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Last Man Standing

Miriama Smith

(plays Zoe Hesketh)

As the only lead female actor in a show about guys, Miriama Smith is in a unique position, but it's one that she relishes.  "Zoe offers the female perspective amongst the group of male friends," says the actor of her character in Last Man Standing.

"She is pretty strong-willed and independent. She's a woman who believes firmly in monogamy and she was very much in love with Cameron who she met when he was travelling through New Zealand. They got married but the reality is that it's not always happily ever after and after Cam had three affairs she decided it was time to leave him and she went back home to New Zealand."

Smith is quick to emphasise the need to have a female voice in a show which is predominantly about blokes: "The show is about how guys approach relationships, which can be pretty hopeless sometimes," she laughs.  "But it's not all about short-term flings and one-night-stands.  The character of Zoe shows the audience that these guys do have long-term male/female relationships - even if they're just platonic."

And as 'one of the guys', Zoe has an important role to play: "Zoe is there to give the guys a reality check," explains Smith.  "She also adds a bit of drama to the mix because after the first episode, there's some sexual tension with the love triangle between Adam, Zoe and her ex, Cameron."

Having been brought up with boys as a child, Smith feels quite at home being the lone female actor in the core cast.  "But there are lots of guest female characters in a show like this which is great" she says.

Having appeared in numerous television, film and stage roles at home in New Zealand, Smith is thrilled to be working on Last Man Standing.  "This is different to a lot of my previous acting jobs because it's not such intense drama," she says. "It's a lot lighter, there's more humour - which means we laugh a lot!"

As a young girl growing up in New Zealand, Smith discovered a talent for dancing but she knew ballet school wasn't her thing when she had to be a lilac in the end of year revue. The tomboy turned to jazz and tap, continuing lessons for 10 years. A family friend suggested the young beauty try modelling and Smith enrolled in a deportment course - and hated it. "I couldn't relate to people walking round in a swimsuit!"  The modelling agent pushed her to audition for an acting part. At 15, in 1991, she appeared in her first professional role in the New Zealand police drama Shark in the Park alongside another young local actress, Lisa Chappell.

During high school, Smith juggled several TV acting jobs including; The Kina Factory in 1993 and Mirror, Mirror on Network Ten in 1995. After secondary school, she enrolled at Waikato University, about 90 minutes south of Auckland, to do a Bachelor of Leisure Studies in 1996. In 1997 she took a brief break from her studies to appear in The Adventures of the Swiss Family Robinson and Te Kakano.

The same year, producers of New Zealand's top rating five-night-a-week serial drama Shortland Street offered her a core cast role of Awhina Broughton. At 20, Smith deferred her uni course and was thrust into people's lounge rooms five nights a week. The celebrity was overwhelming. "I'd been at uni and going to the pub with my mates. I'd never watched Shortland Street. I loved the work but being recognised constantly became very surreal. Six months into the show, I didn't enjoy it any more. I was only 21 and still curious about the world. Some actors dream of that fame but you can't relax, you can't fail. There's a lot of pressure to be something you aren't. I am who I am. I won't compromise that."

She left the show at the height of her popularity in 1998 and indulged in a few small acting jobs (Moko Toa and Young Hercules) before heading to France and then England, to meet cousins she'd never known. Ironically, Shortland Street was also showing in the UK so Smith didn't escape being recognised abroad. While travelling in 1999, she completed her degree, then returned home to New Zealand to see in the new millennium with family. Back at uni in Auckland, Smith completed a post graduate in communications and public relations with the plan to work in sports marketing.

In 2000, she rediscovered "the fever" for acting and accepted TV roles in the USA telefeature Double Exposure, Xena - Warrior Princess and The Tribe.  She also made her first feature film, Other Side of Heaven, as well a promo for Te Papa Tongarewa (the Museum of New Zealand) and an educational video for the Young Workers Rights. Another feature film, ToyLove, and a role in Atlantis High followed in 2001.

Smith's breakthrough role came in TV One's new medical drama Mercy Peak. A six-month contract for the 20 episodes of series one, in 2001, turned into three years work - which Smith loved. Unlike previous experiences, this show attracted a more discerning audience and was broadcast on a non-commercial station. At 25, she was the youngest of the seven core cast.

Sadly 2003 marked the end of the show's 60 episodes (although it was seen on air until March 2004). Luckily, Smith was immediately offered a recurring role on Power Rangers, playing both the school principal and a sexy PVC-clad baddie. In late 2003, she also appeared in the TV show Serial Killers, the feature film Spooked, a short film and a play with the Auckland Theatre Company.

Her plans for 2004 went awry when, travelling in Europe after attending the Athens Olympics, her agent called about an audition in Melbourne. She'd just got a four year UK visa, courtesy of her English grandfather's heritage, to work in London. Smith packed an overnight bag and jumped on a flight to Australia for the September audition.

"I arrived on the Friday morning, auditioned in the afternoon and by the end of that day I was told that I had the part of Zoe.  I was booked on a flight back to London on Sunday. Then they told me rehearsals started Monday...and I've been here ever since!"