From the moment Elisabeth Easther returned to Shortland Street, fans of the Kiwi soap have been waiting on tenterhooks to see her character Carla's evil plans play out.
And this week her reign of terror comes to a head with most of the residents of Ferndale under the murderer-turned-therapist's malevolent spell.
"She does resort to a modest amount of violence," laughs the Auckland-based actress. "Actually, quite a serious amount of violence. She's bad."
While Elisabeth, 50, admits it's fun to play "a complete and utter nutbar", she confesses it was at times difficult to carry out Carla's litany of gruesome deeds.
And during the shooting of this week's dramatic episodes – in which Carla's mayhem reaches a shocking crescendo – the scenes were particularly disturbing to act out.
"It took some digging deep," confesses the mum-of one. "And to make matters more complex, it was the last day of the America's Cup. When you're shooting on location, just one helicopter flying past can be complicated, but we had seven overhead virtually the whole time, so it was a memorable day for lots of reasons."
Elisabeth was only 25 when she first appeared on Shorty and being fresh out of acting school, she wasn't well equipped to leave the conniving Carla and her disastrous life behind at the end of the workday – something she didn't quite realise at the time.
"Back in the day, I remember driving home from one set of scenes where Carla had been beaten up and going, 'I feel weird and sad', and I didn't put two and two together."
Now, with more experience, and a busy life as mum to son Theo, she says it is much easier to forget the darkness of her day at work.
"This time, all I was thinking when I was going home was, 'What's for dinner? I have a child to feed.' I would go home and the door would close, and Carla would be on the other side of it."
Elisabeth's happy place is anywhere her 15-year-old son Theo is. Before he was born, she spent most of her life "tootling around the world and pretending I was a foreign correspondent", and she says that her love of travel has only grown since becoming a parent.
"I much prefer travelling with a child. And as he gets older, the activities that we do have become more robust and energetic. He's so much fun. We both buzz out on nature a lot."
Elisabeth laughs as she shares, "He notices things I don't. His eyesight is so much better than mine. He'll point things out like, 'Oh, my God, that's a kookaburra,' while I'm just looking at blurry smudges on the horizon."
The mother-son duo have a close relationship. And though Theo is proud of Elisabeth's work on the show, like most children, he is not very impressed. He won't even tell people that his mum is on the soap.
"He was at school camp a few weeks ago and there was a TV at the camping ground, and someone said, 'Is that your mum?' and he said, 'No.'"
She's not offended as it's a feeling she knows herself. Elisabeth is the daughter of New Zealand's first-ever female television producer Shirley Maddock, who produced and presented the first locally made documentary series, Islands of the Gulf.
Elisabeth has built a successful career filled with every creative job under the sun. She's an award-winning playwright, a sought-after travel writer and even the silky-smooth voice of Whittaker's chocolate. She realised recently that she has unconsciously done all the same things her mother did in her extraordinary life.
Shirley sadly died in 2001 and Elisabeth wishes she could thank her for carving a path for not only her, but many other New Zealand women.
"She did so many trailblazing things that women broadcasters now wouldn't have to dream of doing. I wish she was still alive so I could go, 'Mum, thank you so much for lighting the path for me.'"
As fans revel in Carla's madness, offscreen, Elisabeth fills her days with "writing, voice work, playing tennis and making cheese toasties for my son. It's not very glamorous, but I enjoy it."
She relishes working with the "gorgeous bunch of people" on Shorty, but if her time is finished, she would happily make another appearance as Carla Summerfield, previously known as Carla Crozier.
"If I did get asked to come back in another 25 years, I would absolutely say yes."
But there's one caveat.
"I'd have to be nice!"