Nothing Trivial about primary school

Actor Nicole Whippy is convinced her primary schooling is the reason for her success today. She talks to Amanda Hanan. Primary school was “extremely positive” for Nicole Whippy, one of…

Nicole-Whippy-MichelleActor Nicole Whippy is convinced her primary schooling is the reason for her success today. She talks to Amanda Hanan.

Primary school was “extremely positive” for Nicole Whippy, one of the stars of Nothing Trivial and Outrageous Fortune. “The school was about learning through play. I felt safe there and I remember being encouraged to take risks, it was OK to get it wrong.”

The ending of one of New Zealand’s most successful drama series Nothing Trivial has been a bitter sweet experience for talented actress.

“I’m gutted,” Whippy says, “it wasn’t meant to finish. It ends with a cliff hanger, so there was meant to be another series.” The only upside is she will be able to spend more time at home with her gorgeous four-year-old daughter Pearl.

Nicole says Nothing Trivial has been her best work” she was one of five leads, with storylines that really stretched her as an actor. She’s incredibly proud of the work, and finds it heart-warming to see all the support for the show. There have been petitions, a twitter bombing and a Facebook page set up to try and talk TVNZ around to another series.

Surrounded by trees

Whippy started her schooling at Pigeon Mountain Primary in Bucklands Beach. Auckland. She says the storybook-named school was as magical as the name suggests. She walked to school beside a creek, crossing over bridges on a path surrounded by trees.

Nicole-Whippy-MichelleOn her first day, her big sister came and got her at morning tea so she would have someone to play with. “It was this amazingly safe place where people looked after you.”

Her big sister let her know, too, that her security blanket was to stay in her bag. Whippy followed the advice, only slipping out of class occasionally for a private sniff of “blankie” when she needed it.

Whippy has special memories of the principal, Mr Clews. He gave Whippy a love of ballads and verse, including those of the poets Pam Ayers and Spike Milligan.

Embracing the arts

Whippy says he was an amazing leader, “He embraced the performing arts, and was obsessed with Winnie the Pooh. Whenever he could he opened assemblies with a Winnie the Pooh book reading.” Whippy describes Mr Clews as a big man who shamelessly and with love did the best Piglet impersonations she has ever seen.

Whippy was an all-round student and made the most of the positive and supportive culture of the school, throwing herself into sports and the arts.

Nicole-Whippy-Michelle2Whippy thinks parent involvement in school is incredibly important and intends to do her bit. With her BA in Screen and Performing Arts, some lucky school can look forward to good advice on the school production. She knows full well the importance of the arts in primary schools, and remembers the disappointment when she realised how little of the performing arts was offered at her high school.

There, she had to find her own way. “If it hadn’t been for those primary and intermediate experiences, I wouldn’t have known about the drama and acting.”

A life-changing moment arrived when she was picked for the top school netball team to go on a trip to Fiji (Whippy is Fijian). Instead, she told the school, her coach and family she would be staying home to perform in a Shakespearian play.

Kindness and honesty

From her primary years, Whippy recalls the honesty, kindness and the teaching of how to be a good person from her favourite teachers. Mrs Wackcrow lived on the corner near her house, and Whippy was a frequent visitor and invited her to her birthday parties” “and she came!” Mrs Shortland “was older, she took us for Maori culture, just like having your nana at school.”

Nicole-Whippy-Michelle1Whippy expects to be back at Pigeon Mountain Primary next year when the TV series Neighbourhood is filmed. The series takes well-known New Zealanders back to where they grew up. Whippy thinks it will be an emotional experience, and she’s a crier so expect tears. She doesn’t think her old teachers would be surprised by her profession but she’s keen to find out if they watch the shows she’s been in and hopes they’re proud of her.