Robyn Malcolm
Member of the NZ Order of Merit

She's best known as potty-mouthed Cheryl West, all kitted out in leopard print. And now TV's favourite Westie Robyn Malcolm has been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to New Zealand television and theatre.

The 54-year-old actress, who starred in Outrageous Fortune for six seasons, has taken on a range of TV roles both here and across the ditch since wrapping the show in 2010.

Malcolm says she's "totally thrilled to bits and very surprised."

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"I'm not being falsely modest when I say that most actors are just thrilled to be in work relatively consistantly and I'm no different, so to be recognised like this is a real honour and one I'm super proud of," she says. "I've always made an active choice to stay and work in my home country and this reflects that I guess. Ironically, I write this answer whilst on set in Serbia shooting a television series for America in an English accent!

"But I am and always have been deeply committed to my industry in my home and the stories that come from there. Long may that continue. "

Locally, Malcolm starred in series such as Jane Campion's Top of the Lake and the comedy Agent Anna, while also taking roles in Australian series such as Rake, The Code and Upper Middle Bogan.

Most recently, Malcolm appeared in Wanted alongside Rebecca Gibney, Harrow with Ioan Gruffudd and the CW series The Outpost.

She has also carved out a significant career in theatre, with lead roles in Auckland Theatre Company's The Good Soul of Szechuan and Mary Stuart.

Malcolm was born in Ashburton, Canterbury to Peter, the associate principal at Ashburton College, and Anne, a therapist. She attended Toi Whakaari drama school in Wellington, graduating in 1987.

Her first break came in 1994, when she landed the role of nurse Ellen Crozier on Shortland Street. She played the role for five years, winning Best Actress at the 1998 TV Guide Television Awards.

She began her role as Cheryl West on Outrageous Fortune in 2005, working alongside Antony Starr, Antonia Prebble and Siobhan Marshall. The show became the longest-running drama in New Zealand history, and Malcolm won multiple awards for her performance, including a best actress gong at the 2008 Qantas Film and Television Awards.

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Malcolm has also used her profile to get behind political causes and advocate for workers' rights. She famously challenged the Hollywood producers of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit in 2010 over insufficient pay for Kiwi actors starring in the series.

The "Hobbit law" - officially the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill - ruled out collective bargaining for actors in New Zealand. Malcolm went head-to-head with Jackson, ignoring criticisms that the controversy could lead the film studio Warner Bros to pulling out of filming in New Zealand altogether. The controversial law was passed.

She is a vocal supporter of the Green Party, and actively rallied against the National Party during its nine-year term in Government.

Malcolm is now in the United States filming The Outpost, a fantasy adventure series in which she plays Elinor.