Anna Jullienne is a woman at odds with her instincts. Following her 30th birthday last November, The Blue Rose actress admits she’s had a strong maternal urge to settle down, but instead she decided to dash off with husband James Kermode on an adventure to Mexico.
Anna is regarded as one of the nicest and most down to earth woman in TV – the kind of person who can strike up a conversation with anyone. But she ignored her deeply entrenched good-girl ways and embraced her “inner b**” to play mean-girl legal secretary Krystle in the hit TV3 drama.
Her current life comes as a surprise even to Anna. The actress, who won Kiwi hearts for her portrayal of lovelorn lesbian nurse Maia Jeffries on Shortland Street, has relished playing her high heel-wearing, conniving character – even practising Krystle’s glower on James.
Despite growing up in a home filled with maternal influences with four generations of women under one roof (her mother, Mary, gave birth to her when she wasn’t yet 20 and they lived with Anna’s grandmother, Bebe, and great-grandmother, Polly), Anna is one of the last of her close friends to not have children yet.
“Me and my two girlfriends got married within six months of each other – boom, boom, boom – and we were all each other’s bridesmaids,” says Anna, who tied the knot with James in a gorgeous summery ceremony on Waiheke Island in 2010.
“My best friends who aren’t actresses are all having babies, but my friends that are actresses aren’t, so I think maybe it’s something we [actresses] have to do later in life,” she says, reflecting on the short window of opportunities facing many actresses in an industry that values youth and beauty.
“I’m playing Anne Boleyn with Auckland Theatre Company later this year and it would slightly change the course of history if I were on stage eight months pregnant!’” she jokes.
“You want to have children at the same age as your friends, so you can have someone to have a cup of tea with, but I guess for a lot of people there’s never a perfect time to have a child. I have a split in that sense.”
Anna makes a good cup of tea – something she got lots of practice of while living with her mum and grandmothers. But while she’s happy to kick about the house and do a little baking from time to time, she’s not the sort of person to have a quiet, low-key birthday.
When she turned 30, Anna decided that rather than shying away from her new decade, she would spend a whole month celebrating the occasion.
“I never understand people who don’t tell anyone it’s their birthday – I am all about it.
“I went for a birthday breakfast with James, I went for dinner with my sister and stepmum and then dinner with my entire family – I kind of milked it this year,” says Anna, who says she started taking about her 30th birthday six months before the actual day.
The icing on Anna’s birthday cake was a three-week holiday in Mexico – somewhere she and James originally intended to be their honeymoon location, but because of time they opted for a Queenstown getaway instead.
The Mexican escape was the “perfect holiday” for Anna, who says visiting the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, sunning herself on the Caribbean beach of Tulum, as well as eating fresh grilled fish tacos in Mexico City, were the highlights of her trip.
Anna and James, who were a couple for five years before they were married, have both caught the travel bug and want to next visit Japan and South America.
“We’re really good at travelling together,” says Anna. ”You’re either going to drive each other mental or work as a team. And while I have no sense of direction, he’s really good at that. But I’m better at picking up languages and communication, so we have strengths within the team,” she says.
Mexican artefacts now scatter the Art Deco Mt Eden home that Anna and James bought two years ago. Although Anna says that aside from some antique cut glass and a teacup that has the word “lesbo” on it – a joke souvenir from her time playing Maia – James has made all the interior decorating decisions at home.
“James has more of a flair for picking up household objects than me,” says Anna. They did work together to renovate their lounge and plan to do up the kitchen and bathroom soon.
Although she jokes how she and James act like an old married couple, Anna’s embracing the next chapter of her life with him.
“We met when I was 22 and we’ve had all that growing up time together – we’re still such great friends.
“It’s amazing how your conversations change over time though. I now talk about the fact that I have so many cucumbers on my plant this year, and how we need to put a sprinkler on the front lawn.”
Starting a family is high on the agenda as she enters her next decade. While she admits to feeling clucky around her friends, for the moment Anna is exactly where she wants to be in her life.
“We will start a family soon, it’s on the agenda, but at the moment I am enjoying my career and the exciting new characters coming my way,” she says.