She may be outspoken about actors' rights, but you won't see feisty Kiwi actress Robyn Malcolm screaming on the sidelines of a sports field or pushing her kids at school.

If there's one thing the single mother of two doesn't get, it's overzealous parents who unwittingly force their own dreams onto their kids.

'It's tricky sometimes to steer clear of this, because we all want our kids to succeed and be happy,' she says.

'But for me what's most important is to let them find their own path and support that as much as possible. But then Charlie is only six and Pete is five. I'm sure we've got a long journey ahead.

'The first thing I try to ask myself is, "Is this really the best thing for them? Or am I doing this for myself?"' Robyn, 45, goes on. 'I'm sure it's one of the biggest challenges for all parents.'

It's questions such as these that the much-loved New Zealand actress has been pondering lately, as they form a central theme in her new home-grown film, The Hopes & Dreams of Gazza Snell.

In the moving family drama, which has dashes of classic Kiwi humour, Robyn ditches the killer heels and tight dresses of her most famous TV role, Outrageous Fortune's Cheryl West. She heads into East Auckland's suburbia to play mother-of-two Gail Snell.

Gail is married to go-karting enthusiast Gazza (played by the Aussie actor William McInnes), who is obsessed with his teenage sons making it to the big time in the world of motorsport.

'Gazza is your classic stage mum or rugby dad we've all met, we all know – parents driving their kids to succeed at all costs,' Robyn explains. 'Gail isn't much interested in pushing her boys in any direction at all, except to live happy, healthy lives. I'm very much with her on that.

'There isn't anything in my life I haven't done, or don't feel capable of doing, that I'd want my kids to do. I just want them to be happy and feel good about themselves in whatever journey they take in life.'

There may be one exception – if her boys want to carve out an acting career in Hollywood.

'I think I'd tie them down and stop them going,' the Ashburton native says with a laugh. 'Who would want to go to that crazy place? It's full of insane people with too much money.'

Tinseltown's bright lights have never been a top priority for Robyn, who began her career in the theatre in 1988.

She felt the wrath of LA's movie heavyweights and the New Zealand public when she spoke out for NZ Actors' Equity, which attempted to negotiate standard performer contracts for the cast of Sir Peter Jackson's production of The Hobbit.

'In the stormier moments of life, professional or personal, the only thing you can do is stick to your own truths and hold on to what you believe has fundamental value,' Robyn says.

'People can say some pretty nasty things. It's the nature of conflict, but it will only get [under your skin] if you let it.'

Robyn finished her acclaimed role on Outrageous Fortune last year, and she has since worked in film and television in Australia and on stage here.

In May she'll star in Auckland Theatre Company's Mary Stuart as Mary, Queen of Scots. But there's nothing more definite on the horizon.

'Apart from Mary Stuart, it's a big open cavernous nothing at the moment,' she says.

She's relishing the downtime with her children, and has been house hunting. Robyn sold her North Auckland property in just 23 minutes at auction last year, and recently bought a property in Titirangi, West Auckland.

'It's funny – after Outrageous finishes I end up being a Westie after all,' she says, laughing.

However, like all working mums she has to bring home the bacon, and Robyn is auditioning for further work here and across the Tasman.

'I'll go where the work is,' says the star, who doesn't rule out a move. 'But I've got the kids to consider. Their dad is here.'

As ever, Robyn's life is in flux – it has been since she first decided to tread the boards. But you won't hear the down-to-earth actress complaining.

'Someone once said to me, "I don't know how you live your life, there are so many variables. In this permanent indecision and chaos, I'd go a bit mad." I told them, "I probably am a bit mad,"' she says with a cheeky giggle.

By Caroline Botting

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