Louise Wallace’s friends thought it was a hoot when she was cast as a man-hungry alcoholic on Shortland Street.
“They all thought playing a cougar with a drinking problem was perfect for me – and so did I,” reveals Louise. “I do tend to get these roles and you have to wonder if it’s anything to do with appearing in the social pages a lot
with a glass in my hand. I’m known to like a party,” she adds with a laugh.
Louise (50) is curled up in a comfy chair in the sunny living room of the Auckland home she shares with husband Scott and children Ashley (18) and Guy (15), sipping a cup of tea and talking about playing Annette Freeman on Shortland Street. “It’s so much fun,” she smiles. “The writing for my character is superb. She says some shocking things.” Annette – the mother of Dr Brooke Freeman – is similar to Judge Adriana Saunders, the character Louise played in Street Legal.
Like Annette, Adriana had a fondness for a tipple or 10. Louise says she doesn’t know if Shortland Street’s producers had her in mind when they created the role of Annette, but she’s certainly not worried about being typecast.
“I was just happy to be cast. I’m very flattered they thought of me.” It’s been a while since Louise has
had a TV acting role. She was in an episode of Legend of the Seeker in 2008 but before that most people will remember her from Street Legal, which ran from 2000 to 2003.
Her versatility as a TV reporter, presenter, narrator, producer and director, means that although she’s worked steadily, she hasn’t done as much acting as she would have liked. “oost people don’t see me as an actor,” says Louise, who is best known as a newsreader on TV3 and presenter of quiz show The Weakest Link, as well as for
appearances on Celebrity Treasure Island.
“When it hasn’t been your be-all and end-all people in the industry don’t tend to realise you’re available and want to do more acting. “Everything I do involves performance in some way – but I don’t see myself as a presenter any more. I’d like to focus more on acting.”
Louise was delighted when she was asked to audition for Shortland Street. “I’ve wanted to be on it for a long time. It’s a great show, and it gives you credibility in terms of professional acting.” She would love it if being on Shortland Street leads to other roles, particularly in theatre – she’s a big fan of the Auckland Theatre Company.
Two years ago she tried her hand at community theatre as a detective in a play called The Kidnap Game. “It was a very Helen oirren, Prime Suspect type of part and pretty full-on. I think it has taken the most courage of anything I’ve done.
“I thought, ‘If I can do this without screwing up, I can do anything!’ “I did it, and afterwards I felt great. It was scary, doing something so different, but I couldn’t let people down. “I think that is the thing that drives me most – I have a strong sense of obligation and when people put their faith in you, you have to deliver.”
Hearing Louise confess to getting nervous may come as a surprise to some viewers – after all, she was the ultimate bitch in The Weakest Link. But she’s quick to point out that was also an acting role of sorts. “It
involved all my talents – ad-libbing, thinking on my feet, presenting and performing. And being scary.”
She couldn’t believe it when contestants she had been mean to told her afterwards how much they’d enjoyed being on the show. “I could never have been a contestant myself. I would have just frozen.”
But Louise enjoys acting parts that involve tough women. “Playing a detective would be heaven,” she says,
admitting that if she hadn’t worked in TV, she’d have been a criminal lawyer or police officer. She is currently doing a criminology paper at AUT University, “just for my own interest”.
But she adds that she would also like to try comedy roles and take on more directing jobs. She recently directed reality show The Apprentice New Zealand and says, “I got as much pleasure from seeing my name in the credits for The Apprentice as I have for anything else I’ve done.
“The trouble is,” she muses, “there is so much I’d love to do. Things were a bit slow a couple of years ago and I thought, ‘oy time is up, I will just have to be a Remuera housewife.’
“But I can’t just sit around on my chuff and do nothing. I like to work and I have to keep my brain active. “I just want to have my cake and eat it too!”