Donning a bold mermaid costume for her guest role as Karen, the Goddess of Parties, in TV3 drama The Almighty Johnsons, New Zealand theatre veteran Jennifer Ward-Lealand makes a real statement, but the star says she is nowhere near as outgoing as her on-screen character.
“It sounds ridiculous, but I can get quite shy at parties,” she says. “I’m better performing in front of 1000 people than being part of a crowd of 1000 people.”
Although she admits her husband, actor/director Michael Hurst, is the sci-fi and fantasy buff in her family, the mother of two loved playing Karen, a social butterfly who causes lots of trouble for her daughter, Michele (Michelle Langstone).
“It’s quite rare I’ll go towards science fiction or fantasy books – the moment it gets magical, I kind of switch off. But filming this was a hell of a lot of fun.”
Although the thespian couple have worked together on the stage, Jennifer is disappointed she didn’t get a chance to do the same with him again in Almighty, of which he directed several episodes.
“Michael has never directed me on television and we haven’t worked together in the field, but I am sure that it will happen.”
Celebrating her 50th birthday last year, the actress refuses to slow down, and shows no signs of easing up on her acting career. Jennifer is currently appearing on stage in the Richard Bean comedy The Heretic, and is singing in the musical Brel next month. She is also set to work alongside Shortland Street star Beth Allen in the upcoming play Between the Sheets in November.
So it’s not surprising that when asked what her ideal superpower might be, she chose something pragmatic to help with her schedule.
“It would be great to have one that I could use after I’ve finished a show that would send me straight to bed with my face washed, ready for sleeping.”
The Almighty Johnsons airs on TV3, Thursday, 8:30pm