Shorty’s Courtenay Louise’s cliffhanger ‘I’m hanging on by a thread’

The Shorty star has turned out to be a treasure, but will it be enough?

If there was a competition for who had the best year in 2022, Courtenay Louise would be near the top of the list. After dreaming of being an actor her whole life, she is now starring on the country’s longest-running soap. She also gained a legion of new fans competing on Celebrity Treasure Island and was nominated for Television Personality of the Year at the New Zealand TV Awards.

To top it all off, she is ending her first year on Shortland Street as part of one of the biggest Christmas cliffhangers yet in honour of the show’s 30th birthday.

“It’s surreal,” enthusess Courtenay, 29. “If you had told me this was going to happen when I was 15 years old, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’ve wanted to be an actor from a very young age. So, the fact I’m doing it on this iconic show and I’m in the cliffhanger – it’s a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment.”

While she can’t give any spoilers away, Courtenay assures us the cliffhanger will leave fans on the edge of their seats.

“It’s Shortland Street’s 30th year, so you can imagine it’s going to be big. When I read it, I thought, ‘They are pushing boundaries. This is gonna be good.’ I can’t wait to see it all come together.”

The Weekly catches up with Courtenay on an early morning call before she heads to the set for a full day of shooting. And while the world is learning to adjust to life with Covid, the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the show as cast and crew come down with the virus.

Courtenay admits the ever-changing schedule has started to take its toll.

“This job doesn’t stop, regardless of who can’t come to work that day,” she explains. “There was one night where I got nine new scenes the night before, and I had to learn them and perform them the next day. That was a huge challenge, but I feel like I rose to the occasion.”

Is it the end for hospital receptionist Monique Strutter, pictured above with Dr Rahu Parata (played by Zak Martin).

But between her hectic schedule on Shorty and her time competing on Celebrity Treasure Island, where she just missed out on the $100,000 prize for her charity Voices of Hope, Courtenay is taking an important lesson into the new year.

“I’ve learned to work hard and never give up,” she enthuses. “It sounds so cheesy, but I really believe that. When I was 26 years old, I had just moved back to New Zealand after graduating from acting school. I was working as a receptionist and I remember thinking, ‘How am I going to break into this industry? When is it going to happen?’ I look back and I think, ‘Wow, I’ve done really well.'”

Courtenay is looking forward to her three-week summer break more than ever this year. While she had hoped to jet off overseas with her fiancé Chris Read, 31, the exorbitant price of airfares means they are keeping their summer plans simple and will be hitting the road with their car rooftop tent to enjoy Aotearoa’s beautiful beaches.

“I’m feeling exhausted, I’m hanging on by a thread,” Courtenay laughs. “This year has been so crazy that I just really want to get out of Auckland. I want to be by a beach, out in the sun with no lines to go over in my head.”

Here comes the bride! Courtenay’s using the Christmas break with Chris to plan a wedding.

She is also looking forward to getting her wedding plans back on track. After getting engaged at the start of 2020, Courtenay and Chris put their nuptials on hold due to the pandemic. But now that the year is starting to wind down, she hopes she’ll have some free time to plan the celebration.

“The thought of planning a wedding is quite daunting,” she shares. “But we’ve got to the point where we’re like, ‘We really need to do this.’ We will be looking at some venues this summer. Watch this space!”

As she revels in her success, Courtenay admits there is a small part of her that wonders if she’ll ever be able to top this year. But with her determination and drive, she knows there is so much more to come.

“I’m terrified I’ve peaked,” the Bay of Plenty-raised star tells with a laugh. “I was saying to my partner, ‘What if there’s no more?’ There has been so much that has happened this year, what else is there?! I don’t know how I’m going to top it, but I keep reminding myself that this is only the beginning of my journey. I’m so grateful.”

Shortland Street’s one-hour Christmas cliffhanger special screens 7pm Thursday, December 15 on TVNZ 2.

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