Design: Archi Banal
Design: Archi Banal

Pop CultureSeptember 30, 2023

‘I had to drive into a wheelbarrow’: Miriama Smith on the TV ad that haunts her

Design: Archi Banal
Design: Archi Banal

The star of Shortland Street, The Gone and now Celebrity Treasure Island shares some of her favourite TV moments. 

Name a New Zealand television show, and Miriama Smith has probably been in it. For the past 30 years, the actor and presenter has been a welcome fixture on our TV screens, with memorable roles as nurse Awhina on Shortland Street in the late 1990s and the fierce Brady Truebridge on glossy drama Filthy Rich. Smith’s impressive career spans everything from Mirror Mirror and The Tribe to 800 Words and The Gone, as well as critically acclaimed films like Cousins and Mt Zion. She also appeared as a judge on the inaugural season of New Zealand’s Got Talent, and tangoed her way through Dancing with the Stars NZ in 2008.

More recently, she returned to the reality TV realm to take on the challenges of Celebrity Treasure Island: Te Waipounamu. We’re only two weeks in, but Smith has already quickly proved herself as a physically formidable player and astute observer of the game. Looking back, she says nothing could have prepared her for the CTI experience.“You just have to get in there and roll with what’s in front of you and try not to anticipate too much, because it’s a changing, moving beast.”

As the drama on CTI heats up, Miriama reflects on some of her most memorable TV moments, including an early stint as the Roses girl and the emotional day she said goodbye to Shortland Street.  

Photo: TVNZ

My earliest TV memory is… Goodnight Kiwi. Every Christmas holidays I used to visit my grandparents in Taupō and all my cousins would converge together. Nan and Grandad would lay their mattresses out and we’d all sleep in the lounge. The Goodnight Kiwi meant there was no more TV left, so if you stayed awake that long, that was your last memory before you went to sleep.

The show I used to rush home from school to watch was… Scooby Doo, because that was all that was on, and After School and 3:45 Live

The TV moment that’s haunted me to this day is… When Thingee’s eye fell out. Everyone remembers that. That was pretty concerning for us all. 

The TV ad I can’t stop thinking about is… I was called “the Roses girl”, because I did the Roses chocolates ad. I had to drive into a wheelbarrow, and it was “thank you very much for the driving lesson” and I gave the box of chocolates to the driving instructor. I loved doing it, but I didn’t like getting recognised. That’s one thing I’ve never coped with very well.

My television guilty pleasure is… The Idol. It was just so out there watching these young actors with such confidence, it blew my mind. 

My most memorable moment from Shortland Street was… I’ll never forget the day I left. I was crying, not as my character, but as me, because I knew it was going to be the end of a chapter. I still remember how it felt to be leaving this group of people who had taught me so much and who I’d become friends with.  

My favourite TV moment of all time is… I was blown away in Succession, when [spoiler alert]. The way each character dealt with it was so well done. As an actor, I was in awe of the performances, the range and conflict they bought. The pain and the hate and the love was so good. 

The favourite TV character I’ve ever played is… Brady Truebridge from Filthy Rich. She was a go-getter and a strong archetype, and the writing was melodramatic at times, which was fun. It was just this fun mix of great storylines, wonderful costumes and great people. 

My most used streaming platform is… Neon. It’s got all the HBO series that I love. With my Neon, I’ll have a big break and then come back and do four episodes in a row. I like momentum,  I like to really get lost in it, rather than wait a week for the next episode.

My controversial TV opinion is… The idea of ratings is defunct, especially the idea of the “black box system”. It seems so archaic. That’s why I love Netflix. There are these great groundbreaking shows that are really pushing boundaries, which formulaic television would never touch, but now audiences get to watch it. We’re happy to even pay for it. 

One day I’d love to play a character like… Peg Bundy from Married with Children. Her vibe is rough around the edges, but fabulous and unapologetic. I love those types of characters. They have their own strength, they sit in their own power. 

The show I’ll never watch, no matter how many people tell me I should, is… Game of Thrones, Vikings, anything medieval. I love modern stuff as opposed to fuddy-duddy, oldey-worldy stuff, that just bores me so much.

The last thing I watched on television was… The Bear. I watched season one last year and absolutely gagged from the moment it started. I went, “this is life changing stuff”, and now I’m slowly drip feeding season two. 

Celebrity Treasure Island: Te Waipounamu is on TVNZ2 at 7.30pm every Monday to Wednesday, and streams on TVNZ+. For weekly recaps, get amongst The Real Pod Extra on Substack.

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