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Shorty Street’s Rene and Sophie’s family bond

The Shorty stars share their close off-screen bond.

Sam “the ambulance man” Aleni originally broke hearts in 1994 when he married Talita Palele, whom he dramatically lost in a car accident in one of Shortland Street’s most memorable cliff-hangers.

Eighteen years later, fans of the show have been enjoying seeing the adored character back on screen, watching him find love with Vasa (Teuila Blakely), as well as developing a stronger bond with his daughter Honour, played by Sophie McIntosh (18).

In real life, the actor who plays Sam, Rene Naufahu (44), and Sophie have become a close unit – particularly as they’ve already crossed paths. Sophie tagged along when her mother, also an actor, had a small role in the TV movie House of Sticks, which Rene starred in.

Rene and Sophie first worked together when Sophie was just 10 months old.

“I was about 10 months old at the time though, so unfortunately I don’t quite remember it,” laughs Sophie.

Hearing that Rene was returning to the show was incredibly exciting for Sophie. “The first time I met him properly was just after the Christmas break. We had a workshop with Miranda Harcourt, our acting coach, so we could work out how to authentically play this father-daughter relationship. He’s the kind of guy who is funny and makes you feel at ease.”

Rene has just as many positive things to share about his young co-star. “Sophie’s been so amazing to work with. She’s really warm and… wait, what did you say you were going to pay me for this again?” he ribs Sophie, laughing.

After filming scenes with prankster Rene for the last few months, Sophie is now well used to his jokes. “He is like a big kid sometimes!” she says.

Which is exactly what Rene admits he’s felt like, returning to the show that made him famous when he was barely out of his teens. “It’s been a funny experience,” he admits. “So much is the same, but so much is different. It feels a bit like going back to high school.”

Rene and Sophie have filmed their last scenes on the soap for a while, with their last episode screening next week. But fans shouldn’t despair, as the duo is back later this year.

Rene and Sophie filming scenes on the set of Shortland Street.

In the meantime, Rene couldn’t be prouder of his on-screen daughter, who is spending the American summer in New York at the Joffrey Ballet School where she was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to the seven-week programme.

“I’m staying in the dorms in Manhattan near the school, where we train five days a week, with a special performance at the end,” she explains.

Meanwhile, Rene will be kept busy with his own project – his latest film, The Last Saint, also starring Nicole Whippy, will be released on August 28.

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