Simone Nathan’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Simone Nathan’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureJune 22, 2024

‘I have chills’: Simone Nathan picks the most patriotic ad in NZ history

Simone Nathan’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Simone Nathan’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

The star of TVNZ comedy Kid Sister talks Country Calendar, cartoons and an unexpected early TV crush.

Simone Nathan is worried that her career may have peaked early. Several years ago, the New Zealand screenwriter and actor was living in New York and taking a friend’s dog for a walk through Madison Square Park when she noticed the television series Broad City filming in the area. In what she describes as the greatest moment of her TV career, Nathan managed to insert herself into the background of the show – if only for the briefest of moments. “They captured me in a single frame,” she recalls proudly. “I want to say I didn’t know that they were filming, but I walked the dog past very ‘stars in my eyes’, barrelling the camera from afar.”

Far from having peaked, that fleeting moment of stardom was the precursor to everything that followed in Nathan’s career. After studying at the Tisch Writing School of the Arts in New York, Nathan worked on shows like Inside Amy Schumer and Bloodline and was a writer on Our Flag Means Death and The Gone. This was followed up with Kid Sister, the semi-autobiographical comedy that Nathan created, wrote and stars in. The series follows the chaotic life of Lulu (Nathan), as she juggles the expectations of her Jewish-New Zealand family and her relationship with Ollie (played by Paul Williams, Nathan’s real life husband). 

As season two of Kid Sister hits our screens this week, Nathan chatted with The Spinoff to reveal some of her other most memorable television moments, including an early animated crush, the ad that gives her goosebumps, and her lifelong dream to be on Country Calendar. 

Simone Nathan as Lulu in Kid Sister (Photo: TVNZ)

My earliest TV memory is… Going to Shabbos dinner on a Friday night (when you’re not allowed to use electronics or anything like that), and me and my cousins sneaking off to watch The OC. Looking back, I think all the adults knew what we were doing, but they just turned a blind eye because they enjoyed having a bit of quiet time without us screaming. 

My earliest TV crush was… Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who voiced Simba in The Lion King and was one of the kids in Home Improvement. Watching him was everything to me after school, but Simba was a bigger crush. I know it’s not really OK to say that an animated lion is hot, but it’s not my fault they make their faces so good looking. 

The TV show I used to rush home from school to watch was… I was a huge Nickelodeon / Cartoon Network head, and my favourite was Cow and Chicken. There was this devil who used to bounce around on his butt. He was a freak, and I found him really compelling as a kid. 

The TV ad I can’t stop thinking about is… I actually hate ads so much. I run to the TV to mute it when an ad comes on, because I hate being advertised to in general. But there’s one ad from about 20 years ago, it was for Meridian power and there was a dandelion floating through a New Zealand vista. I have chills thinking about it. The song was so powerful. It’s so patriotic. I don’t know who wrote that song, but they should write the national anthem. 

My TV guilty pleasure is… Watching TV while I’m scrolling on my phone, and then turning to my husband Paul and asking him why the show is so confusing.

My favourite TV character of all time is… Bernard Black from Black Books. I do think it’s one of the greatest shows and characters ever written, mainly because Bernard breaks all the rules of what a protagonist is supposed to be. He’s very grumpy, he’s largely inactive and passive and extremely horrible to everyone, but somehow, he remains the most likeable character on television. It’s almost the Larry David effect where you’re like, “oh my god, you can’t say that,” but then he does. It’s kind of cathartic. He’s horrible, but it’s so good. 

The most stylish person on TV is… I find Paul to be very stylish on Taskmaster NZ in his little suit. He wears a slightly different take on the normal Taskmaster uniform. Laura Daniel has some amazing looks, even when she was on Celebrity Treasure Island. If you look good on an island while eating rice, the dirtiest and most exhausted you’ve ever been? Yeah, you’re cool. 

My favourite TV project that I’ve been involved with is… being a writer on My Flag Means Death. The cast is so cool, and that’s where I first got to work with Taika [Waititi], which was a dream come true. When I first got agents in the States, they asked, “what do you want to do? What are your career ambitions?” I was like, “work for Taika”. Pretty soon afterwards they said, “he’s doing a weird pirate show, do you want to be involved?” In the first season, I didn’t get to meet him because it was during Covid and it was on Zoom. In the second season, I was pretty pumped that I would actually have a real life encounter with him – and he was dressed as Blackbeard. 

The TV show I wish I was involved with is… Country Calendar. My dad and I have watched every episode together. It’s so good. Sometimes I like to imagine what my farm would be that would get me on Country Calendar. I would get into truffle farming because you can have a truffle hunting pig or a dog, and you’d wear this gorgeous hat/cane/coat combo. That’s the only vision I have for myself in the future, being profiled on Country Calendar and wearing that outfit. 

My most watched show of all time is… Happy Endings, which was cancelled after three seasons. I consider it to be one of the great injustices of our time, because that show could have gone for 10 seasons. The life that Big Bang Theory has had is the life that Happy Endings should have had, because it was such a classy show. 

The show I’ll never watch, no matter how many people tell me to is… It’s controversial, but The Office US. I’ve watched the British one. I enjoyed it at the time, but I feel like I missed the boat because there’s too much to catch up on. Also, I don’t like working in offices. My whole life was trying to get out of working in an office because I had so many office jobs, so I find it genuinely triggering having to watch office comedies. There’s nothing funny about that life.

The last thing I watched on TV was… Shōgun. I loved it. It was excellent, and it reminded me of another show that I really like called The Terror. The first season was set on a boat in the Arctic in the 19th century, and it had a ghostly undercurrent. It had a great ending, where they didn’t try to fuck with us and add a twist, it was just like, “this is what you’ve got”.  

Kid Sister is available to stream on TVNZ+.

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