Forget her father Winston taking up the headlines, Bree Peters will be taking the spotlight when she stars in her first lead role.
Peters, 38, best known for her roles on Home and Away and Shortland Street, was on a surf camp in Nicaragua of all places, when she learned she was being cast as the lead in the new dramedy Spinal Destination, working title for Sky Open to be released next year.
She wrapped filming the series last week and tells Spy that Spinal Destination is different from anything we’ve seen — particularly locally — for a long time. “It’s a different style of comedy, a bit dark.”
Peters’ character, Tessa Rivers, was fit and healthy with legs to die for and a woman on a mission when suddenly her legs stop working. An unknown, one-in-a-million condition that “should have happened to someone else” has happened to her.
The series has been created by award-winning writer and director Paula Whetu Jones, who, having made documentaries highlighting social issues such as Gang Girls, Street Kids and Silent Soldiers, and feature films Whina and Waru, has turned her hand to the confronting comedy about disability, loosely based on her own experience of losing the use of her legs in 2010.
Starring with Peters in the dark comedy are Tom Sainsbury, newcomer Oscar Phillips and veteran actor John Landreth, who also contributed to the storylines based on his experience of a serious accident that left him paralysed in 2018. Peters says the role of Tessa resonated with her. “I’ve read things before and thought ‘I think I could play that character’, but this time I read the script and thought ‘I have to play this character’,” says Peters.
“It’s such a great concept, funny and joyous and sad and gut-wrenching ... an amazing combo of all things that make for a great opportunity,” she says.
Peters met Whetu Jones in the audition but says she’d known of her work well before.
“It was such an amazing experience to go on this journey with Paula and tell what is, essentially her story.”
“I took it really seriously at the start, trying to get it exactly right, but she was so gracious in actually allowing me to make the character my own.
“We established a relationship where all ideas, from everyone on set — not just me — were welcome. It was such a cool dynamic,” says Peters.
She says her best stories have come from the worst times of her life, but the capacity to laugh at those times is what makes great humour.
“This show is very much the same; the best stories are ones we can look back on, and still find the entertainment in tricky times. This style of humour is so refreshing.”
Peters is the daughter of NZ First leader Winston Peters and his former partner. They also had a son.
In 2018 she told Newshub she’d never been tempted to follow her father into politics.”It’s fun to pretend, but then step away and be like, ‘Oh no, not for me - pass’,”
She added that her father had never needed to ask her for any performance tips.
“I’ve never taught him anything about acting, and if he ever came and said, ‘You know when you did that thing?’ I’d be like, ‘Hey, stay in your lane’.
“We do love watching movies and that kind of stuff, but no way.”