We’ve been watching her on stage and screen for over 30 years now. Actress Robyn Malcolm is known for her work in NZ, Australia, Europe and the USA. She is as big as celebrities in NZ get. Is there a more loved actress in Mid Canterbury? I doubt it!

She talks to Spirit Magazine about her career, family and her new movie THIS TOWN, in theatres now.


Robyn is delightfully down to earth – it’s like catching up with a best friend. She’ busy juggling interviews – everyone wants to talk to the local girl who made it big. 

From Ashburton College and on to Drama School, Robyn’s conviction that she would have a career in acting has never wavered. “I’ve never felt insecure in my job. I always knew that THIS was what I’d be,” she says.

Stage or screen, Robyn has done it all and loves them equally. “I really don’t have a preference.  I adore them all for completely different reasons – they’re different ways of communicating the story. Theatre is great because your relationship with the audience is immediate. It’s live and chaotic, with a rollercoaster feel to it. With film and TV, you can distil things to a moment – a kind of perfection you can go for, moment by moment.” 

From playing Ellen in Shortland Street to Cheryl West in Outrageous Fortune, every performance has captured our imaginations. “Some roles I’veloved more than others,” she says. “Being Maggie the Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, being Mary Stewart, Anita in Top of the Lake, Cheryl (of course), Winnie in Happy Days…I could list them all,” she laughs.

A lot of the characters she plays are very strong women. So is the real Robyn Malcolm a strong woman?” Oh, I can be a pathetic wuss, but then I can get my claws out, too. If I really believe I’m right I don’t waver too easily. I do really relate to that personality type.”

She says she does find some roles harder than others to get into. “My natural inclination is to find the thing I love in a character and make it my own. If I really can’t find something to love, I will turn it down. Actors often don’t believe they can turn roles down, but it’s about backing yourself. And no one wants to do shit. If I know I’m not going to have a good time, then I do turn it down. Saying no is fun, it feels good. Saying yes, is more fun though.”

Known for speaking her mind, Robyn has described the acting world as sexist, ageist and lookist. “The sexism has been there since the beginning. You see it in the character descriptions: the male role will be described as “Henry; interesting and troubled, and Mary; slim, blonde, sexy.” But the last two or three years have been incredibly significant with the Me Too movement, and the Black Lives Matter movement – both have had a massive impact on my industry. Plus there are big Hollywood stars like the Jodie Fosters, Nicoles and Gwyneths, who all want to keep working and they’re my age, which is good for me. One voice in Hollywood, Frances McDormand doesn’t play that game. I worship her. The ageism thing is; you’ll audition for a role of a 60-year old character and they cast a 50-year-old actress because they believe audiences want to see themselves played by someone younger.  I don’t understand that or believe it. Twice I’ve had experiences where a character is listed as aged 53, and I’ve been in the running and got really close, then both have been cast to 35-year old women. It’s very clear why. There’s a small group of older men in the industry who think that, but they’re dying off.”


Favourite food? Roast lamb, eggs raspberries.

Favourite drink? A really good gutsy red wine – particularly a Malbec. 

Sweet or salty? Salty.

Handshake or kiss? Kiss.

Cleavage or legs? Cleavage. My legs are a wee bit short.

Coffee or wine? Wine.

Perfect day? Waking up early, coffee in bed, my boys and my dog on the bed, all three of us on our phones, just hanging. Its Saturday, doing some baking, gardening, walk with dogs and kids, and some work. Knowing I’ve got a script I love that I can sit with and work with. At the end of day, a f***-off good Malbec with friends.


First thing you do when you get home?  Cuddle the kids and the dog, sit on couch and chat

First movie you ever saw? The first movie that had an impact was at the Regent Cinema, right here. I was 15years old and went with my friend Michelle to see Breaker Morant. At the end I was open-mouthed howling, snot coming out of my face and Michelle was saying “Can we leave now? Can we leave now?” 

First job? Cleaning Lawrence Cooney’s law offices.

First kiss. Oh, some kid at Ashburton College. All I remember was my teeth getting smashed against. The first kiss I really, really loved was a decade later. It takes a while. (grins)


Last time you danced? Yesterday – I dance in my room a lot.

Last time you really belly-laughed? This morning. A friend said something hilarious.

Last time you cried? Last week, having an argument with my teenaged son. Instead of being the grownup through the adolescent fire, I lost my shit, then felt that terrible mixture of being furious at him, and  at myself for not being a better parent –I cried then.

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.