NZ Woman's Weekly

Beth Allen: In good company

Beth Allen: In good company

You would think Beth Allen had plenty on her plate playing Shortland Street’s Brooke Freeman.

But when she’s not in front of the camera pretending to be the scheming doctor, you’ll usually find the talented actress in her dressing room, doing accounts, writing out invoices or emailing theatres.

As if working on the fast-turnaround TV show wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Beth also runs a company – Royale Productions – with her husband Charlie McDermott, and has become adept at multitasking.

“The other day I did my GST while I was having my hair done,” says Beth (29).

“It takes a long time to get me ready to be Brooke – I’m in the make-up chair for an hour and 15 minutes – so I might as well use that time. And when I do have other downtime, I can use it to get Royale stuff done.”

Beth, who has been acting since she was 11, finds she has time on her hands because she is able to learn lines quickly, and her character isn’t often required for scenes unless they are necessary to her storyline.

“The good thing about Brooke is she doesn’t have any friends, so she doesn’t sit in the staff room ‘catching up’ with people. Brooke’s scenes tend to be all about Brooke, so I tend to have fewer than other actors,” says Beth, laughing.

The name Royale Productions is inspired by their names – Elizabeth and Charles.

You might wonder why Beth feels the need to take on extra commitments when she has an established role, but she points out that acting is not the most stable employment, and she and Charlie (also an actor-turned-producer) are keen to create opportunities – not just for themselves, but other actors, too.

“This is a really fickle industry – you don’t know what will happen next,” Beth says.

“I want to build a foundation for after Shortland Street. It is good to have something else you can do.”

Plus, Beth doesn’t like sitting around doing nothing.

“Well actually, some days I do. But when I’m working, I like to get a lot done. I enjoy the extra stimulation that producing gives me.”

Royale Productions has been responsible for a variety of theatre shows, including good friend Michael Hurst’s one-man show No Holds Bard, and an interactive production called Apocalypse Z, in which the audience becomes part of a zombie invasion.

Royale is also producing a two-hander play later this year titled Between the Sheets, starring Beth and Michael’s wife Jennifer Ward-Lealand.

“Producing did start out as a way of creating my own projects, but it has turned into a lot more than that,” says Beth.

Charlie agrees. “As an actor, I need to be in charge of my own destiny – I don’t want to have to rely on someone else.

“But as well as being able to come up with projects that I can do, I also like the idea of leaving my mark on the industry by providing pathways for others.”

Along with producing and acting, Charlie is also the general manager of Auckland’s Basement Theatre. It means a full schedule, but like his wife, who he married in February 2011, he’s not afraid of rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in.

“I love hard work,” says Charlie (30). “I come from a farming background, from salt-of-the-earth people who expect to work hard.

“If you want to achieve anything, that’s what you have to do, and the creative industries are no different.”

Beth admits they have to be careful not to take on too much.

“My work/life balance does tend to get a bit out of whack.”

Running a business together can be tricky for some couples, but it’s easier for Charlie and Beth because they are not in an office together all day.

“I don’t think we could do it if we had to sit side by side,” says Beth. “It would be too much.”

“It is probably just as well Beth is at Shortland Street,” adds Charlie, grinning at his wife.

“Like every partnership, it takes work. We are both pretty stubborn people and have to remove emotion from it and just think about what is best for our livelihoods.”

And they tend not to quarrel, according to Beth – at least not over important stuff.

When she’s not playing manipulative Brooke in Shortland Street, Beth is learning the ins and outs of production.

“If we do argue, it is about small things, like whose turn it is to do the dishes. We’re lucky that we are a really good team.”

They complement each other, adds Charlie, because while he’s good at seeing the big picture, Beth is great at the details.

“She’s so brainy,” he says. “The brainiest person I know. She’s just amazing.”

Beth, meanwhile, credits her husband of two years with helping her think outside of the square.

“He has such great ideas. I’ve learned a lot – he is always spurring me on. He has given me so much confidence in myself. I’m not really a confident person in a lot of ways, but that’s why I’ve got Charlie.”

It’s a two-way street, says Charlie. “Beth really helps to inspire me.”

The couple have lots of ideas for creative projects further down the track, and have come up with plans for the next 12 months, five and 10 years, both personally and professionally.

“We are determined to stick to those plans,” says Charlie.

“For example, I would love for us to have a baby right now, but it is not in our immediate plans and there are lots of good reasons why we should wait.”

“It is on the cards,” confirms Beth. “We do want to have a family, but I’m not leaving Shortland Street anytime soon.

“There are still lots of things we want to do first, so a baby won’t be happening just yet.”

Charlie adds, “Having a child is the ultimate goal and we want to do everything properly and be financially secure. So we’re working hard and smart now, so we will be able to do that further down the track.”

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