Celebrity Treasure Island Shimpal’s big regret

The actor reveals why he got the boot

When asked why he signed up for Celebrity Treasure Island, Naked Samoans comedian Shimpal Lelisi doesn’t beat around the bush. Grinning, he replies, “It’s been a bit quiet work-wise, then this job came up and I gotta buy the bread!”

However, the Niuean-born father-of-two confesses he hasn’t always taken his employment status so seriously, losing his role as nurse Louie Iosefa on Shortland Street back in 2000 because he tried to bend the rules.

“I was one of the first actors on the show to be given a year-long contract, but I got fired after six months,” recalls Shimpal, 49. “Because I was young, I didn’t really understand Shortland Street was such a beast and how the production line worked.

“I told them I wanted to go do a play and they asked me not to, but I did it anyway and they said, ‘Well, don’t come back.’ I regret it now because it was such a great opportunity and I learnt so much, so quickly in that environment.”

Asked if he’d ever return to the TVNZ 2 soap, he replies, “Oh, yeah, I’d do it. I don’t think they killed my character off and it’s iconic now. You’ve got to respect that.”

But first we’ll see Shimpal back on our screens in Duckrockers, a prequel series to the hit Sione’s Wedding movies, in which he starred alongside comedy partners Oscar Kightley, Robbie Magasiva and Dave Fane.

Thinking back to the original 2006 film, Shimpal says, “The thing I’m most proud of is the fact the boys I started out with, the Naked Samoans, we’re still working and we’ve maintained that friendship. We’re still in the game!”

Dubbed “Shim Shady” on Treasure Island due to his smooth talking, the actor has picked Women’s Refuge as his charity, explaining that domestic violence is an issue close to his heart because he and his four brothers were raised by a solo mother. “It gave me a healthy respect for women.”

Although he notes his mum didn’t understand him pursuing an acting career “because we came from the islands and didn’t really know what theatre was – we were used to singing in church and going to Sunday school”.

He laughs, “Every now and then, my mum would still ask me, ‘When are you going to get a real job?’ I don’t think Treasure Island counts – this is more like hanging out on the beach, making some new friends and hopefully not hurting anyone’s feelings!”

Shimpal was eliminated from Treasure Island this week, but not before raising $5,000 for Women’s Refuge.

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