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Kiwi actor Lee Donoghue’s LA love story

Shortland Street’s Lee Donoghue on why he’s following his heart.

Actor Lee Donoghue is getting used to saying sad goodbyes. Not only has he just farewelled his Shortland Street family after five years, he’s about to leave these fair shores altogether. While his drug-addicted character Hunter McKay heads off to rehab in Hawke’s Bay, Lee is bound for the bright lights of LA.

And though it’s been a wrench ending this important chapter in his life, the handsome star is delighted that there’s one special person he’ll no longer be separated from. After a fantastic couple of months together here in New Zealand, Lee and his girlfriend, US actress Angelic Zambrana, will finally be able to take their love to the next level.

“Going to New York really changed everything for me,” explains Lee, who spent nine weeks in the Big Apple last year, attending Susan Batson’s prestigious acting school. “Right before I headed home, I went to Hollywood and had a meeting with one of the top actors’ agents which, to my surprise, went really well. I was blown away and it left me with a big decision.

My contract was due to expire at Shortland Street not long after I got back and the US agency didn’t want me to sign on for another 12 months in case something else came up.”

Although it felt like a big leap of faith to leave a job he loved, Lee’s time in New York had already prompted him to think long and hard about his future. “Studying with Susan Batson brought out of me what I want as an artist and what I want for my career.

I’ve got this great way of life at Shortland Street, but I do want more. I’ve spent most of my twenties on the show. It becomes part of you and you become part of it.

It requires that you give so much of yourself. Although it was hard to let go, it was liberating too. It was like someone was saying, ‘Here’s your life back, do what you want with it.’” And the best part is that he’s not going it alone.

Having conducted a long-distance relationship with Angelic since they met in New York last July, Lee will now be setting up home with her in the trendy LA suburb of Studio City.

And their future has kicked off with a wonderful holiday right here in New Zealand. “I’ve loved playing the tour guide for her,” says the proud Kiwi, who drove his beau round both islands. “She thought it was so great, she didn’t want to leave. She was taking photos of cows in fields as we were driving down the road.”

Angelic grins, “It’s a beautiful country. Being here has made me realise how many people there are in New York. I’ve spent my whole life there and now I’m thinking, ‘How can anyone live like that!’ It was great seeing Lee at home with his family too. Lee’s parents are fun and they have been so welcoming.”

But now the holiday is over and the hard work of landing their next roles must begin. Having just finished playing one of the toughest storylines of his career, however, Lee feels confident about his ability to manage any challenge that comes his way. “I threw myself into the work in those last few months.

Usually you ease off the longer you’re there, but with the addiction storyline I took things to another level. It was good to show that a serious drug problem can happen to anyone. Hunter had everything he ever wanted and was on his way to becoming a doctor but it only takes one wrong move and it can end up destroying your life.”

Unlike Hunter, Lee is now on the brink of a bright future and he’s more than ready to make it happen. “It’s a real adventure,” he says. “I’m blessed I’m in a position where I’ve been able to pack up and move to the other side of the world and follow what I’m passionate about. I know it might take some time but I’m realistic about that. I’m willing to sacrifice a lot for what I want.”

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