Sarah's silver lining ‘GOING GREY HELPED MY CAREER'
New Zealand Woman's Weekly|January 24, 2022
The talented star opens up about work, home, grandchildren and the intriguing contract that stipulated she wouldn’t colour her hair!
Wendyl Nissen

Playing “snooty” is something successful Kiwi actress Sarah Peirse does very well. So the opportunity to portray a snooty winemaker in Central Otago for the new TVNZ series Under the Vines was too good a chance to turn down.

For a start, she got to work in her home country instead of overseas at the beginning of last year in one of New Zealand’s most beautiful areas, plus she worked with a plethora of Kiwi actors and crew. It was a lot of fun.

“It’s a charming show,” she says. “It’s funny, silly and also very sweet. There’s a lightness to it that was very appealing.”

Sarah, 63, says she has played haughty characters a lot in theatre, but not so much on screen.

“In my acting work, I seem to have a metronome that goes from snooty to undermined, vulnerable and potentially dead. That’s the kind of range I seem to occupy,” she laughs.

Her character Marissa in Under the Vines is one many people will recognise from small-town life in New Zealand. “She exists because she is one of a kind and there aren’t a lot of people who challenge her,” tells Sarah. “She would not function so well in a big city – she would be submerged by it all.”

Sarah says that eventually a small army of people rise up to challenge Marissa in the show and it makes for good comedy.

To play Marissa, Sarah says she used an amalgam of different accents and mannerisms.

“I’ve certainly played characters like Marissa on stage and when it came to finding her, it was a matter of absorbing a great big flotsam and jetsam of available material, then selecting from that a soup of possibilities,” she says. “When I’m playing her, it’s a bit like wearing perfume – she sort of lingers.”

When it comes to deciding which roles Sarah will or won’t take, she says it all comes down to the writing and the creative team around the project.

“If I read it and I close my laptop thinking, ‘No, I won’t be proceeding with that,’ then that’s fine, but if I am absolutely engaged with the writing and it ignites something in me, then I’m there for that role.”

Sarah liked what she saw when she read the scripts for Under the Vines, created by Australian director and producer Erin White, and as for the actors and crew, they were all Kiwis except for one British actor, Charles Edwards.

“Charles and I had worked together years ago when I was living in London, but we didn’t recognise each other until we were doing a read-through on Zoom. Both of us sat there thinking, ‘I know that person, they look familiar,’ and then by the end of the Zoom, we had worked out that we did a stage play of Sherlock Holmes together in the UK.”

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