to arrive on Shortland Street since Evil Dom. "She's a perfumed rottweiler," says actor Fleur Saville, who is best known for her starring role on Being Eve. "She has high expectations and unrealistic ideals."

Given her lack of tact, she also has some of the funniest lines on the show, and if that doesn't work, she resorts to tears.

Libby showed up last year at her sister Maia's civil union, and caused a ruckus when she convinced her mother, Yvonne, to boycott her big day. There were far more important things to worry about, like Libby, and the fact she was having an affair with a married man, who was her boss.

None of this was Libby's fault, of course. The Shortland Street producers liked this upwardly mobile princess so much, they invited Saville to return as a core cast member this year. What better way to inject a little drama on the Street than with a drama queen?

"Even though her character can be a real bitch, it's hilarious!" writes Jana on Shorty's fansite, streettalk.co.nz
. "I love to hate her," agrees Shantaram.

Just don't hate the woman who plays her, says Saville, because getting into character is exactly that. "I put on the little Libby heels and the corporate suit and my hair is all meticulous and it's really easy. I do actually know a few people like Libby. They live in their own world."

Libby came back to Ferndale in triumphant fashion - her man was divorced and she was ready to get hitched herself in what Libby called a "proper" wedding. She wanted the perfect dress, the perfect catering, the perfect family to organise it all for her.

Perhaps it was karma, but as she discovered on her wedding day, her groom was also perfectly gay.

The effect of this discovery was catastrophic on the eardrums of her family but music to the ears of the show's fans. Libby then did what any slated bride would do: she had an HIV test. It was negative.

Considering her sisters Maia and Tania turned out all right, it's a wonder Libby is the way she is. Saville says it's probably a case of middle-child syndrome.

"She was striving for attention when she was younger and didn't really get it so she went off overseas and became an airline marketing manager."

Producer Jason Daniel says he wanted Libby's character to embody the fun and adventure of Sex & the City - without the sex, much to Libby's chagrin. Presumably, that makes her Charlotte in Carrie's clothing.

"Libby's story is the tale of a determined, but frustrated single woman in a time of man drought," says Daniel. "All she really wants is someone to love. But is there a guy out there brave enough to take her on?"

Probably not but the possibility of romance will fuel many storylines to come, as she sizes up the doctors at the Shortland Street clinic.

This procedure requires cunning - not many single gals would think to go through the hospital's personnel files to identify eligible staff members.

"She wants someone high-earning, good-looking, someone who's going to look after her and provide for her," says Saville.

This week, Libby is trying to get back on her feet, first by selling her wedding dress, then by getting a new job. Even if it's the PA role her mother wanted. "She has her own vision of things," says Saville. "She thinks, 'Ooh you're old, I can go on to this job for 20 years, you've already been there'."

She does have one thing in common with her mother, however. She likes to gossip.

"There's a great conflict between Libby and Huia," says Saville. "She doesn't quite know how to deal with her because she's very good at her job but at the same time, she's quite annoying."

Playing Libby isn't Saville's first comedic role - she made her name as the title character on the series Being Eve, a local teen dramedy that won several awards and screened here and overseas.

That led to a role as a receptionist on the comedy series Serial Killers, which, ironically, was a spoof of life behind the scenes of a soap opera. Saville also scooped roles in Spin Doctors, the fantasy children's drama, Maddigan's Quest and Prime's cop show, Interrogation.

But before she got the part on Shortland Street, she turned to a different profession to make some extra cash. Through a friend she got a job at Auckland radio station George FM as a copywriter. "It was cool to be introduced to another world but it made me realise why I'm an actor."

After the on-again, off-again nature of the occasional roles in other TV shows, Shortland Street is a "great training ground".

"You have to be on the ball at all times. It's just so fast. You've got to be so prepared."

That has meant a few adjustments as many mornings start as early as 6am. "It has changed my lifestyle. I don't have much of a social life any more."

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