Madeleine Sami plays Tess - an outspoken hairdresser who meets her soulmate, Matthew, and then can't figure out why he's disappeared...
For accomplished theatre actress Madeleine Sami, one of the biggest pleasures of working on The Insiders Guide to Happiness was the chance to act with real people, in an ensemble cast, after doing numerous solo performances of the play No. 2.
"For the past three or four years I've mainly done a play by myself," she explains. "I'm only used to working with other personalities in my head! So it's been nice to be around people - real people that you can touch!"
Insiders Guide marks Madeleine's first television role since her stint on Shortland Street (playing a doctor at the tender age of 18).
"I wanted to do some TV again because I did the same play for ages, and just wanted a break," says Madeleine. "I'd already taken a year off because I'd gone straight from school into acting, so I've never really had time to think about anything else. But then I wanted to do some TV work.
"This came about at just at the right time. The writing in the auditions seemed quite cool and natural. It just looked like it could be good."
On Insiders Guide Madeleine plays Tess, a hairdresser who meets her soulmate Matthew one fateful night...
"Tess is really great!" says Madeleine. "She's fun, she says what she thinks, and she's out there. She dresses the way she wants, and she doesn't really back down to anyone. She's a 'live in the moment' kind of chick."
All qualities that Madeleine jokingly insists are completely unlike herself: "I'm frigid, prudish, reserved, shy," she deadpans. "No, seriously. I joke around a lot and stuff, but when it comes to confrontation, I'm not very good, whereas Tess doesn't give a damn."
"For example, there's a scene that I do when I give my boyfriend's parents, who I've just met, a piece of my mind. I'd never ever do that to anyone's parents. I try to be very charming...I want people to like me!"
To embrace her role, Madeleine learned a few hairdressing tricks, especially when her own hair was transformed into that of her character's - complete with hair extensions and red steaks.
"Actually I got to really know some hairdressers really well in this role, because my hair took so long to do. I'd spend days in there! I'd read every single magazine and get to know them. And they were real cool. I got to quiz them about hairdressing too, like: 'How do you stand?' Just observing those guys. That was my training."
The Insiders Guide make-up team also showed her a few finer points: " I had to know how to hold the scissors and stuff. And I've had to do a bit of hair drying and hair washing in a basin. But as long as you look professional and don't look like you've got a face on that you're scared of it&I just want to do hairdressers justice!"
Central to her role of Tess is the relationship she has with Matthew (played by Fasitua Amosa). "Tess and Matthew have this huge connection and it's quite hard to do that, to pull that off and not make it cheesy," says Madeleine.
"Like there's a lot of stuff when Matthew 'dies'. Scenes with me wishing that he was alive, or him trying to talk to me and I can't hear him - all that kind of real earnest stuff. I actually found that the hardest to do because it's really hard to pull that off, because it can become clichéd."
Madeleine believes The Insiders Guide to Happiness is essentially about all the things that come into the character's lives, and how they deal with that: "It's based around a fictitious book about these little rules by which to live your life. I don't know whether it's a Buddhist karma kind of thing but it has this kind of 'what-goes-around-comes-around' thread running through it."
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