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Shortland Street star plays it straight

Harry McNaughton knows how to ensure he doesn't get type-cast.
Harry McNaughton

Five nights a week he appears on our screens as Shortland Street‘s asexual receptionist Gerald Tippett – a young man who, after much soul searching, has found he experiences no romantic desire at all. Now the star is slipping out of his neat buttoned waistcoats and into the shoes of a lothario schoolboy ruled by hormones.

“Playing a character who is figuring out that he’s asexual has been full-on,” explains Harry (21). “I did quite a bit of research and found it’s a really big movement in the US – they’ve even been on Oprah! But I figured that feeling like you’re different is a fundamental human experience, whether it’s about sexuality or just the feeling you have as a kid in the playground. It makes it easier to relate to what he’s going through.” Though the role has meant grappling with a world that is foreign to him, Harry is happy that he’s been given a challenge. “At the very start, the writers had it in mind to make Gerald gay and he was going to be quite stereotypically gay.

I wasn’t that happy with that decision. I’ve never wanted to play a stereotypical character of any kind,” says the ambitious actor, who is now preparing to test his limits in a whole new way.

Harry is taking on a starring role in a new production of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, a play about a group of young men in their final days of school. He describes his character, Dakin, as “very confident and incredibly frisky”.

“He’s not at all like I was during high school,” laughs Harry. “I was a geek. I was or Study! But it’s really fun to play someone who is so confident. There’s just no element of doubt there. It’s not me at all so it’s kind of addictive.” And just to prove the contrast, the actor smiles and adds humbly, “Dakin’s also supposed to be hot, so I hope I can carry that off.”

But when he’s not losing himself in different characters, Harry says his own life is much less dramatic. He’s busy training for the Auckland half-marathon and says his favourite pastime these days is hanging out with his little niece and nephews.

“I’ve never been that interested in children before,” Harry admits, “but once they’re your own family members, it’s like something chemical changes in your brain. You just love them so much!”

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