26 Mar 2024

Grace Palmer: Sitcom success and IBS

From It's Personal with Anika Moa, 5:00 am on 26 March 2024

Grace Palmer has hit the big time, with a leading role on the Fox sitcom Animal Control. She talks to Anika about her humble beginnings and living the dream.

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Grace Palmer

Grace Palmer Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Her early life

"Jason [Gunn] is very fun. And he's kind of like an older brother father. He was with my mum from when I was two, so I don't remember a life, like, without him. And my dad's always been super present as well. And they get along and it's great."

"Mum's a lot. She's such a powerhouse. But I think her being so awesome and being that woman, there is, uh, an element of pressure to be, like, an achiever. She was really big on us being super involved at school and doing lots of extracurricular activities and doing well at school. I think because she grew up in Hornby and had a very different childhood, that she wanted us to utilise all of the opportunities that were available to us and to be grateful for them and to do well. I'm grateful to have had her as a mother, for sure, but, yeah, I wouldn't say it was like a chill childhood."

Grace Palmer

Grace says she was always an actor. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

"I did a lot of weird stuff, um, one of which was talk to myself endlessly. I vividly remember being in the back of a car and I'd pretend I was dying and that I had to have this little shot of this thing to save my life. And so my parents would just be, like, living their life normally, and their kid is in the back just, like, curled up. [You could] always see me walking, just talking to myself and doing full scenes.

"My auntie was in The Sweet Adelines, which is like a singing group and they were doing this performance at the Christchurchn Town Hall. They were like, 'Do you want to do a little performance in between our show?' and I was like, 'Of course'. So I did a Kath and Kim reenactment where I played Kath AND Kim, but I was like turning and talking to myself. But I was dressed only as Kath, which was a little bit strange for people. Half the audience thought I was deranged and then half the audience was like, 'She's iconic'. It was quite weird though. When I look back on it, I don't think that's what The Sweet Adelines signed up for."

Shortland Street

"I had the best time of my life there. I was so lucky because I think a lot of people would go to drama school in that time. That was sort of my drama school, my training. So I learned to be probably quite a good technical actor. I met so many cool people. I got to do what I loved every day. It was rad.

"Shortland Street seems to be the only thing anyone really remembers you for. You forget that it's a big part of people's lives. Like, it's on five days a week and when they're cooking dinner or whatever, you're in their living room. But I have done quite a lot of things since then that I guess no one ever saw."

Working with her sister, Eve

We created and wrote [Good Grief]. And so I guess it was like, being a part of the process from the very start to the very end is super special. We were nervous that no one else would find it funny. It was sort of like just our sense of humor. So we were writing this thing with jokes that we thought were funny and situations that we thought were funny. And we were like, this may not resonate. This might be very niche, but weirdly, we've had such a great response and a great response from a lot of people our age and stage, which is so nice to make something that you feel like is hitting with young women."

Good Grief TV series

The show Grace is most proud of is Good Grief which she created with her sister, Eve. Photo: TVNZ+

"With Good Grief, I was a part of the casting process and it was amazing for me as an actor. So we got heaps of great auditions, and every single person was awesome, but they just weren't right, and there was nothing they could do. It's not about their performance, it's just who they are. So that's where I've gotten to, is that if you're not right, you're not right, and there's nothing you can do about it. For any given audition, particularly for big ones, you might have, like, 100 people auditioning for one role. So the chances of you getting it are very slim. The chances of everything aligning and you being right for that role at that time. There are so many factors. It might be about, like, the person who's playing your dad, he's got blue eyes and you've got brown eyes and it just feels like you don't look like his daughter or something, it's not about you."

Animal Control

I auditioned from when I was on holiday in New York, and it was the end of my holiday, and I had done a lot of auditions, and I was sick of auditioning because most of the time you hear nothing back and you're like, waste of time, and I'm on holiday. I don't want to do this. Ra, my partner was like, you have to do it. And then I got a recall and then I ended up doing, like, four or five recalls and chemistry reads, and it was, like, over a month. And it's really hard. Like, the closer you get, there's more at stake because it becomes more real, and you know that, hey, if I get this role in two weeks, I'll move to Vancouver, and you're signed on for quite a long time. So there's a chance that this could occupy me for the next however many years. It's just like a big lifestyle shift, and it's good money, and it's a huge foot in the door, so it's hard not to think about all those things."

"I love the work. The schedule is relatively like, it's not super overwhelming. I love the people that I work with, and I love the people I work for, and I love Vancouver, and that's where we shoot."

"It isn't short. We did twelve episodes in three and a half months. We're doing an episode a week, which for tv is very fast."

Grace Palmer

Grace has not allowed her ADHD and IBS to slow her down. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

Mental health struggles and future plans

"So I had a few friends who were like, do you have ADHD? I was like, nah. And they were like, I think you do. And that went on for ages. I finally booked an appointment and got the diagnosis. And yes, I have ADHD. They gave me an option to be medicated for it [but] I don't think I need it at the moment. I'm too scared that it would f**k with my acting."

"Every time I feel like I get to a point where I might need to be medicated, I then do all the things that I'm supposed to do on a daily basis, like meditate and journal and exercise. And then I instantly feel like I'm kind of on top of it."

"For most of my life I wanted lots of kids because I'm one of five. And then every year of my life I kind of want one less. And now I'm not sure if I want them at all. The world is in a shit place. I'm sort of in this weird place because I feel like the best parts of my life at the moment would be made less cool by having children. When I think about all the things I love about my life, they wouldn't exist or they'd be made a lot harder if I had children. So I'm trying to kind of figure that out."