Libby lands the leading role

Young Whanganui actor Libby Hunsdale is to play a role close to her heart in the feature film Poppy, being made on the Kāpiti Coast north of Wellington.

Poppy is a story about falling in love, learning to drive and entering the local car burnout competition, and Libby is getting primed for her role with some hands-on experience at Whanganui’s Midtown Motors.

Garage owners Raj Patel and Janine Chalk were happy to let Libby shadow their apprentice Jon Morrison before she headed south for filming. Libby’s grandfather, well-known local stock-car driver Ormie Andrews, had a long association with the garage. He was a member of the Wanganui Warriors Superstock Team.

Libby, 18, a student at Whanganui Girls’ College, was cast for the leading role of Poppy after a nationwide search. She lives with her grandmother Barbara Andrews, who saw an article in a Sunday newspaper saying the filmmakers were looking for a girl with Down syndrome who was ready to tackle anything. Libby impressed writer/director Linda Niccol (Second-Hand Wedding) with her vivacious personality and ability to deliver a performance. “Libby is a real find. She embodies the spirit of Poppy. She’s a true performer,” Linda says.

Poppy is the story of a young woman with Down syndrome who wants the same opportunities as others her age. She takes matters into her own hands when her over-protective brother holds her back from achieving her ambition to become a motor mechanic.

Libby says she’s over the moon to be cast and she already feels a connection with the character. “What I love about Poppy is that she’s ambitious and wants a career. I do too. Poppy doesn’t care about what people think of her and the fact she has Down syndrome. I really relate to Poppy. We could be sisters,” says Libby.

Barbara says Libby has studied drama and dance and has been in shows. “But the camera is something different,” she says.

The IHC Foundation has contributed $25,000 to provide acting coaching for Libby. This will involve performance-related workshops, rehearsals with other key actors and one-on-one coaching with Miranda Harcourt. Miranda has worked as an acting coach all over the world, with stars including Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Kiwi actor and comedian Rhys Darby.

Miranda Harcourt says Poppy is a story firmly centred in the world of self-determination. “She is a wonderful character leading a unique and wonderful story.”

The Poppy Pictures production is being supported by the New Zealand Film Commission, with funding from the 125 Fund created to celebrate the anniversary of women’s suffrage. It is also supported by NZ on Air alongside private supporters and sponsors. TVNZ will screen the film in New Zealand.


Photo caption: Libby Hunsdale is spending her summer preparing for her role in new feature film Poppy.


This story was published in Community Moves. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members.

Read the full issue of Community Moves online here.