Chelsie Preston Crayford rose to fame in her mum Gaylene Preston's film Home By Christmas and TV mini-series Hope and Wire. The Underbelly star is to appear in Auckland Theatre Company's play Red Speedo.
1 Do you have to wear red speedos in your new play?
No, but Ryan Carter, who plays the lead character, does the whole time, so people have that to look forward to. I play a disgraced sports therapist. It's a poolside drama which uses the issue of doping in sport as a platform to talk about the age of the individual and the myth of equal opportunity - some pretty big and timely questions in the Trump era.
2 Will there be a pool on stage at the ASB Waterfront Theatre?
No, there's no actual water because of the logistics of how heavy that is. It's staged on the side of an abstract, metaphorical pool.
3 How did you get into acting?
I've been acting since I was 4 because both my parents were in the film industry. Mum's a filmmaker and Dad's a musician who was doing a lot of film composition. I got my first job when one of their friends needed a kid for a water-safety campaign. I had this bit of dialogue that's still ingrained in my brain: "Hey, big person, do I look like a fish to you? I'm a kid, just a kid ..." I did my first play at 13, The Unforgiven Harvest at Downstage theatre.
4 Did you continue working through drama school?
I did, although I had to take sick leave because it was prohibited. I was lucky to have Miranda Harcourt as head of acting and she was very supportive of my white lies!
5 Have you always described yourself as an actor?
There was a bit of a mental hurdle around that term. I remember working on jobs as a kid and crew members asking me if I wanted to be an actor when I grew up. I always said no because it was such a cliche. I didn't want to do it for external reasons - it was for the internal experience. I'd found a medium of expression that suited me. Even now if a stranger asks me what I do, I pause. Inevitably people ask what you've been in and then it becomes this weird, awkward conversation. The thing I've been getting a lot lately is, "So are you famous?" to which the answer must be, "Clearly not."
6 You're 30 now. Which roles would you consider your career highlights?
When I was aged 21, I played my real-life grandmother in a film that my mum made, Home By Christmas. It's a World War II drama inspired by interviews mum had done with her father on his deathbed and her mother in War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us. Martin Henderson and I played their younger versions. It was pretty magic to be able to put myself in my grandmother's shoes. I tried to be what I perceived as her essence. There were moments of walking through scenarios she had lived that gave me the tingles. Standing on a train platform waving off a steam-train full of young soldiers going to war, the enormity of that really hit me. It's not something we can really comprehend now.
7 What was it like working with your mum?
Really cool. It's a scenario where you don't take exception to being told what to do because that's the director's job. There's a huge amount of creative respect. She's very empowering to work with because she has a lot of respect for actors' processes. We also worked together on Hope and Wire about the Christchurch earthquakes and it was great both times because we have an innate understanding of each other and a kind of shorthand language that allows you to bypass a lot of stuff.
8 Have you worked with other family members?
I just made a short film that I wrote and directed with my ex-partner Ray Edwards, a cinematographer. It was a very personal project with our 2-year-old daughter at the centre and I thought who better to film it than her dad because it was about getting those candid moments with her. I was in the film with her so it was great to have somebody I trust behind the camera to feed back to me what was happening. The film hasn't got a name yet. It'll be released next year.
9 Which role represented the greatest turning point in your career?
Tilly Devine, a notorious madam in 1920s Kings Cross, in Underbelly: Razor. That was a great, meaty role, a real character role. I was playing opposite Danielle Cormack. We actually worked together on our audition tapes for it. I remember saying, "Imagine if we both got this" ... and then it happened. It was amazing to play opposite someone that's so good at what she does. We had so much fun.
10 Did you find the scale of production different to New Zealand?
Yes, I did. I think overall there is a feeling of a bit more money and a bit more infrastructure, which is nice. It's amazing to walk on to a job and be handed piles of research for your character, which is not so commonplace here.
11 You had your first child at 28. Has that changed you?
Massively. Your priorities completely shift - you're not the most important thing in your world any more. For that first year or two especially, you really pour your whole being into your child. That's natural but it's easy to lose yourself. You have to really work to carve out time and space for yourself, which is very important. It's probably only in the last six months that I've started to feel like me again but obviously a different version. I've changed forever.
12 How do you juggle childcare and acting?
My job has periods of intensity with breaks in between, a lifestyle that suits my personality. I'm not a person that needs to know too much about what's around the corner. Her dad and I are both freelancers so we can juggle and we have a lot of family support. Mum splits her time between Wellington and Auckland these days. She loves helping out with childcare.
• Red Speedo, ASB Waterfront Theatre, 31 October to 15 November.