The biggest influence on my life

was growing up as a country girl. We lived in the tiny town of Rakaia for the first eight years of my life, then moved on to the farming area of Barrhill until I was 10. Growing up in those places gave me an all-too realistic viewpoint of how an animal gets from the fields to the plate. Because of that I now choose to live a compassionate, dairy-free, vegetarian lifestyle. I love my soy latte.

If I have a happy place,

it isn't necessarily in the country. It's somewhere high up with a view and plenty of grass and trees. Since I've been living in Auckland it's always been the top of Mt Eden.

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When I first decided to be an actress

I used to get a lot of "Oh really, so what have you done?", or "Good on you, that's a toughy ... So, what else do you do?" I recently spent some time pursuing my career in the United States which felt really liberating. For the first time I didn't feel the need to apologise for what I do. That felt awesome.

What doesn't feel so awesome

is any exhibition of the classic New Zealand tall poppy syndrome. The fear of being labelled "up yourself" or "cocky" forces too many of us to downplay our ambitions and successes. If I could, I'd use some form of secret mass-brainwashing and make everyone feel joyful encouragement and celebration instead.

I've never given up on any of my dreams,

ever, and I'll die trying to reach them. Well, maybe not die, but I'm definitely willing to give up my decadent second shower of the day if that helps.

If I could change anything,

I'd have spent more time with my grandparents when I was a kid. I'd loved to have learned more about them and more from them, but I can't do anything about that now. So, other than my mum, when it comes to getting great advice I'd probably look to director Danny Mulheron, who once told me "don't show it, just think it".

I sometimes burst out in spontaneous dolphin calls

when I'm excited. It's also been known to happen around the stroke of midnight, which may be unusual, but I'm told it's rather impressive.

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Tania Nolan stars in the drama

This Is Not My Life

, TV One, Thursdays, 8.30pm.