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Shortland Street star’s role in the hay

This Shortland Street ambulance officer proves he's a bit of a dark horse.
Cameron Jones

Shortland Street heart-throb Cameron Jones takes his acting very seriously. He’s even swapped city life for the country, just to get inside his character’s skin.

When he nabbed the role of ambulance officer Dallas Adams two years ago, the 24-year-old spent time with St John just for research. And when he discovered his character was a true blue Kiwi farm boy, he got a job running a busy horse farm – juggling his busy acting job in the city with rural life.

“I wasn’t raised on a farm. It was the opposite, really,” says Cameron, who grew up in his parents’ hotel in the Hawke’s Bay suburb of Havelock North. “I saw there was a storyline coming up where Dallas returned to his family farm, and I wanted it to be authentic. People who live on a farm are very different to those from the city, and I wanted to experience that for myself.”

The actor took a hands-on approach to playing Dallas, which included getting over one of his biggest fears.

This year, one of Cameron’s New Year’s resolutions was to learn to ride a horse because he’s always been terrified of them and wanted to overcome his greatest fear. He became passionate about it and relished the “connection between man and beast”. And when his horse trainer and her family went overseas for two months, Cameron offered to look after their farm, all by himself.

“A cop watching a cop show would know if an actor is authentic or not. I was playing a farm boy and I needed to understand what it’s like to be a farmer.

“Sometimes, as an actor, you have that monkey on your shoulder telling you you’re a fraud, so it was nice to challenge myself and try new things.”

After caring for the animals on the 8ha farm at Muriwai, west of Auckland, then putting in a full day on Shortland Street, Cameron found he had no time for a social life. Not that it bothered him. “It was really refreshing not having to go to an event in nice clothes, and just hanging out in your gumboots instead,” he says with a smile.

Cameron often went straight from the paddocks to the Shorty Street studios.

Cameron, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 16, found his two worlds would sometimes collide. He’d go straight from the paddocks to the studios still wearing his Swanndri and gumboots.

“My duties included getting up early in the morning to feed all the animals, including chickens, cats and the goats, then taking the quad bike around to feed the horses.

“I’d rush into Shortland Street and spend a working day there, then return to the farm and repeat what I did in the morning,” Cameron says.

After two months away, the family returned and Cameron was finally able to relax, settling back into his flat in Auckland’s Ponsonby. He still returns to the farm now and then to help out, and loves to ride the horses every chance he gets.

“I get to gallop on the beach and around the farm. I love it!”

Cameron says his time on the farm has made him a richer and deeper actor.

He says his time on the farm has made him a richer and deeper actor. “It changed me,” Cameron admits. “I became a handy man. I’ve got a real appreciation of using my hands. I’ve also learnt the value of an early morning start. I didn’t realise how difficult it would be, but I’m proud of myself for dong something like this.”

A recent finalist for the Cleo Bachelor of the Year, the actor admits that life after Shortland Street will not include a career in farming – instead he hopes to seek his fame and fortune in Hollywood.

While at drama school in Wellington in 2011, Cameron did a semester at the prestigious Stella Adler Academy in Los Angeles, whose alumni includes Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando, and hopes to return to the US to make his big break.

“They like earthy guys over there. I’m fortunate because I’m formally trained, I have the ability and I’ve got reasonable looks. But I also have a good work ethic, which I’ve further proven during my time on the farm.”

Take a look at [Shorty Street star’s scandalous new play] here.

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