With the fourth season of Westside set to hit our screens on July 9, Antonia Prebble has spoken about the challenge of developing her character Rita.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking, Prebble said she hopes her portrayal of Rita has grown over the seasons because it was a character she had to work hard to come to grips with.

"When I started Westside, more than any other character I've played, I found it very challenging to find Rita," she said.

"During Outrageous Rita was mythologised frequently, People talked about Rita but we never met Rita.


"From hearing about Rita in the scripts I had a very specific idea about who she was - sort of that she was a cold hard b****, and almost similar to who Ngaire was in Outrageous Fortune."

Antonia Prebble as Rita in Westside. Photo / Supplied
Antonia Prebble as Rita in Westside. Photo / Supplied

When rehearsals began for season one however, the writers told Prebble she needed to forget everything she thought she knew about her.

"It turns out they had worked out in their writing process that actually most of the information we had about Rita came from Cheryl in Outrageous who just didn't like Rita.

"So I had to unpick these ideas that really had become quite embodied in me and start again and I found that quite a challenging process."

The prequel to the popular TV series Outrageous Fortune, Westside follows expert safe-cracker and criminal Ted West and his wife Rita as they navigate life in West Auckland during the 1970s and 1980s.

At 34, Prebble doesn't have the luxury of being able to draw on memories of the era Westside is set in. Instead she's had to research the music, art and historical events of the time to help her get into character.

"When we first started, the first season was set in the late 70s, there was this really fantastic documentary about a new subdivision in Meadowbank in Auckland and it was a really great depiction of the role of women in that time and in that place so I found that really useful."

Prebble said the whole cast have grown in confidence over the four seasons as they all settle into their characters.

"Season one for me was kind of going 'oh my gosh, what am I doing, let's try this.' Season two I felt a little bit more comfortable, season three more exploration, and by season four I felt confident in it and it just felt like everything was singing."

Rita, Wolf and Ted West - played by Antonia Prebble, Reef Ireland and David de Lautour. Photo / Supplied
Rita, Wolf and Ted West - played by Antonia Prebble, Reef Ireland and David de Lautour. Photo / Supplied

Prebble has clearly mastered the role of Rita in the minds of audiences with people requesting her to marry them - in character.

After becoming a marriage celebrant last year to marry friends, she said she's had about 15 requests to do weddings in character as Rita.

"Thank goodness I'm legally not allowed to," she said.

Prebble recently crossed the ditch to expand her career in Australia with the filming of the TV series Sisters.

The actor said it was "one of the most special shoot experiences" she's ever had.

"It was very unusual in that it was helmed pretty much 100 per cent by women.

"The producer Imogen Banks is a wonderful trailblazing woman in Australia and all three directors were also women, and that has never happened, and the three leads were women, so it was a really cool experience.

"This was before any of the MeToo movement so we all felt like we were part of something quite unique and rare and therefore precious."