When actress Tandi Wright signed up to film the third series of TV One drama Nothing Trivial, she couldn’t wait to get back into her role as Catherine.
“She is such a wonderful character to play – and is actually very good for me,” says Tandi.
Catherine is a doctor who spent seven years living in Paris, and Tandi says she has much higher self-esteem than herself.
“It’s quite nice to wander around feeling great about yourself,” says Tandi.
“Catherine says some things I would never say, and when I say them on set, I think, ‘Well that went down okay, clearly this is a way you can exist in the world and not offend people and be more forthright.’
“She’s definitely been quite empowering – a sort of therapy on the go,” she laughs.
Tandi spends five days a week powering up her self-esteem levels, after turning up to work at 5.55am and finishing most nights at 6.15pm, from Sunday to Thursday.
“Most of the time you’re on the run, in and out of scenes, and it’s pretty full-on,” says Tandi. “You basically sign up for the four months of filming and tell yourself that you’re not really going to get much else done in your life during that time.”
Tandi and her screenwriter husband, Michael Beran, have a five-year-old daughter, Olive, who Tandi makes sure she sees at one end of the day, at least.
“If I have a late call because we’re doing a night shoot, then I’m with her in the morning, or else it’s after work in the evenings. On Fridays, I get to take her to school – and along with Saturday, they are definitely Mummy days.”
Tandi’s early start is because it takes more than an hour to do her make-up, which she says is mostly spent on hair, then 15 minutes for wardrobe, before filming starts at 7.30am.
Catherine’s clothes are very much admired by the show’s fans, and Tandi admits to enjoying what’s chosen for her.
“I love her look, because Catherine actually hasn’t got a lot of clothes, but after living in France all that time, she has some really beautiful pieces.”
Tandi says the costume designer Katrina Hodges chose director/actor Sofia Coppola and French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg as inspirations for her look.
Tandi shows me a board kept in wardrobe, which features both women in various outfits. They look like they just tossed on some clothes in no particular order that morning, but still manage to give an impression of immense taste, class and style.
“In my own life, I am a complete dunce with fashion,” says Tandi. “I’m quite a sloppy dresser – it’s jeans and a T-shirt most of the time. But when I wear Catherine’s clothes, it’s different. Those silks and exquisite fabrics make you feel quite sensual and strong.”
“It’s amazing what a well-tailored garment can do for your confidence.”
Tandi admits she would love to own every piece of Catherine’s wardrobe, but as the main breadwinner in her family, that’s a luxury she just can’t afford.
“They source a lot of Catherine’s clothes from Kate Sylvester or Superette, and I will sometimes go out and buy the same thing because I like it so much, but I’m still sloppy Tandi. I just have higher aspirations now.”
Tandi feels enormously privileged to be one of the five core cast on Nothing Trivial, and says that working on the show is a lot of fun.
“The five of us get on really well, and we do socialise and have dinner together. We actually do,” she laughs.
“We are great friends and go out to decompress the work we are doing, but we genuinely enjoy each other’s company.”
She says the mood on the set of about 40 cast and crew has always been warm and jovial, which she believes has a lot to do with the success of the show.
“It can be intensely rewarding working on the material we are given – and we have such a lovely crew.
“When other staff come in, I feel like it’s part of my job to let them know we can fool around, have a joke and a laugh. To me, it’s really important to enjoy life, because we spend so much time here.”
When Tandi isn’t needed in a scene, she has her own dressing room, where pictures drawn by Olive adorn the walls. It’s here she learns her lines, something which takes up a lot of time.
“Some actors can just learn them during make-up and give a fabulous performance, but I need to learn them over a few days, and have them really strong in my head so I can forget them and just perform.”
Tandi says there are some similarities between herself and her character, as they are both “head-led” women. Tandi has an arts degree in history, theatre and film, and Catherine has a medical degree.
When Tandi isn’t filming, her priority is family time with Olive and Michael. She and Olive like to “bumble around”, and especially enjoy visits to Auckland Art Gallery and the local park. She and Michael have a shared love of theatre and movies, and Tandi credits her book club with keeping her brain active.
“It makes me read something I actually want to read for 10 minutes every night before I go to sleep.”
Tandi is also very involved with Actor’s Equity, which is about to complete its first standard contract that took three years to achieve.
“It feels really good to be able to galvanise actors into a community in this country,” she says.
In this series of Nothing Trivial, Tandi’s character Catherine finally ends up with Mac, after two series of them not quite getting it together. Tandi won’t say exactly what’s in store for them, but does mention that writers Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan are very good at creating domestic drama.
“That’s why the audience is really into it, because if they haven’t lived it themselves, they know people who have.”
And for Tandi, that makes it nice material to work with.
“It feels close and familiar. ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’”