Antonia Prebble played the lead role in the latest season of Westside while heavily pregnant with her newborn son Freddie. The much-loved actress talks romance, pregnancy and house fires ahead of the show's 150th episode.
1 Your son Freddie was born two weeks ago. How are you and fiancé Dan Musgrove adjusting to life as parents?
It's a roller-coaster of immense love and immense learning!
2 Was it hard to hide the bump while shooting season five of Westside?
Rita's style is pretty iconic. She doesn't wear loose clothing so it wouldn't have made sense if she was suddenly dressed in a mumu. Fortunately, the designer had the idea of giving Rita a boxy leather jacket. If I stood face-on to the camera it hid the bump remarkably well, right up until the last couple of weeks of shooting. We did vaguely consider making Rita pregnant at one point. We thought, "What if she was secretly Loretta's biological mother?" But we quickly dismissed the idea as it definitely would've been jumping the shark!
3 How did you cope with the physical demands of being on set for 12-hour days?
I was 20 weeks pregnant when we started filming, so the morning sickness was all over by then. It was pretty bad up till 14 weeks – constant nausea and a fair bit of vomiting. I remember thinking, "I don't think I could ever do this again" but already it feels like a distant memory. The second trimester was thankfully much easier. To cope with the long days, I wore ugg boots whenever my feet weren't in shot. The crew were so lovely - every time I had a little break someone would bring me a chair to have a sit down. I decided that I'd just say yes to every bit of help offered.
4 How long have you been part of the West family?
It's been 15 years now. I was 20 when Outrageous Fortune began, there was a slight gap in the middle before Westside and we're about to celebrate our 150th episode on 12 August. When I think back to how long my association's been, I almost can't believe it. This is my 11th season with the Wests. It's so lovely to have had such long working relationships, which is pretty uncommon in the film and TV industry. I still love working in this world. Rita is a gift of a character; I learn more about her every season - it never feels stale.
5 Is this season the last?
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We have just been funded for a 6th season, which is really exciting. This will most likely be the final one, so it's great to have a chance to finish the story properly and end on a note that everyone feels good about.
6 Your finance Dan Musgrove also works on Westside as an actor and writer. Did you meet on set?
We'd known each other for a long time through acting circles. We were part of the same wider group of friends and had always got on well but we'd never actually forged our own particular friendship. I thought he was a really good guy but there was never any kind of frisson.
7 What changed?
It was weird. It was like a little gap opened up in the universe - suddenly there was a space that hadn't existed before. It was extremely unexpected for both of us, but we quickly realised it was something special.
8 Has it been a whirlwind romance?
I wouldn't describe it as a whirlwind but we have fitted a lot in to the time we have been together. After series 3 finished we lived in LA for a while and then travelled through Cuba and South America, which included a hike to Machu Picchu. Since then we have got engaged, bought a house and now have a baby! So I suppose it's fair to say we have been busy.
9 Did Dan do a romantic proposal?
We'd talked about getting married, so I knew it was on the cards, but I'm a very hard person to surprise because I'm generally the one who organises our social calendar. Dan ended up doing it when we were in Hobart last year. We were on top of Mount Wellington, just walking along and chatting when all of a sudden he said, "Oh hey, babe?" I turned around, he was on one knee and he just said, "Will you marry me?" It was so out of the blue that I burst out laughing. He was so focused on the surprise element that he forgot to set the scene at all. It was really wonderful though, and the thing that most impressed me was that, the week prior, he'd managed to sneak down to Wellington for the day to ask my parents' blessing without me knowing.
10 You lost your first home in a fire just six weeks after moving in. Was that tough?
It has been pretty hard. I was in the depths of morning sickness at the time, and we had to move around lots of different places before we were able to find somewhere to rent, which was not much fun. We are still a few months off being able to move back in, but progress is happening.
11 What happened to your house?
It was a freak electrical accident. A fluorescent light in the garage that wasn't even switched on somehow short circuited and exploded. So our advice to everyone now is to put a smoke alarm in the garage, which you normally might not think to do.
12 What was your favourite episode to shoot in this season of Westside?
In episode eight, some pretty devastating skeletons in Rita's closet get exposed and she has to manage the fallout. It was great, meaty stuff to play with. Rita's relationship dynamic with her son is getting really interesting because Wolf's a man now and she can't just tell him what to do. He's far closer to the Wolf we saw in Outrageous Fortune . It's great having an adversary that you really have to battle.
• Westside 150th episode Monday 12 August on TV3 or Three Now