Big Screen Symposium

After graduating from drama school Toi Whakaari in 1987, Robyn Malcolm worked extensively in theatre for the first 5 years, performing in over 30 plays. In 2003 she won an International Actors Fellowship to study Shakespeare in performance with Mark Rylance at the Globe Theatre in London.

Malcolm first came to the attention of television audience in 1995 when she joined the staff of SHORTLAND STREET. As nursing manager and mother Ellen Crozier, she quickly lost a husband, accidentally burnt the house down, and soon found herself caught up in a complicated love-life – not to mention the complications which ensued when an ex-boyfriend got married to her psychotic sister. The writers of the show lovingly called her “the slut in the cardy” Malcolm earned her first screen nomination for Best Actress at the 1998 Television Awards.

In 1999 Malcolm founded the New Zealand Actors’ Company with Tim Balme, Katie Wolfe and future OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE director Simon Bennett. The company produced and toured successful stage productions of Shakepeare adaptations and NZ works throughout the country to huge audiences.

She gained another nomination 3 years later for the film for television CLARE, based on the cervical cancer experiment at National Women’s Hospital. The film’s inspiration was Clare Matheson, whose book Fate Cries Enough chronicles how over 15 years she became an unwitting participant in a medical experiment where carcinoma in situ was often left untreated.


In 2004, Malcolm travelled to France to front her documentary OUR LOST WAR: PASSCHENDAELEShe followed her Great Uncles footstep’s from the hills of Central Otago, to the UK and France to then Belgium where he eventually was killed in 1917.

She would score her first actual screen award in 2005 for a show which surely drew some inspiration from SHORTLAND STREET: satire SERIAL KILLERS, in which she played a stressed out scriptwriter.

2005 was also the year that she first played Cheryl West, in OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE. The show would go on to become the longest running and most successful drama in New Zealand TV history.

Bringing her substantial experience to the part, Malcolm helped created an iconic character on New Zealand television: feisty, flawed and cleavaged to the hilt, the straight-talking Cheryl tried to keep the West whanau on the straight and narrow, while trying to sort her affections for her criminal husband Wolf (Grant Bowler) and policeman Wayne Judd (Kirk Torrance). By the show’s third season, women were turning up in Kiwi hair salons asking for a “Cheryl West”. Malcolm argued in 2007 that audiences liked the character “because she’s so fallible… no one wants a two dimensional hero. We want messed up struggling people.”

The final episode of OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE aired in November 2010 and rated better than any in the show’s six season run. Over those 5 years Malcolm has stacked up an unprecedented run of awards for her role.

In 2010 Malcolm took another centre stage role with THE HOPES AND DREAMS OF GAZZA SNELL, the first feature from award-winning INSIDERS GUIDE director Brendan Donovan. She was nominated again for best actress for this role. She then went to Australia for feature films DRIFT starring Sam Worthington, and THE BURNING MAN. She also began her association with the much acclaimed and loved Aussie TV series RAKE. Her recurring character the mad and hilarious Kirsty Corella, wife of jailed gangster gained her much praise in Australia.

Malcolm pitched her idea for her “tragi-comedy” AGENT ANNA, which debuted on television in January 2013. She was intrigued by the idea of basing a show around a middle-class mum “with no hint of hero about her,” who is forced to enter the highly competitive world of selling real estate whilst in a state of growing internal collapse.

She features in Jane Campion’s acclaimed mini-series TOP OF THE LAKE as a messed up American chimpanzee owner seeking healing down under and was voted Best Supporting Actress by Indiewire at the Berlin Festival.

Robyn featured in the hugely popular Melbourne comedy UPPER MIDDLE BOGAN and the second series of critically acclaimed political thriller THE CODE.

Through these years of film and television she has kept up regular theatre work. Most notably in recent years as the buried Winnie in Samuel Becket’s in HAPPY DAYS for Silo Theatre, the title role in Auckland Theatre Company’s production of MARY STUART and again for that company the roles of Shen Te and Shui Ta in Brechts THE GOOD SOUL OF SZECHUAN.

Robyn’s most recent work has included her role in the feature film HOSTILES (2017) starring Christian Bale, and as the star of the 2017 short film GOODNESS GROWS HERE. She has been kept busy with her roles in various new television series including Season 1 and 2 of WANTED (2015/2016), WAKE IN FRIGHT (2017) and HARROW (2017).

She is slowly becoming a fixture at the Big Screen Symposium as a regular interviewer of guests because “I love talking to people about this business, it’s a never-ending treasure trove of experience and story.”

See Robyn in the following session:

Case Study: THE CHANGEOVER – Sunday 1 October, 1.20pm.