Thomasin McKenzie is used to walking red carpets in glamorous gowns and starring beside Hollywood greats like Scarlett Johansson, but it's the simple pleasures in life, like lemony chickpea soup, that keep the young Kiwi actress happy.
Chatting from her family home in Wellington, beside her acting coach mother Miranda Harcourt, 58, Thomasin credits home-made comfort food for getting her through some big days on set.
"For a while, it's all I wanted, lemony chickpea soup," grins the blue-eyed beauty, 20, who wowed audiences with her performance as Jewish teen Elsa Korr on Taika Waititi's satire film Jojo Rabbit.
Soup, the mother-daughter duo agree, really is good for the soul. "As an actress, you tell stories, whether they're harrowing or comedic, and you're constantly giving out all this emotion, so at the end of the day, I'm a bit like a zombie," Thomasin admits. "Coming home to a favourite dinner and support system around me who understand is all I really want."
Over the past couple of years, former Gloss actress Miranda and her film-maker husband Stuart McKenzie have accompanied their daughter to London, continuing their own projects and exploring art galleries while Thomasin worked.
"We'd home-school our youngest daughter Davida, who is 14 now, and then it'd be like, 'What can we do for Thomasin when she gets home?' Stuart is so good at making lemony chickpea soup. We've used the recipe so much, the photograph in the book has completely faded!" Miranda laughs.
"After a day on set, Thomasin just needs calm time, the food that makes her feel healthy and happy, and to go to bed."
Thomasin, smiling, throws a spanner in the works by admitting that she's getting a little sick of the family favourite.
"What?!" Miranda gasps, her eyes widening behind her black-rimmed glasses. "No!" It's an overcast day as the Weekly chats with the talented pair from the house they've been in for 18 years, where Miranda's actress mother, Dame Kate Harcourt, 94, lives downstairs.
Lights from streets as far as Porirua, a half hour's drive from their home, twinkle below the lounge window, which overlooks the ocean.
Thanks to Stuart's love of art, works fill every wall. A statement piece made from an old painted black filing cabinet, by award-winning Kiwi multi-media artist Merylyn Tweedie, greets guests at the front door.
"We got it when Thomasin and Peter [now 22 and a law student] were babies," says Miranda. "One day I went outside to look for our car, which had my library books in it, and Stuart told me he'd swapped the car for this sculpture. Well, those books never went back!"
While art talk is fun for Miranda and her daughter, who both attended Wellington's private Samuel Marsden Collegiate School, there's something closer to Thomasin's heart she wants to chat about.
Since the end of last year, the Leave No Trace star has been an ambassador for So They Can, a New Zealand initiative that provides education to children living in poverty in Kenya and Tanzania. Along with her mother, who went to school with Cass Treadwell, the founder of So They Can, Thomasin is about to embark on its 1HumanRace challenge.
"Throughout March, you have to move 85km in whatever way you choose, and the goal is to raise money for the 85 per cent of girls living in Pokot, Kenya, who are subject to female genital cutting, or forced into child marriage between 9 and 13 years of age," shares Thomasin, who played Pixie Hannah on Shortland Street in 2016.
"It's a great thing to do because you're putting in the work and moving to make a difference, rather than sitting at a computer and making a donation and then forgetting about it."
The organisation has so far graduated 474 teachers from its Tanzanian Teachers' College to support the next generation.
For Thomasin, helping those who are less fortunate feels natural. "I don't want to be the type of person who attaches her name to something but doesn't actually make the physical effort," she explains. "With acting, it's easy to get inside of your own head, so it's really important to live your life for other people as well, not just selfishly for yourself."
Thomasin was 13 when she discovered her passion for acting, after appearing as a young Louise Nicholas on the film Consent, and learning she could tell worthy stories on screen.
"What's important as an actress is to make sure you keep your humanity sharp," adds Miranda, who is an acting coach for big Hollywood stars.
Acting, Thomasin says, is also an emotional rollercoaster.
"It's not the glamorous kind of job some people assume it to be. Even though it's wonderful, it's a lot deeper than just showing up in front of a camera with some make-up on," she explains. "There's a lot of yourself that goes into acting. Like Mum said, a big part is feeding yourself in other ways.
It's not so healthy just to be focused on acting, when for me, having experiences and passions to draw from keep me grounded and motivated."
This evening, Thomasin has a session with a dialect coach she met in London while working on Last Night in Soho, which screens in New Zealand this November. "The Kiwi accent is quite harsh, so it's a bit difficult to break out of that, Thomasin laughs. "There can be such subtle differences, like if there's one noise that sounds off, it ruins the whole thing! It takes a lot of work to do a good job to get other accents down."
Surprisingly, despite her critically acclaimed success, Thomasin has never had any formal acting coaching. "Mum has always been an amazing resource for me. She understands a scene just like that, and how tiny tweaks in the dialogue can change the entire scene," she enthuses. "Dad's also the first one I talk to if I'm reading a script because he's a writer and has amazing instincts around whether a script is good or not."
Thomasin has wondered whether she'd be acting if it wasn't for her talented family.
"Mum, Dad and I have quite a unique relationship because obviously they're my parents, but there's a business relationship, too. When we travel around the world together for work, we're often talking about business and ideas, and what we think of a script," she tells. "I'm really lucky, but it has also meant I've always wanted to define myself and figure out why I'm doing this, for my own reasons. I do wonder what else I'd be. Maybe a vet!"
Before she heads overseas again soon, this time without her parents, to work on an unannounced series in London, Thomasin's making the most of being at home and with friends.
"I'm reading scripts and we're going through the visa application process, which is always really stressful!" she shares. "It won't be the first time I've travelled alone, though. Late last year I went to the Dominican Republic to film Old."
There, Thomasin had compulsory Covid-19 testing every second day on set, which was a breeze compared to her lockdown in Wellington last March. "Mum, Dad and my sister were all coming back from London, as Davida had been on a film, and they arrived home just before New Zealand closed its borders," recalls Thomasin, whose family members had to quarantine at home for two weeks.
"It was before they had quarantine in the hotels, so the three of them were upstairs, while Grandma and I were downstairs. For two weeks, I couldn't hug them and I hadn't seen them in like two months! We'd shout at each other through the stairs. It was weird."
This March, after clocking up the kilometres for the So They Can challenge, Miranda will stay put in Aotearoa to focus on her own work. A play Stuart wrote titled Transmission opens in theatres on April 20, which the couple are both directing.
"At the beginning and throughout lockdown, Stuart interviewed Grant Robinson, Michael Baker, the epidemiologist, and Jacinda Ardern about the decision-making process that led to lockdown," Miranda tells, "and it's really interesting."
The play stars Westside actress Sophie Hambleton and actors Tom Knowles and Tim Spite, and is showing at Bats Theatre in Wellington before it tours nationally.
"After it ends, one or maybe both of us will go and visit Thomasin because she's going to be away from us for a long time," says Miranda, who continues to coach international clients via video calling. "It's a little terrifying because of Covid and everything, but that's part of being a parent. We've built her up, and now she's 20 and ready to go and be in London on her own."