Walking through the enchanted forest to get to our festively decorated grotto, Ngahuia Piripi can't help bursting into a rendition of Here Comes Santa Claus. "Christmas is absolutely my favourite time of year," the Shortland Street actress grins, "and it's the day before my birthday, so I've got an extra reason to love it."
And as she and her co-star Ben Barrington are granted an audience with the man in red himself, Ngahuia can't help but make a few requests for both special days. The 29-year-old tells Santa, "If you can't fit a house in your sack, all I want is a COVID-free year and finger crossed for a bit of international travel – a trip to Rarotonga is definitely on my wish list!"
Ben, 43, on the other hand, can't think of anything he wants besides more quality family time. A father to four-year-old daughter Harley, he says, "This year's lockdowns made me realise how much pressure there is to spend and consume. I've learnt that kids just want our attention – they crave our company! We were so lucky to have those weeks where we just hung out every day, made lunch and went for walks. I want more of the same. I'm thankful we're happy and healthy. I just want the good times to continue!"
Nodding, Ngahuia – a mother to Owairea, 10 – adds, "My daughter often complains I'm so busy with work, so her dreams came true when she got to spend four whole weeks with her mum. We got to learn a bit more about each other, for better and worse, and we tried new things, like gardening, which I've never done in my life!"
Both stars are looking forward to the second series of their comedy series Millennial Jenny being released on Instagram in early 2021, but first, Ben says, "I'm going to stuff myself silly with lamb, chicken and salmon. Basically, if it walks, flies or swims, I'll eat it!"
Meanwhile, his co-star Ngahuia is heading to Christchurch to spend December 25 with her grandparents for the first time in ages. "It's going to be so special. If I'm lucky enough, we'll have a hangi on Christmas Day. I also love a good cheese board – and strawberries and cherries are a must! But as long as we're with family, it'll be amazing."
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