For a moment, four-year-old Dee Dee Borich was puzzled. She’d just spotted her mum, Kate Elliott, on TV on Shortland Street and was confused about why she was holding a baby.
“But you’re my mum,” she said. “Why have you got a baby?”
As soon as it was explained to Dee Dee that her mother was acting, she was fine. Despite her age, Dee Dee is a bright spark who understands that pretending to be other people is what her mum does for work.
And she also accepts that Mum’s job – and that of her dad, musician Milan Borich – means their lifestyle is a little different from most people’s. Instead of being based in one place, they divide their time between the United States and New Zealand.
“We are so lucky with Dee Dee, she’s just so easy and adaptable,” says Kate. “She takes everything in her stride.”
The family spends most of its time in Los Angeles, but returned to New Zealand earlier this year so Kate could reprise her role on Shortland Street as feisty Romanian Zlata, who is back in Ferndale with a baby in tow. Kate was delighted to go back to the show, especially as it gave her the chance to come home to see her family.
Kate (30) was also happy to step back into Zlata’s shoes. “I love playing a character like Zlata – people either love or hate her,” she says. “I wanted to do a character who comes in and causes trouble, then leaves again. It’s been pretty intense – it always is, working on Shortland Street. It is fun and fast and pretty full-on. There’s also a great community feeling.”
Kate also came back for a brief spell last year to work on the comedy/horror film Fresh Meat, alongside Temuera Morrison. Her role as Gigi was quite a departure from Zlata, and also from one of her best-known parts, as writer Katherine Mansfield, whom she portrayed in the TV movie Bliss.
“I play a shotgun-wielding lesbian gang member in Fresh Meat,” she grins. “It was so much fun. One of the main reasons I took it on was because I got to do full shotgun training and fighting training, which was great. I like to take on characters where I get to learn a skill.”
Fresh Meat recently screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, so Kate got to make her first trip to the Big Apple for the occasion. She’s very keen to go back there to work.
“I love New York so much. I’ve never been to a place before where I just immediately felt so much at home. Being in LA is good, but I don’t feel like it is my home. Because I have an unusual look, people there go, ‘She’s the edgy girl.’ I don’t get that in New York.”
Kate, whose jobs in the US have included doing voices for the animated Power Rangers series, also likes the fact New York feels more family-friendly.
“You see kids all over the place in New York, which is quite different to LA. They seem to hide them away there.”
A move to New York could be on the cards if Kate gets offered an acting job there, but it will also depend on Milan’s work – a former member of Kiwi band Pluto, he has just released an album and set up his own record label – and also on whether it is the right thing for Dee Dee.
“She is always our first priority,” says Kate. “We have this very transient lifestyle which she has adapted well to, and we want to be able to give her all these new experiences, but we will have to see what’s best for her.”
They’re looking at being more settled once Dee Dee turns five in November and starts school. At the moment she goes to preschools in the US and New Zealand.
The outgoing youngster seamlessly changes words like “candy” to “lollies”, and the American accent she has picked up from her pals at preschool in LA soon fades after she has been back in New Zealand for a while.
“We will have to decide what to do over the next six months. I would be happy to be based here instead of LA – I love New Zealand – and go backwards and forwards to work there,” says Kate.
“Milan and I are lucky that we both have very supportive parents who are a great help with Dee Dee, so we could do that. Or something might come up over there. We will just have to play things by ear.
“But whatever happens, we’ll put Dee Dee first. It’s all about her.”
THREE THINGS YOU DIDN’T ABOUT KATE ELLIOTT
On a trip to Japan to promote the film Toy Love she ended up on a Japanese game show. “It was a wonderful and terrifying experience. I had to throw balls into a bucket and run around with a chicken head on. I’m all for having adventures in life.”
If she wasn’t an actress she’d own a florist shop. “I love flowers, and I like the idea of being in an environment where you can create beautiful things.”
She enjoys working with children and says Charlie Truman, the baby who plays little Luca in Shortland Street, has been wonderful. “He’s so good. I love working with small children because it turns your focus off yourself.” Being a mum definitely helps when it comes to scenes with a baby, although she found she really had to work hard to act uncomfortable around the baby, as called for in the script.
Photos: Todd Eyre • Make-up: Katie Melody Rogers • Styling: Charlotte Rust • Main: Kate wears Vintage jacket from Search & Destroy, dress from Ruby. Dee Dee’s top from Minti, Littlehorn trousers from Kid Republic. Middle photo: Kate’s dress from Kate Sylvester. Dee Dee’S Bambi Disney Top from Kid Collective, Littlehorn trousers from Kid Republic. location: Birdwood House bed and breakfast, Auckland