Not much fazes Kiwi actress Kerry-Lee Dewing. When she was told she had to film dramatic scenes for Shortland Street in skimpy shorts and a sports bra, her response was, “No problem.” And the 24-year-old didn’t bat an eyelid when she was asked to wade chest-deep into the sea on a chilly winter day, wearing a stunning dress as part of an advertising campaign for the popular show.
“I like a challenge,” smiles the blonde beauty, who plays nurse Kylie Brown. “I know it is all part of the job, and I’m up for anything.”
Kerry-Lee – who once shaved her head for a role in children’s TV show Kaitangata Twitch – was one of five Shortland Street cast members who braved the icy ocean for the promo, advertising a special 90-minute episode, due to screen in mid-July.
“It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and they had heaters and hot-water bottles and all sorts of things to get us warm again,” says Kerry-Lee.
“I just felt bad about going into the water in that dress!”
Otherwise, filming scenes for the soap special – which the Weekly can reveal involves a fire and a mass evacuation of the clinic – went well, although she was somewhat scantily clad.
“It was totally different to being in scrubs most of the time – although Kylie does get to wear rather little dresses sometimes,” says Kerry-Lee, adding that it helped having co-star Pua Magasiva, who plays Vinnie Kruse, also in a state of undress. Scenes like that don’t stress the South African-born actress too much, partly because she has a natural confidence that stems from performing in front of people since she started dancing at the age of three, but also because she’s very comfortable with her body.
Kerry-Lee didn’t need to rush off to the gym and put in extra hours to get in shape for that particular episode, because she always makes sure she’s fit and toned. It’s nothing to do with vanity, or even the pressures to look good that come with being an actress – for her, it is all related to health.
“I exercise a lot, but it’s not about the way I look, it’s about the way I feel. Exercise just makes me feel so much better. I couldn’t imagine not being fit – I love it when your heart gets pumping and you feel so good. “I think it’s really important
for my mental health, as well as other aspects. It really clears your brain. It’s my time to just escape from everything else that is going on.”
Kerry-Lee tries to get to the gym every day after work during the week – although that is not always possible with the busy Shortland Street shooting schedules – and mixes up her workouts, doing everything from Bikram yoga to boxing classes. Still a keen dancer, she also tries to get to a few lessons whenever she can.
But as much as she loves exercising, she admits there are days when she can’t face the thought of working out.
“I’m like everyone else – I do have a love/hate relationship with it. There are times when I really have to make myself go to the gym. And then afterwards, when I’m feeling really good, I think, ‘Why did I procrastinate?’
“And if I can’t go because I’ve been really busy, then I miss it so much.”
One of the benefits of this regular physical activity is that it allows her to keep her weight steady, so she can indulge her love of food.
“My favourite pastime is eating,” confesses Kerry-Lee. “I do eat a lot of healthy foods – I’m a big fan of fresh produce and have a lot of fruit and vegetables. But I also have a massive sweet tooth and need to enjoy dessert after dinner every night. I especially love chocolate.”
Kerry-Lee doesn’t deprive herself of any types of food, because she knows that would just make her crave them even more – however, she does know when to stop.
“‘Everything in moderation’ is so true, and if I know I’ve had a bit too much one week, I will scale things back the next week. I never diet.”
She admits she tends to be quite passionate about the things she loves – such as food, exercise and acting.
“I can be a bit intense and know there are times when I need to take a breath and just slow down, but that is because I’m very driven, and with everything I do, I like to give it 100%.”
That’s why she’ll happily say yes to things that might take her out of her comfort zone – like wading into the freezing sea. But she won’t do anything for work that isn’t right or necessary. For example, she would think long and hard about any roles that involved nudity.
“I do like challenges, but I’d have to consider it in context and weigh up whether it’s appropriate for the part, and whether it sat right with me. Nothing like that has come up yet, so I haven’t had to make that decision.”
Kerry-Lee’s hoping to have a long and varied acting career that keeps challenging her, but right now she’s loving every minute of working on the show.
“I am learning something every day. I feel so lucky. It’s a great opportunity and I’m getting to do what I love.”
Kerre-Lee's health tips:
• Mix up your workouts so you don’t get bored and can stay motivated.
• Don’t ban certain foods, even the unhealthy ones, but have them occasionally and make sure you have lots of healthy foods.
• Remember that daily exercise is important for your mental – and also physical – health, so do ensure it’s a normal part of your everyday routine.