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This Is Not My Life


Miriama McDowell answers our questions

We caught up with Miriama McDowell to get her thoughts on being part of This Is Not My Life. Don't worry - it's not your computer playing up with some answers - we decided they were too spoilery and have inserted some asterixes in to avoid you knowing everything...But feel free to speculate on what she means on our message board here!

1) Tell us a little about how you got involved in this project
I was living in London when they were trying to cast This Is Not My Life. My agent got in touch with me quite late in the process to tell me that they hadn't cast the role of Jessica Wilmot. After reading the first few episodes I got really excited and did the fatal thing that actors really shouldn't do: I wanted the part. Badly. I ended up sending three separate audition tapes over the course of a month. My tenacity paid off in the end!

2) Tell us about your character - and how did you get into their mindset?
Jessica Wilmot doesn't know what she wants. She is approached by Alec Ross who asks her a simple question : "are you happy?" and suddenly her whole world is blown apart. People just don't ask that in Waimoana. As Jessica starts to challenge the life and the world around her, she puts everything she has under threat : love, friends, security, even her life.  The premise of the show meant that I could discover Jessica as filming progressed. The truth about who she is is revealed to her and to the audience episode by episode, so it was a lovely process of discovery for me. Of course some things are true right from the start - she has a great feistiness and playfulness to her, and she isn't afraid to say what she thinks - these attributes are dangerous in Waimoana.

3) What was it about this show which attracted you to get involved?
The scripts! This Is Not My Life is an example of really great storytelling. The characters are complex, the stakes are high, every line, scene and turning point advances the story and enhances the mystery. Every time I got a hold of the next episode, I would devour the script in ten minutes - I was always asking: "What happens next?".

4) What was the shooting of this show like?
We shot during winter and I swear I didn't know it. I spent the entire winter inside a big shed painted in pastel colours! The cast and the crew really gave over their lives for the months it took to shoot this show. There was no time to come up for air. I like working like this. It means that everyone works very efficiently and cleanly, and everyone has a very high level of professionalism and commitment. I think this attitude can be seen in every shot of This Is Not My Life.

5)  What were the challenges of this show?
No black! I was utterly amazed at how Tracy Collins and the art department were able to create such a clean and flawless futuristic world. And one of their rules was: no black! Watch the show, I think there was one baby stroller that slipped through, but there is no black in Waimoana.

6) With a production like this and the filming schedule, was there any room for fun? Were they a good crew to be part of?
There's always room for fun when you get a crew together! One of my best memories was on the last day of shooting, which should have been a very sad day, but all the crew came to work dressed in costumes that day, and the director, Peter Salmon, had a costume change for every scene he shot! It was quite a strange feeling as an actor, like suddenly your world has been flipped inside out - you're watching everyone else instead of them watching you!

7) Without revealing too much, what was the best part of being Jessica in this series?
I think the thing I loved the most about being Jessica was the range of things I had to do as an actor. There was the emotional range - like saying goodbye to the love of your life, getting drugged and kidnapped, questioning who you can trust and who you can't, fearing for your life. But there was also the physical range - driving three wheel trucks, running away from evil men, getting c*****d a****d in a **** b**. What a life this girl leads! No wonder her hair is so --- big!

8) How does it feel to have such a strong female character to play?
I believe the greatest strength comes from vulnerability - people who are able to voice their fears and face them. Jessica's strength came from her willingness to take risks, to let herself feel, and also to change her mind. Jessica felt like a real person to me, and I relished playing her.

9) Is there any part of Waimoana that you would like to have as part of your own life?
I really like Waimoana's eco conscious society. Ok, they've been ***h*d ***o ** because the ****d has *** out of ***, but I think that New Zealand should already have limits on the amount of ****** you can use a month. If we all had to ride bicycles for half the month it would help with our nation's obesity problems too! I also would love it if everyone spoke te reo conversationally as they do in Waimoana. Wouldn't Aotearoa be a great place if we were all bilingual?

10) Was there anything from the Waimoana world that you tried (or succeeded) to take home from the set?
I got one of the fold up Bicycles! The art department thought I was crazy wanting to keep one of those dinky little bikes, but I was living in London at the time and the thought of having a bicycle I could pull out of my hallway cupboard and jump on the tube with sounded like a fantastic idea! It's not quite as ideal in New Zealand - the framework is so light that when you ride uphill, the front wheels come off the ground.

11) What's next for you?
I'm in Los Angeles at the moment trying to get a feel for what it's like out here. I really want to continue to live and work in different parts of the world and not be stuck in one place. My main focus is finishing a feature film script that I'm writing.

Don't forget you can watch the latest episode of This Is Not My Life here - and catch up on the series for free!