Actress Bree Peters, daughter of Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, is certain about one thing - she is steering clear of politics.
1 You had a starring role in Shortland St as Pania. Did you enjoy playing the villain?
I didn't know she was going to be a villain when I first started. As someone who has a strong need to be liked I found being the villain really hard at first. It was when Miriama McDowell told me that villains are the best parts that I just let go and enjoyed it. The more I enjoyed it, the nastier and crazier she got. It was so much fun. That was a massive learning experience.
2 How did you handle the unprecedented online abuse from playing that character?
It took us all by surprise. The show's Facebook page was inundated. It was savage. The producer Simon Bennett had to do a post telling people to stop it. When I was on set all day I could stay in my safe bubble but after I'd finished there were a couple of months where I just hid. I wore hats, I didn't like going out. Once I did go out with some mates from the show. We went into a servo and a group of people were like, "Oh hey Nicole, you're awesome…Kia ora Lucy, love you…Fxxx you Pania." They got me to take their photo with the other actors and told me not to steal their phone. I'd finally made it after years of work and everyone hated me. But six months later, nobody gives a damn.
3 Do you feel strongly connected to your Maori culture?
Yes. It's become a bigger part of my identity as I've gotten older. Mum is Nga Puhi and Dad's Ngati Wai. I didn't study te reo at school like my older brother so co-hosting 2Haka was a big step up for me. I'd love to go back and learn te reo; that's on my list. Home for me is Whananaki, north of Whangarei, where we spent summer holidays. I love it there; family, the ocean, surfing. I learnt to surf at 18 when I saw Blue Crush.
4 If you could talk to your 18-year-old self now, what would you tell her?
You are not fat. I had really bad body issues. I started Weight Watchers at 17. People told me I looked good so I felt worthy. Then I went overseas on an exchange and took it to another level. I'd go to the gym hard out, three hours a day. It got to the point when if someone asked me to go out to dinner I'd get angry at them. It wasn't healthy and I was really unhappy.
5 What were the underlying issues for you?
It's about self-worth. It's about being enough. I am terribly, terribly mean to myself. If I'm not the best at something, I'm nothing. There's no middle and that's laughable because it's so severe. I just need to relax. Now I'm in my early 30s I've got way better. I have a diary from when I was at drama school. It was just the worst. It was full of pictures of people I wanted to look like, Weight Watchers points and really aggressive writing about how yuck I was. I don't do that now.
6 What helped you turn things around?
I met someone in drama school who changed my perspective. Once I let go and started enjoying life and enjoying food I actually lost weight and got healthier. I'm not saying you need other people to fix yourself but having fun helps, instead of making everything so rigid and small.
7 Were you a school prefect at Otumoetai College?
I was. I got the arts award but sports was my main thing. I played basketball, volleyball, rugby and surf lifesaving. I got to quite an elite level with basketball – I made the New Zealand tournament team - but in the end you have to choose one thing and there were better girls than me so I went with acting.
8 What were your parents' expectations for you, career-wise?
Mum's my biggest supporter. She's my best mate. She wants whatever I want. Dad – I honestly don't know. I've never asked. I was 11 when my parents separated. Even though Dad wasn't living with us his presence was still felt. I'd be introduced as his kid. When people asked me about him I learnt to say, 'He's just Daddo to me'. I don't have any opinion about him as a politician because that's not my area. Equally if he had an opinion about my acting I'd be like; 'Stay in your lane'.
9 Your dad is currently the Acting Prime Minister of New Zealand. Have you ever
considered getting involved in politics?
I just can't do that - even if I wanted to. Imagine me standing up now; everyone would be like, 'Here's another Peters'. Nobody wants to hear what I have to say. I have my views and things I'm passionate about but I keep those private. I'd also make a terrible politician because I'm too sensitive. The country can breathe a sigh of relief.
10 What drives you?
Fear of failure. Like when I did the Super 8 boxing fight. The woman I fought was lovely. She really wanted to win but the difference was I couldn't lose. I was going to go down dying. When I ended up hurting her it was just awful. Afterwards my flatmates were like, 'Cool, great fight and by the way you can never do that again because you were really tough to be around'.
11 How did you come back from that fight?
It took a couple of months for me to let it go and the self-worth to come back. Fortunately I was workshopping The Wholehearted, a play about where your heart is in their world right now. It was great to be able to talk things through with mates. I did the same play a year later when I came home from LA. The second season was way different because my feelings had changed so much. Since I got back I've done a film called Northland, a World War II film and a new TV series called Fresh Eggs.
12 You're about to star in a new political play called Burn Her. What is your character's role?
Miriama McDowell plays the politician and I'm head of PR. People call my character a spin doctor but that's not how I see her. She knows perception is reality and you have to work the system to survive and come out on top. I love her. She says things I wish I could but would never dare.
• Bree Peters is in Burn Her, August 2 to 18 at 7pm, Q Theatre, Queen St. www.qtheatre.co.nz/burn-her