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Angela Bloomfield and Michael Galvin: Shorty’s perfect match

The show’s veteran performers are happy to kiss and tell.

Long-term couples are pretty easy to identify. Not only do they have an encyclopaedia of shared memories, but they have a unique habit of thinking in synch, finishing each other’s sentences and unconsciously mirroring each other’s movements. It’s like that with Shortland Street’s Michael Galvin and Angela Bloomfield – because although they’ve never been anything but co-workers in real life, their 20 shared years – and multiple hook-ups – on New Zealand’s iconic soap have given the pair a deep mutual affection that has stood the test of time. “I suppose he’s my work husband,” smiles Angela, (39), who started on the show as Rachel McKenna, daughter of Michael McKenna (Paul Gittins), a few months into its run, and has worked as an actress and director there ever since. “We’ve known each other for a long time and we understand each other. Our relationship is very easy.”

“In other work environments, you’d see everyone all day, every day,” says Michael, (46), aka Chris Warner, who has racked up an incredible 2900 shows since appearing in the first episode on May 25, 1992. “But though we talk, and our families all know each other, we often won’t see each other for weeks, depending on storylines.” Of course, not all of us have to snog our co-worker on and off for 11 years. “I’m so lucky I don’t have to jump around and kiss half the cast on screen,” smiles Angela. “For me and my family, that suits me fine. Michael and I have been doing it for years! And it’s all pretend. You have to try to look cool and smoochy – and you’re surrounded by loads of people! If I had to kiss anyone else, though, it would be terrifying.”

Talking to Angela and Michael as they tuck into burgers and chips – no “green salad, hold the dressing” for them – it’s clear that not only are they arguably the soap’s staunchest supporters, but the show’s twisting fortunes and storylines form a huge part of their own lives and memories. “The first time I realised Shorty was a big deal – because, of course, when it started no-one liked it – was when Rene Naufahu (Sam Aleni) and I were flown to a Christchurch fair for a signing,” recalls Michael. “The guy running it didn’t watch the show, so he put us at the far end of the field, where we wouldn’t be in the way. But within minutes we were surrounded by hundreds of kids! We didn’t stop signing and smiling the whole day.”

Angela has plenty of recollections about the chaos surrounding the show’s cast in the early years. “It’s amazing that back then, people would pay us to fly around New Zealand to sit in Video Ezy and sign autographs – we felt super special, walking through these crowds,” she remembers. While the pair are grateful for everything the show has given them, they give back – often in the form of playing matriarch and patriarch to the thousands of cast and crew who have walked through the fictional hospital doors in their time. “I get protective, both of the actors and the ethics of the Shorty St set,” says Angela, whose nickname years ago was Nana, “because it’s my nature to look out for people.

“I’ve realised over time that new actors take their cues from us oldies, just like I did from Elizabeth McRae (Marj Neilson) and Paul Gittins. What we do has quite an influence on how they are.” Although Angela and Michael refuse to name names when it comes to talking about the off-screen behaviour of some of the show’s cast, they are quick to recall the onscreen moments that have affected them deeply.

“Early on, there was a storyline about a boy who committed suicide by taking too much Panadol,” recalls Michael. “It’s a horrible way to die because it takes a long time, and you know it’s about to happen before it does – I found that disturbing.” “For me it was when the writers wanted me to shake a baby,” says Angela. “It crossed a line. It was a real turning point.” But for every moment that’s left them unsettled, there are plenty more that have left them blushing – one of the most defining being the show that screened the night the 9/11 terrorism attack took place. “It was this massive gold musical spectacle that we worked on for ages,” explains Michael. “It had us all singing. It actually had me rapping, which was terrible! Amazing outfits, and it was the night of Chris and Rachel’s first kiss, and absolutely nobody saw it. It was Shortland Street’s lowest-ever rating show by miles.”

Despite all the highs and lows, the scandals and the drama, the show – and Angela and Michael – have made it through two decades together. While Angela hopes to marry her Street commitments with other work, if Michael has his way, there will be 20 more years. “I’d stay forever if I could,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be here in another 20 years.”

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