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Kiel McNaughton’s culture clash

Kiel McNaughton and his wife Kerry Warkia have drawn on common ground for a new project.
kiel mcnaughton

He’s just made a television show called Find Me a Maori Bride, but former Shortland Street actor Kiel McNaughton had no problem finding his bride – TV producer Kerry Warkia. The couple wed 12 years ago in Kerry’s homeland of Papua New Guinea after meeting at drama school in Auckland. But it wasn’t until they completed their studies that the pair got together.

“We were in love with each other, but I was dating someone else at the time,” Kerry (34) reveals. “Kiel had to wait and that wasn’t much fun for him.”

But Kiel (36) says it was worth holding out for Kerry. “It’s better that we waited because we were able to work a lot of things out and know for sure that we were right for each other,” he explains.

“And when we did get together, we didn’t waste any time! After only three months together, we were engaged. By six months, we were married, and nine months after the wedding, we had our first baby.”

Since then, the Auckland couple have been busy parenting Apeal “Api” (11), Vavaki “Kiki” (8) and Noah (6), while producing television shows side-by-side.

“What keeps us together is our love towards one another and the desire to get on with life,” Kiel explains. “Life became so much easier for us when we found each other and got married.”

Kiel and Kerry married in Papua New Guinea six months after they got together.

Since leaving Shortland Street in 2011, after four years of playing nurse James “Scotty” Scott, Kiel has been working as a director. He’s spent time back on the popular TV2 Kiwi soap, working behind the camera, and also directs many of the television shows that his wife has produced, including the critically acclaimed comedy Auckland Daze.

Despite Kerry being Kiel’s boss at times, they never let their work affect their personal bond. In fact, the pair believe it makes their jobs easier.

“With our working relationship, we make a lot of compromises and have an understanding of each other,” Kiel says. “Basically, we want the other to be happy.”

On their latest project, Find Me a Maori Bride, the couple has revisited what made them fall in love in the first place. The comedy, which has just premiered, follows two cousins who are forced to take a crash course in Maori culture after their grandmother dies. In her will, she gives them an ultimatum – find a Maori bride in six months or lose a $47m inheritance. The show stars Go Girls actor Matariki Whatarau, Boy’s Cohen Holloway, former Shortland Street stars Amanda Billing and Te Kohe Tuhaka, and Outrageous Fortune’s Siobhan Marshall.

The doting parents with (from left) Noah, Kiki and Api.

“Comedy is hard, but there is an extra risk when it’s cultural. You’ve got to get it right,” says Kiel.

The show explores culture and love, and Kerry, who was born in Papua New Guinea, and Kiel, who is of Scottish, Maori and Chinese descent, say they

are proud of their different backgrounds.

“Once you know yourself, you have a lot more to offer in a relationship,” says Kerry. “Culture and knowing your roots play a big part in that.”

Even though it was 12 years ago, Kerry fondly remembers what it was like to get married at her family home. Sadly, her mum Robyn passed away just before the wedding, but it was a day she “wouldn’t change for anything”.

In a few years, the couple will celebrate their 15th anniversary and Kerry is excited about the milestone. “It’s a time where we want to thank all our friends and family who have supported us throughout our marriage.”

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