After a busy year on stage and screen, rising star Brooke Williams is heading to a stint on Shortland Street. Jacqueline Smith reports.
A year ago, you might have been forgiven for not knowing Kiwi actress Brooke Williams, but then she stripped off, whipped out a convincing Russian accent and become quite a talking point.
Audiences fell in love with Elena, her character on Outrageous Fortune, who married Van after he doggedly pursued her after seeing her in life-drawing class.
In between, she's also sported an English accent to play Aurelia on Spartacus: Blood and Sand and an American one in Legend of the Seeker. A few months ago she showed off her natural Kiwi twang when she played the begrudging, gothic goddess Eva on The Almighty Johnsons. And this week she turns up in Ferndale.
It's fair to say that Williams, 27, is now a lady in demand. She had just a week between wrapping up on the set of the next season of Spartacus (Gods of the Arena) before she was due on the set of Shortland Street.
"I'm very lucky because I went from a job where I was covered in blood and dust to this one where I am wearing amazingly gorgeous hand-constructed vintage outfits, and beautiful makeup. It's very glamorous, very different to what I wear but a real treat."
Usually Williams would opt for comfort over class, she says, but playing Lana has inspired her to make more of an effort.
"Just going into the hospital to drop things off she's always looking stunning so she's inspired me to make a bit of effort with my own wardrobe," she says, adding she's thankful her character doesn't shuffle around in scrubs all day.
Williams plays Lana, who arrives in Ferndale as the sister of Gabrielle Jacobs (Virginie Le Brun). Audiences learn that Lana has shouldered much of the burden for Gabrielle's Asperger Syndrome from a young age.
Their relationship is now prickly to say the least and her arrival has potentially explosive consequences, Williams says.
Interestingly, as neither Williams nor Le Brun have sisters of their own, the arrival of Lana threw both actresses into foreign territory.
"Virginie and I have had some interesting conversations about what it is like to have sisters and we have been doing some sneaky research, observing people who do. I have one brother and we are all rough and tumble and like mates, but of course it's very different to sisters," Williams says.
It wasn't hard to warm to Gabrielle though, as the quirky doctor has long been Williams' favourite character.
"She's so charming and so strong and vulnerable at the same time. It's so endearing."
Originally from Christchurch, where she starred in several Court Theatre productions, Williams wanted to be an actress since she was a child. She graduated from Toi Whakaari in 2006, as a blonde, and took her first television role as Kevin's freaky girlfriend in Go Girls.
She has since starred in a string of theatre productions, including Auckland Theatre Company's The Crucible and Female of the Species. The New Zealand Herald's best of theatre awards earned her the "outstanding performance" prize for her role in last year's Romeo and Juliet.
Her screen roles have called for a lot of red and black hair dye as she slipped into everything from period to mythical to gothic costume.
"I've been lucky with the work I have done, in that I have been able to play a broad range of characters and haven't been pigeon-holed into one type of character," she says.
While the character Lana is a breed of her own, audiences might recognise the stroppiness and defensiveness of her Johnsons character Eva, only this time rather than an evil force, it comes from her pent-up frustration. "Her ice comes from a justified place," Williams says.
Thankfully, as both shows are filmed out of South Pacific Pictures, Williams has been granted a break from Shortland Street later in the year to reprise her role as Eva on The Almighty Johnsons.
The first season ended with a mystery so she says she is waiting with bated breath to find out Eva's fate.
Should she ever get a break in her television schedule, Williams says she would love to work on a short film, or get back into theatre. Meanwhile, she's wondering if her character Lana will get a love interest.
If so, she's pleased that the new family-friendly timeslot wouldn't call for anything too revealing.
"I don't think it's allowed at 7pm so that's great, instead I have lots of stunning vintage-inspired coats and outfits to keep me warm."
Who: Brooke Williams
What: Appears on Shortland Street, weeknights at 7.30pm on TV2 from Monday.