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Christmas with the Shortland Street stars

We asked our favourite Ferndale whānau what gives them the season’s jollies and to share a top TV moment

Henry Rolleston

For families separated by Auckland’s closed border, Christmas this year feels more special than ever as they will finally be reunited after more than 100 days since the country entered level 4 lockdown in August.

Among those counting down the days till the border opens is Henry Rolleston, who excitedly declares, “Finally, I’m going home to Timaru and seeing my family again!”

Henry, who plays Cece’s son Louis King, shares he’s had many amazing Christmas presents over the years, but this favourite remains the LEGO set he received when he was 11 years old.

“I got the Star Wars LEGO Death Star set and I spent days holed up in the house building it.”

For Henry, the most memorable Shortland Street Christmas cliffhanger was last year’s tense twist which saw Chris Warner seeing ghosts of his dead loved ones as he grappled with the death of his son Phoenix, while clinging for life after being shot.

He shares, “Of course, Louis wasn’t really a part of it because I was off shooting the Shorty summer special, which was just an insane amount of fun.”

Ben Mitchell

After being on New Zealand’s most iconic soap for 15 years, Ben Mitchell has been involved in his fair share of dramatic cliffhangers. But one in particular stands out involving his character TK Samuels.

“Most cliffhangers that I have been involved in have been fun,” Ben explains.

“But my favourite would have to be the one from 2016 where TK murdered Hayden (Aaron Jackson).

“Doing the stunts and being involved in such high drama was a great experience – lots of action, laughs, and a great team effort from the whole cast and crew!”

When the country went into level 4 lockdown in August, Shortland Street had to shut down production. After returning to film under level 3 restrictions, the end of Ben’s year has been very busy as the show frantically makes up for lost time. So, this year more than ever, he is looking forward to his Christmas break, and making special memories with wife Kate, and their three kids Mila, Sofia and Nico.

“We’ll be spending as much time as possible at the beach and discovering new beaches to visit. I’ll be getting rid of my lockdown gut and spending quality time with the wife and kids.”

Nicole Whippy

Up until recently, Nicole Whippy would have said the favourite present she’s ever received was a Christmas Day tour through Mumbai with her best friend. But this year, her gift is guaranteed to be even better!

Like many other Kiwis, Nicole has been kept apart from her loved ones by New Zealand’s closed border and crowded MIQ system. But this year, just in time for the holidays, her mum, who lives in San Francisco, has finally secured herself an MIQ spot.

Nicole, who is mum to Pearl, 12, and Vida, six, explains, “She is going to surprise our kids by turning up on our doorstep on Christmas Eve. They are going to lose the plot. Hopefully, the six-year-old doesn’t read this magazine before then!”

These years of Covid lockdowns and being separated from whānau has taught Nicole a very important lesson.

“Family is everything and I am blessed with the very best.”

In her very first year on Shortland Street in 2019, Nicole, who plays social worker Cece King, was a part of the Christmas cliffhanger. Because of that special experience, Nicole says it will always be the most memorable in her eyes.

“I was involved in the drug dealers in the bush cliffhanger. There was a beautiful waterfall location, an epic team of female actors involved and it was very dramatic. My on-screen daughter set a man on fire! That’s definitely been my favourite.”

Scott Smart

There’s no holding back Shorty‘s Dr McDreamy this Christmas!

Actor Scott Smart, who plays Dr Marty Walker on the show, is excited to return to the family farm in Canterbury for the Yuletide season.

“I’m looking forward to getting out of the city and spending time with my family,” says Scott.

While on screen he’s handy with a stethoscope, Scott tells his best Christmas gift was “a yellow Gameboy with the Pokémon Yellow Game”.

The challenges of 2021, he says, have taught him “to take nothing and nobody for granted”, and reveals his secret lockdown discovery was The Mentalist on TVNZ OnDemand. “There’s a lot of epsiodes, so that was handy!” he laughs.

Sally Martin

Sally Martin, who plays nurse Nicole Miller on Shorty, says her favourite cliffhanger of all time was when her character gave birth to her son Pele and then fell into a coma.

“Partly because it was the beginning of a challenging acting journey for me,” tells Sally, “but mostly because I got to meet Feleti [Aulika], who has been playing my son for seven years now.”

Sally admits this Christmas she’s most looking forward to taking a dip in the ocean. “One hundred percent!” she laughs. “I’m craving it!”

The actress explains that she had to learn how to manage her expectations during 2021. “My whānau and friends have missed each other and some very special, sad, happy and major occasions. Finding new ways to connect has been important.”

Her two favourite entertainment finds this year have been Neon’s The White Lotus “and I’ve just re-watched Kiwi series Good Grief, which is absolutely brilliant. I laughed and laughed, possibly even more than the first time around.”

Jess Sayer

When it comes to great gifts, Jess Sayer – who plays nurse practitioner Maeve Mullens – says it doesn’t get better than simply spending time with her mum and other whānau in Whangārei this year.

“Being able to get home in time for Christmas after this strange year is the best present I can think of,” Jess tells the Weekly.

The actress, who teases that this year’s Shorty cliffhanger is going to be the one to remember for all time, adds that one of the bonuses of being caught up in Auckland’s long lockdown was that she didn’t have to learn lines and instead had plenty of time to indulge in her passion for reading.

Not That I’d Kiss a Girl by Lil O’Brien and Times Like These by Michelle Langstone were both delicious must-reads,” she shares. She also discovered a new interest in poetry.

Jess, who was born in Auckland and lived in Brunei for five years as a child, reflects that this year’s long lockdown has taught her “how resilient and incredible people are – how we can pull together in the face of immense and painful change, and get through it with love and kindness.”

Marianne Infante

Christmas came early for Marianne Infante this year. The actress, who plays tenacious nurse Madonna Diaz on the soap, has already bought herself a sewing machine.

“I can’t wait to start little projects with it,” laughs Marianne. “It’s the gift that’ll keep on giving!”

Marianne moved to New Zealand from Manila in the Philippines at the age of 11. She started her new life as a Kiwi in Christchurch and moved to Auckland aged 18.

She says she’ll be spending the Christmas holidays “surrounding myself with the love of friends and whānau”.

Her favourite TV series this year was Shonda Rhimes’ period drama Bridgerton and tells the biggest lesson she’ll take away from 2021 is to accept the things in her life she cannot change.

“A lot of things are out of my control – and with the things I can control, I will and must take action with a lot of love and kindness,” explains Marianne. “Especially towards myself.”

Theo David

Though Theo David only joined Shorty earlier this year, he has already charmed fans of the hit TVNZ 2 soap playing ambulance driver Viliami To’a.

His turn on the show is the latest of many acting triumphs Theo has enjoyed – he was also the youngest cast member of the hugely popular Pop Up Globe at only 20 years old.

But Theo admits his big acting break came in high school in its production of Othello, when he got the greatest early Christmas present from his friend.

“I was an understudy in Othello and my good friend, who was the lead, conveniently got ‘injured’ so I could go on as Othello as a Christmas gift!”

As a long-time fan of Marvel – he even credits the films as his inspiration for wanting to be an actor – Theo spent his lockdown catching up on his favourite shows. “I really enjoyed WandaVision, actually all the Marvel Disney Plus series got me excited!”

But now, as he wraps up a busy first year on Shorty, Theo is excited about one thing this Christmas.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back to Huntly now that the border around Auckland is opening up!”

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