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Tammy Wells, in character as The Briscoes Lady (Image: Archi Banal)
Tammy Wells, in character as The Briscoes Lady (Image: Archi Banal)

Pop CultureOctober 7, 2023

‘It’s just part of my life now’: Tammy Wells on becoming The Briscoes Lady

Tammy Wells, in character as The Briscoes Lady (Image: Archi Banal)
Tammy Wells, in character as The Briscoes Lady (Image: Archi Banal)

The icon of New Zealand advertising shares her favourite TV moments. 

For the last 35 years, The Briscoes Lady has been a hero of New Zealand television. Her natural warmth and endless enthusiasm for towels, crockery and suitcases has endeared her to generations of telly-watchers, securing her position as one of our most enduring and beloved ad figures. We’ve watched The Briscoes Lady turn up the heat, jog into a manchester marathon and become a giantess of homewares, but she’s also popped up in a Don McGlashan song, had her face immortalised in a tattoo and even been made into a series of GIFs

In what may be shocking news for some shopping fans, this sale-loving legend is actually a fictional character, vibrantly brought to life by Tammy Wells since 1989. Being The Briscoes Lady is just one part of Tammy’s full and busy life, a personality that she gets to step in and out of (depending on when the next mad midnight sale is, of course).

“I go to Auckland, I film the ads and then I come home, and I’m not that person any more,” Tammy says. It’s a job she adores, and it’s bought her national recognition for over three incredible decades. “When people recognise me, they’re really lovely. It’s just part of my life now.” 

The Briscoes Lady is a national treasure, and so indeed is Tammy Wells. With the thrilling development that The Briscoes Lady will remain on our screens for at least another three years, we spoke with Tammy about her favourite TV memories, including a terrifying Silence of the Lambs encounter and her fondness for a fellow icon of TV advertising, Tina from Turners

My earliest TV memory is… Sitting on my stepfather’s knee watching the Vietnam War on the news. It would have been in black and white. It was an image of soldiers in trees, and I remember feeling really scared. 

The shows I used to love watching as a child were… Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Bonanza and Get Smart. I can still hear all those TV themes in my head. I mean, I can’t remember what I had for lunch, but I can remember the words to Here Come the Brides

The TV moment that haunts me to this day is… Silence of the Lambs. I watched it when it was a movie on the television, and I remember sitting there with the volume right down and watching it through my fingers. I was utterly and totally terrified. There were even ad breaks, and it was still terrifying.

My earliest TV crush was… John-Boy Walton from The Waltons. He was very dependable and very handsome. I did think he was just divine. 

My TV guilty pleasure is… I am obsessed with watching Donald Trump. I can’t stand him, but there’s this warped sense of if he speaks, I have to listen. I find his attitude and the way he can so blatantly lie quite abhorrent, but it just fascinates me. 

My favourite TV moment of all time is… Telethon. It’s that quirky, quaint New Zealand thing. Families would come down and children had done a bottle drive or pooled all their pocket money. Everybody could be part of it, you didn’t have to give the big dollars to be noticed. It was just lovely.

The TV ad I can’t stop thinking about is… Tina from Turners. She makes me laugh every time she comes on. I also love the wee girl from the Genesis ads. She’s so clever but just so natural, and I think when you’re natural, you’re just very, very convincing. 

My favourite TV character is… Miss Piggy. She’s sassy, she’s got attitude, and she says what she likes. She was her own woman. I think she was wonderful.

The most stylish person on television is… The ladies from Gloss. Those fabulous outfits with the hats, the shoulder pads and the high heels. So stylish. 

My favourite Briscoes ad of all time is…  Years ago, there was a Christmas ad where I’m walking around with this huge Christmas cracker and then I’m in a wetsuit with flippers, and I loved that. Last year, I got to film with both my adult sons and that was so special and so emotional, because I hadn’t seen my son in about two-and-a-half years because of Covid. I was doing The Briscoes Lady from before they were born, and my younger son used to think that everyone’s mother was on television. 

The TV show I wished I’d been involved with is… Intrepid Journeys. I used to think, “I’d love to be in that”, and just as decisively I’d think, “oh, thank god I’m not doing that”. I think I’d like to do a slightly more glamorous version of it.

My favourite Briscoes product of all time is… My house is not full of Briscoes stuff, but there’s a lot – basically the stuff I use every day. When we got married, we were given so many things that you were meant to keep “for best”, and we don’t live in a “best” society anymore. I like using stuff every day, because every day should be a special day. 

My favourite TV show of all time would be… I really love Australian shows. Rake was clever, clever, clever, and I loved Offspring. Billie and Nina Proudman were wonderful and Asher Keddie is the most amazing actor. That was brilliant.

My controversial TV opinion is… People should pronounce the letter “t”. A lot of TV presenters and politicians no longer pronounce their “t” – you’re part of a “community”, not a “communidy”. I just think, if the word has got a t in it, put the t in it. 

The TV show I’ll never watch, no matter how many people say I should, is… Game of Thrones. If I walk in and if my husband’s watching it, as soon as there’s a bit of tension, I’ll go out. I’ll never watch it. 

The last thing I watched on TV was… Your Home Made Perfect. I love seeing what they do, they think outside the square. It’s a good wee show.

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