This time last year I was beginning to learn my lines for Valentina, Isabella’s perpetually anxious Italian mamma in the first feature I’d ever been in: The Royal Treatment. In December 2020 I’d auditioned for the ambitious Texan mega-mom character (in the end played by my friend Jacque Drew) and the casting agent said “Can you have a go at this one, too?” On the day, I felt like Valentina was more my kind of lady (I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen Moonstruck) and a couple of weeks later, nursing a terrible sinus infection over the summer holidays, I found out I got the part.

TRT took me down to Dunedin a couple of times. Turns out that with a little CGI, the Exchange area of town makes a pretty good Bronx. What was meant to be a stay of a couple of days ended up as a week - the producer had to give me money for undies and shampoo! - because New Zealand went back into Lockdown and I couldn’t fly home. I wasn’t complaining however. I love Ōtepoti. I ate cheese rolls and drank coffee.

At the time there were no active cases in the South Island at all, so with the kinds of measures we are all used to now (masks,masks,masks) and with shuffling the schedule while some actors were stuck in Auckland, production continued. Director Rick Jacobson is known for making action and horror and I have to say, he has the romantic touch too. TRT is kind of irresistible.

I just googled it to see the reviews and they range from praise for its charm and cuteness, to “inane” (personal fave review from The New York Times) to “flimsy and forgettable” (thanks, Stuff lol). My attitude with reviews - especially for theatre, where you feel VERY exposed - is “live by the sword, die by the sword”. In other words, once you start reading, you have to be able to take the bad with the good and just get on with your job.

For a film like The Royal Treatment, I don’t care that some reviewers found it lacking. It does what it’s supposed to do: make you feel good. I’ve had loads of people on socials tell me they’ve watched it with their tweens and they’ve all had a lovely time. It’s also PACKED with Kiwi actors, including Chelsea and Grace (below, hilarious and improvising a lot of their dialogue) and Cameron Rhodes as Walter (noble, wry).

The timing of its release ended up coinciding with New Zealand going into Red Light and many people needed a warm-bath watch. For most New Zealanders, Red didn’t change much about life but I was horrified as I watched, at close range, all of the months (years) of preparation for theatre shows, festivals, and music tours just vanish overnight.

Artists have resilience and are used to turning setbacks to their advantage but for many of them, the loss of professional momentum due to cancellation (not to mention the loss of the summertime income they were counting on) has been devastating. Slide into their DMs; the praise and encouragement will be welcome.

And if you’re a fan of New Zealand musicians, now is a really good time to get on Bandcamp and buy their merch and/or pay to download their music. Donate some dosh to MusicHelps. With no review date and currently no Wage Subsidy or Resurgence Payments available, people in the performing arts need your support.

TRT was Netflix's Number One film all over the world last week and I'm so pleased I was part of it. Playing mothers has become a feature of my career and Laura Marano's Isabella is a daughter to remember. I have two more kids coming up next month - can't tell you anything yet but you will know about it when I can. It's a local production and it's hilarious.


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