On Tuesday, at lunch time, actor Siobhan Marshall had been dancing since 8am but she looked, to me, as fresh as a daisy. Or perhaps a dandelion, which is, she told me, what her friend, the actor Michelle Langstone, told her she's like. This would make some sense, later.
She had to have her picture taken and so she needed make-up because she had "dancing pimples". Neither of us had any make-up. I had the scrag end of a very old lipstick; she had a tube of lip balm. She didn't seem remotely spotty to me, but if she did have spots hers would be pirouetting ones. She is given to flights of fancy, which are catching. But other than attempting to follow her flightpaths, she's pretty low-maintenance, I'd say.
By the time the publicist from Maori TV arrived with an emergency make-up kit she'd had a number of pictures taken with only a token murmur about her dancing spots. She's an unusually unactressey sort of actor.
She had been dancing because she is going to be in Dancing With the Stars. I was trying to imagine her in sequins. She was wearing yoga pants and a T-shirt which had a picture of a cat's paw on it and a slogan: Paw Justice. She said she had been trying on outfits and they were as glitzy as you'd imagine. She has wanted to be an actor since she was a very little girl with a big imagination. She thought that if you could be an actor, you could be anything: "You could be an astronaut; a ballerina ..."
She likes the glitzy get-ups because: "It's like dressing up, you know, when you're little. They're like ice skating outfits." Ice skating outfits and ballroom dancing outfits have those yucky fleshy meshy bits and beige straps. "Ha, ha. Some of them have. But the beige straps are way darker than my skin. I'll have to get a really good spray tan ... We all get them. They give them to us. Funny, eh?"
She has already had a go at a spray tan and she hasn't managed to get it to come off evenly so she is currently a bit blotchy. We looked at the blotches and she rubbed at them a bit, which had no effect other than to turn her red in addition to white and brown.
"Apparently you get these exfoliating mitts and go for it but it doesn't seem to come off me." I don't know how she managed to get off the first spray tan she tried, which was when she auditioned for Outrageous Fortune's Pascalle West. "I tricked them! So they thought I was like this bronze person and then when I came to work on the first day and I was all white, they were like: 'Who are you?'"
She thinks she looks like an alien, which is why she can't bear to watch herself on TV or in films and mostly doesn't watch anything she's been in, and when she does, and she appears, she turns away. I think she looks perfectly lovely (even when blotchy) so she must come from a planet where the aliens are perfectly lovely. She thinks she just looks "funny". "Well, I'm really tall and on screen I'm really tall and I'm really white. That's okay. There might be a part one day playing an alien."
She is on the telly in Maori TV's mock reality show Find Me a Maori Bride. She plays the estranged Pakeha wife - who has run off with her Pilates instructor - of one of the Maori (but in deep denial) cousins who can only inherit the family farm, worth many millions, if they woo and win a nice wahine. It is quite bonkers and very funny and really rude so I'm happy to give it a good plug (it screens on Fridays, from last night, at 8pm.)
This is just as well because I was under strict instructions not to go on about Dancing With the Stars and to go on about Find Me a Maori Bride, and she is singularly hopeless at publicity. She was once asked, in an interview, about a play she was in but refused to say anything about it because she didn't want anyone to go and see her in it. "Yeah, I do that. I don't tell anyone. It's very naughty."
And yet she is going to dance on live TV. She says she is very clumsy and gawky and is bound to fall over but that this will somehow probably be good for her. I know that many actors are shy and have a strange relationship with being looked at, which is rather the point about acting, but she seems to have an extreme fear of being looked at.
I wondered what it was that she was frightened of and she said: "I've actually asked myself this many times over the last few days. Yeah, what is it? 'Cos what's the worst that could really happen, you know? The worst thing that could happen is that I fall over." To cheer her up I said, well, that could actually be sort of loveable, and win her sympathy votes. "Yeah! The Jennifer Lawrence thing! It's not like the end of the world. So what is the problem? It's a very good point."
Other than that, I have no idea, really, why she wanted to do Dancing With the Stars. I had thought it was for people at the other ends of their careers (she is 32 and seems to have a flourishing acting career although she said that after Pascalle she got nothing for a year.) She pooh-poohed that and I'm not the first person to ask about the wisdom of going on a dancing show. That is far too boring an approach to doing things. She's doing it because she wanted to learn how to dance and get fit (I did point out that she could learn to dance and get fit without going on a dancing show but that was as boring) and it's fun and: "Yay! Have fun!" I wondered whether she'd be any good at the hokier aspects of the show but presumably she could act at being hokey. "I suppose so. I don't know!" I was to stop going on about it. "You're making me nervous! Don't talk about it!"
See what I mean? She's a publicist's nightmare and she ought to be an interviewer's nightmare too.
It is a bit like interviewing a dandelion. You ask a question and she flies off in all directions, and you try to catch a floret or two, without much luck. But she's so funny and nutty that all you can do is enjoy her and think: "Yay!" and have fun. She is about to fly off to Los Angeles with her fella, actor Millen Baird. She once said she'd never go out with an actor but they have been together for two years so he is obviously an all right sort of actor. The wrong sort are "actory actors. You know. The ones that are dramatic and really emotional". Like who? "I don't know. You know what I mean." She's not a very actory actor. "I don't think so. I've been told that." Is that a good thing not to be? "I don't know!"
They are waiting for their Green Cards and living in Queenstown where they are both writing (she has almost finished the script for a feature film.) I have no idea why they are living in Queenstown when she is working in Auckland because those sorts of boring questions just sort of blow away in the wind.
She says, about going to LA, she did want to be a film star but now she thinks maybe she wants to write but mostly: 'I just want to have an adventure. I'll just see how it goes. No rules! I'm sick of everyone saying there are rules! A lot of people in the industry [say]: 'You've got to do that to get this'. And I don't agree."
She has to drive to Auckland, where she stays with her mum, for dance training, but she likes wombling about in her big white "rusty, heinous" van. She has a rusty old van because it's "very handy. You can sleep in it. You can go away for a weekend without planning". She lived in her van for two weeks when she did a florist's course in Te Aroha, of all places. Why did she want to do a florist's course? "I've just always liked flowers."
She has an idea (or one of her flights of fancy) about living in a boat, at a marina, once they get to LA. Why does she want to live on a boat in LA? "Because I love the movie Chocolat!" Chocolat has river gypsies. You can see that she would like the idea of being a river gypsy. She has just sold her Auckland house, which was let, and she is much relieved ... she hated owning a house because it was a bind and as boring as my questions about her career. She said: "I'm quite a free spirit. It feels better."
She likes to do unexpected things and to have adventures. She does things because they are interesting or nice things to do. She said she has long wanted to do something on Maori TV but she doesn't know why and I don't either except that she thinks they're nice at Maori TV. Also, she gets to play a bitch, she said, and she likes playing bitches. She's very good at them. "Thank you."
So Dancing With the Stars is just another adventure, one not so different from doing a florist's course in Te Aroha and living in her van for two weeks or wanting to live on a boat in LA because she liked a movie.
She went to Florence some years ago to learn Italian and did a short cooking course while there although she couldn't cook and still can't. She learnt to make spaghetti puttanesca (slut's spaghetti) and what else? "Umm. Salad!" So of course she went into the cafe business - Dot in Kingsland - with her sister. She said she has been told she made a decent coffee but anyway that has now been sold too so she's entirely free for more adventures. She has also tried belly dancing and African dancing. I wasn't sure what African dancing was so she jumped up and jiggled her bum and boobs. "You just go like this and everyone walks around the room for an hour. It's great fun."
It was certainly great fun to watch, if a little disconcerting (like attempting to interview her) and then she said she had to get back to her proper dancing. I said, "all right. Waft off dandelion," and she did, delightfully.