After filming her final scene as villainous nurse Carla Crozier on Shortland Street in 1996, actress Elisabeth Easther shaved off her character’s signature “orange helmet” of hair, got a job in radio and moved by herself into a small shack in Northland’s remote Taupo Bay.
“It was so cathartic getting rid of Carla,” enthuses the Hamilton-born star, now also a journalist, documentary maker and award-winning playwright.
“I had one of the show’s make-up artists give me a number two and when I was walking home from having my mop chopped, it rained on my actual scalp. I felt liberated and just super-excited for the future. Within months, I’d completely left Carla behind.”
But fans of the TVNZ 2 soap couldn’t move on from the memorable murderer. Even today, 25 years since she began her 18-month stint on Shorty, Elisabeth is regularly stopped by people who recognise her as the woman who beat her husband Bernie Leach to death with a candlestick during an earthquake.
“Everyone else has found her harder to let go,” she tells Woman’s Day with a wry smile. “It’s half my lifetime ago, but it’ll be on my headstone, I’m sure. It was probably the most defining thing I’ve ever done in my life and yet it’s not the most important thing to me by a long shot.
“Even when my dad died, the headline of his obituary was ‘Shortland Street actor’s father dies’. I’m glad he wasn’t alive to see it. It’s funny how something can be a modest blip of time, but that’s it forever.”
Yet while she confesses to being “haunted” by killer Carla, Elisabeth couldn’t resist when, on the very day of her 50th birthday, she was offered the chance to reprise her role as one of Shorty’s most beloved baddies a quarter of a century on. Yes, Carla is making a Ferndale comeback in 2021!
“It was the most flipping amazing day,” tells the actress, who had already been kayaking, fossicking for gold and meeting kea on the West Coast with her son Theo, 14, and partner Peter on her milestone birthday when the call came through.
Although, as excited as she is to return, it wasn’t an easy decision. She explains, “I have a really nice life. I sit at home writing and reading, I travel, I run, I ride my bicycle and I’m there for my son when he gets home from school, which I’ll miss. But I do work by myself all the time and while I thoroughly enjoy my own company, I figured it might be fun to see what it’s like in the real world, working somewhere with a watercooler and an extensive tea library.”
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