There's something liberating for Robyn Malcolm to play a character who's never looked in the mirror in her life.
"Being clothed in as close as possible to pyjamas is really fantastic and I aspire to that in my real life as well," says Malcolm, of her role as Pam in the new local dark comedy This Town.
The movie is out tomorrow (Thursday), and is the first New Zealand film to be released since our Level 4 lockdown, after its original April premiere date was delayed until audiences could gather in cinemas again without restriction.
The film centres around Sean, a man who was charged and acquitted of murdering his family, and how he navigates life - including the dating world - in the small town of Thiston, with his reputation. Malcolm's character Pam is an ex-cop turned petting zoo owner, determined to seek justice for the murders and is convinced Sean is guilty.
It's both a dorky, sweet love story of two unsophisticated small town characters, and a dark, painful journey of how an obsession can blind you to the truth.
"I think one of the things that I'm really comfortable with and really enjoy is being able to sit across a comedic story that's got some drama in it, or vice versa," says Malcolm.
"And Pam, albeit she's a comic character, she has to be real. There had to be heart to her because of what happens to her at the end of the film. Without revealing any spoilers, she couldn't just be a caricature because you have to be able to feel for her. And I kind of enjoy that territory. Basically because I think pain is funny."
Pam is a no-nonsense character. Her outfits largely consist of chunky black boots and khaki outfits a la Steve Irwin.
"There was a great liberation in not having to stand up straight, not having to suck my tummy in, not having to worry about whether my makeup was right or not," says Malcolm.
"It's always really great to play a character who doesn't have a sense of humour. Because she really doesn't, because she takes life so seriously, and that's enormous fun. Because serious people are funny."
Being able to laugh at the absurd is what Malcolm thinks is so important in the current pandemic. Due to Covid, she's lost most of the year's work, and has a genuine worry - like most New Zealanders - of how the mortgage will continue to be paid, while continuing to provide for her two teenage boys.
But she says being an actor has prepared her somewhat for financial insecurity.
"The fact that we don't work regular hours, and the fact we go from moments like 'Woohoo I've got a job let's go out for dinner' to 'Okay guys, it's cabbage sandwiches this week,' - I feel kind of brilliantly trained for this. Psychologically, that is."
And fortunately, the lockdown means This Town has an added element of excitement to it, being the first Kiwi film released since lockdown.
"Everyone wants to get out and commune again, the idea of being out again in a cinema and everyone having a laugh at the same time - I really crave that," says Malcolm. "And we're actually able to do that. And who would want to go to the cinema in the UK or US right now? It's weirdly lucky it's happened this way.
"Also the fact that it's a comedy. I think there's been so much awfulness that's gone on recently, just to be able to go and have a laugh at a mental comedy is probably not a bad thing."