The writer, actor and TV presenter looks back on her most memorable celebrity encounters, a sticky game show situation and making The Jaquie Brown Diaries.
Jaquie Brown has traversed many corners of our local television universe. She’s been trapped under a piano with Andrew WK on Space, taken a limousine ride straight into interview hell with XZibit on Campbell Live, and even played a fictionalised version of herself in the cult comedy classic The Jaquie Brown Diaries. More recently, she’s been a guaranteed fourth chair most Friday nights on The Project NZ, and the bright blazer wearing host of competitive balloon art competition Blow Up NZ.
All of those fascinating TV roles, and yet it might be one throwaway line from Harry Styles in 2013 that got Brown most international recognition for her onscreen work. “I interviewed One Direction when I was six months pregnant with my daughter,” she told The Spinoff. With only five minutes allocated, she asked them if they wanted to just cuddle instead. “And boom, she’s pregnant!” Styles joked post-cuddle. Soon headlines around the world read things like: “Harry Styles gets NZ reporter pregnant”.
Later that night at the concert, Styles waved to Brown in the crowd and stopped the show to make an important announcement: “everyone, this is Jaquie, I want you to make some noise for Jaquie because Jaquie is PREGNANT!” Beyond her boy band banter, we asked Brown to take a trip back through her illustrious television career, including an early obsession with Australian soaps, a terrifying mayonnaise incident and the unexpected consequences of capturing a Will Ferrell fart on national television.
My earliest TV memory is… I grew up in the UK and I was obsessed with Children of the Dog Star. It got me on a deep level. When I moved to New Zealand, I found out it was made here and that the producer was Caterina De Nave, who later said to me one day at TV3, “hey, have you ever thought about acting?” She encouraged me to do The Jaquie Brown Diaries and was an executive producer on the show. So it was such a surreal full circle moment, realising that a show that I loved so much as a child, was somehow linked to what I would do as an adult.
The show I used to rush home from school to watch was… In the UK, I used to come home and watch Neighbours and Home and Away back-to-back. I was obsessed with it – again, an Antipodean show drawing me over to this side of the world.
The TV moment that haunts me to this day is… Back in the early 2000s, I hosted a music quiz game show called Pop Goes The Weasel on C4. Dai Henwood was the New Zealand team captain and I was the host. One of the show producers – The Weasel – hid in the roof with a big 20 litre vat of mayonnaise, which he thought would be hilarious to pour all over the losing team. He poured it all over Dai’s team, and then discovered that Dai was severely allergic to eggs. He didn’t have a full anaphylactic shock thankfully, but I think he came up with a few red pustules briefly. That’s something that haunts me and will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.
The TV ad I can’t stop thinking about is… The Molenberg ad with the woman wiggling. She reminds me of myself and then I find it quite offputting. It’s this weird character vertigo where I want to run towards it but also run away from it.
My TV guilty pleasure is… The Traitors NZ. I was so hooked. I thought it was wonderful, so fascinating. I never want to go on it, but I thought it was great to watch.
My favourite TV moment of all time is… I look back on The Jaquie Brown Diaries with great fondness, and that gets richer and richer as the years pass. I look back and see how the people that we had on the show have grown. Some have died, so it’s a wonderful memory of them, like Helena McAlpine and Cocksy. We had Rhys Darby, Taika Waititi, Madeleine Sami, Anthony Starr – it was such a wonderful time.
My favourite TV character of all time is… I love Succession, and the combo of Tom and Greg together was absolute comic genius.
My most memorable celebrity encounter was… An interview with Will Ferrell helped me get The Jaquie Brown Diaries commissioned. I think we had 10 minutes, and at the end of my interview – which was so naughty of me, retrospectively – I said “I’m actually pitching to a funding body for my own show. Just wondering if you wouldn’t mind looking down the barrel of the camera and encouraging them to fund us?” And Will Ferrell and John C Reilly were like, “You’ve got to give Jaquie Brown a show. She just got Will Ferrell to fart on camera. Who does that?” We sent that in and I’m pretty sure that’s why we got it.
My favourite TV project that I’ve ever been involved with is… The Project NZ. The people were so fantastic, it was such a great environment and afforded me so many wonderful opportunities.
What I wish people knew about live TV is… How much planning goes into it. It’s like a choreographed dance – I’m going to take this step here, you’ll take that step there, then I’m going to pivot and we’re going to pirouette together. It’s all meticulously planned, and that’s where the skill comes in to make it look natural. To make things look effortless, a lot of effort goes in.
The TV show that defined my lockdown was… Celebrity Treasure Island. Chris Parker made a huge impact on us at that time, he was doing great things on Instagram and then seeing him on the screen helped us get through.
The TV show I wish I’d been involved with is… The Comeback, the Lisa Kudrow show that was one of the first mockumentary-style shows. God, it makes me feel so anxious. Because I relate to her as a presenter, it’s so difficult to watch but so wonderful. She’s so brilliant. Hacks, Girls, Atlanta, Succession – there are just so many shows. I consume television like it’s a delicious pudding.
The one show I’ll never watch, no matter how many people say I should is… The Idol. It sounds like sort of gratuitous torture porn for the sake of ratings.
The last thing I watched on TV was… Arrested Development. We’re going through back catalogues of great iconic comedies, and we’ve just finished that. I love Jason Bateman. I love him at any age.