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Shortland Street’s Virginie Le Brun’s long-distance engagement

Why the Shorty star’s leaving her fiancé in New Zealand.

It was a heartfelt note from a castmate that finally caused Virginie Le Brun to come unstuck on her

final day at Shortland Street. When Brooke Williams, who plays her on-screen sibling, Lana, declared her to be like a sister in real life, the stoic actress couldn’t help but get tearful.

Thankfully, however, she didn’t have time to dwell on the sadness. No sooner had the cameras stopped rolling, Virginie packed up her life, said a brief farewell to her fiancé in Wellington and jetted off to Melbourne to make her Aussie debut.

“The first time it felt quite scary but this time is different,” says the actress, who has now left the show twice, having done two stints playing the straitlaced surgeon with Asperger syndrome, Dr Gabrielle Jacobs. “When I left in 2010, I felt I hadn’t done everything with the character that I wanted to. This time around, I feel like I’ve scratched that itch.” And in the weeks leading up to her exit, the emboldened actress paved the way for her next big move.

A few trips across the Tasman have seen her sign with an Australian manager and already the talented star has secured a small role in a major feature film that’s being shot in Melbourne. Of course, the decision to move away will mean adding more kilometres to the distance that lies between her and her Wellington-based partner, Gareth Daley, but the recently engaged couple are confident that this is the best way forward.

“Gareth is working on a film right now that doesn’t finish till mid-year,” explains Virginie of her camera-supervisor fiancé. “There’s not a tremendous amount of work in New Zealand for me at the moment but it seems to be the opposite in Melbourne. I’ll set up there for the next few months and once Gareth’s done, then the world is our oyster. It may be that we both settle in Australia for a while, or perhaps we’ll go to Europe or America.”

And not only are the loved-up pair counting down the days till they’re living in the same place, but they’re looking forward to doing so as a married couple. “We haven’t decided when to get hitched yet or exactly where we’ll do it. We might have it in Marlborough,” says the star, whose famous French wine-making family have their No. 1 Family Estate vineyard in the region. “There’s so much planning involved that we’re tempted to just escape to Fiji or even France, where everything gets organised for you.”

Whatever the decision, Virginie won’t have to make all the effort on her own. “Gareth will want to be involved with everything,” she laughs. “He’s even asked whether he’s allowed to help pick the wedding dress.” There’s no doubt that the actress has a very caring man for a mate.

“Gareth never ceases to surprise me,” says Virginie. “He’s done so much to help with all the planning for my move. He’s so thoughtful – he’s even booked me a facial for the day before my film job in Melbourne starts.” But while her fiancé has been her rock leading up to the move, the actress is relieved that he won’t be there when she takes the plunge.

“I think it’s best that I go and get myself sorted first. If Gareth came too, I’m sure I’d end up begging him not to go and I’d be tempted to just wuss out.” Now the actress must face the rigours of trying out for different parts in a new country, with just the thought of phone dates to keep her going. Nevertheless, Virginie is feeling extremely positive about what lies ahead.

“Auditioning might be hard but you have to remind yourself that it’s a huge part of the job.” And, although there’s no immediate reunion date scheduled, Virginie and Gareth are both geared up to commute between countries for the next few months and revel in the brief times they have together.

“Of course, we won’t get to see each other as frequently, but we know we’ll be together later in the year. We’re both just really excited to think about what comes next.”

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