Shortland Street’s longest-serving character, Dr Christopher Alexander Warner, has been steaming up our TV screens since the show’s very first episode, which saw him getting frisky with a married aerobics instructor in Ferndale’s local gym.
Known by fans as “Dr Love”, Chris has married four times, been involved in countless romances and romps, and fathered six children. He’s also survived a car crash, a fire and a murder attempt, but he suffered brain damage following an accident on a flying fox and ended up in jail after being framed for a homicide.
His alter ego, actor Michael Galvin, confesses his life hasn’t been quite as eventful, but as a full-time actor and a father to 10-year-old daughter Lily, he’s pretty happy with his lot. Here, the Shorty veteran, 50, shares memories and long-kept secrets.
How do you remember your first few days on Shortland Street?
I was very nervous. We were all nervous – no-one in New Zealand had attempted to do five episodes a week of drama and no-one was sure if it could actually be done. At the end of the first week, we were so far behind in the shooting schedule, we had to come back and work most of Saturday, which didn’t augur well. But after a few weeks, we realised we could do it and the nerves subsided a bit.
What advice would you have given a fresh-faced Michael?
I’m hopeless with advice. Whenever I try to give it, I always end up either confusing people or completely putting them wrong. The only non-stupid pieces of advice I give are so obvious, people usually don’t need them – things like, “Don’t worry so much.” That’s probably what I’d say to just-starting-out me, who was a chronic worrier.
What’s been your most memorable storyline?
That’s very difficult to say because I’ve been blessed with some real doozies over the years. But the one I keep coming back to is when Chris got strung up in a barn by Dominic Thompson, his long-lost brother who wasn’t actually his brother. Dom was played by my old mate Shane Cortese, who was brilliant. It was very believable that Chris and Dom were brothers as me and Shane looked a lot alike. We look less alike now because I’ve put on weight and he hasn’t.
What was your favourite scene to film?
Again, impossible to pick a true favourite as there’ve been so many. But I do remember when Craig Parker, who played Chris’ brother Guy, came back on the show for a brief stint. We spent most of the time between takes laughing like we were on some crazy dentist drugs. He is such a great person and so funny, but I don’t remember any of the storylines.
And your least favourite scene?
I would probably have to nominate the storyline where Chris wants to have a baby with Rachel McKenna, but instead, she suggests he have one with Grace Kwan, who promptly falls in love with him. That was a one-way ticket to Disasterville. I think all of us struggled with the credibility of that one.
What’s been your most embarrassing moment on set?
I’m not really embarrassed by my on-set stupidity at the time – more on reflection. I’ll look back at it and cringe. Those Tropic Thunder moments where what you think you look like and what you actually look like are just complete opposites.
What lessons have you learned from Chris?
It ain’t over till it’s over!
If you were writing a Tinder profile for him, what would it say?
Unreliable, unstable, prone to very bad decision-making, but very rich and makes great-looking kids.
Which of Chris’ women was his perfect match?
That would have to be Rachel. She was the one who really matched him and usually bettered him. She was the one that got away. The one he’ll never really get over.
If you could have any actress for a leading lady, who would you pick?
Cate Blanchett, simply because she’s Cate Blanchett.
What’s the secret to your longevity on the show?
The main ingredient is just dumb luck. But one thing I will give myself credit for getting right is that, wherever possible, I say yes to the possibilities of the character that arise in the scripts and commit to them as fully as I can.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I don’t do much. I’m getting better and better at doing less and less. My main focus in life is my daughter. I try to do a good job of taking care of her when I have her.