Moving to the bright lights of Hollywood has been a dream come true for Kiwi actor Jono Kenyon.
But his new home in Los Angeles has come with a bittersweet twist – leaving behind the love of his life Stephanie Kennard.
Yet despite the challenges, their long-distance love has endured and on a brief visit home to New Zealand in between auditions, the former Step Dave star, 28, looks as smitten as ever with his girlfriend of five years.
"Steph is very genuine in her approach to life," he smiles. "It's easy to get stuck in the nonsense in this culture we live in, especially in our generation with social media and also living in LA. For Steph, she'll never fall into that trap – she's very pure and honest. I love that about her."
The lovebirds met at a winery party, with Jono noticing Steph several times throughout the evening before finally plucking up the courage to introduce himself.
The English-born, NZ-raised actor recalls, "My opening line was, 'What are you looking for?' because she'd been walking around so much, I thought she was looking for something. I was hoping she would say, 'You!' She didn't, but we carried on talking and the rest is history."
However, Steph, who runs her own creative digital agency, adds they haven't exactly had a fairytale ride when it comes to their relationship.
"We're the exception to the story of falling in love instantly – it took us a while," the Aucklander confesses. "To me, if you fall in love instantly, you miss a lot. There's a bigger chance that you're going to fall off the edge and things are going to mess up.
"We just built it up quite strongly over the course of a year and a half, and had a really good ground of friendship. We have really good communication."
But when Jono moved to the States over two years ago, initially the pair decided to break up and focus on their own separate lives.
"He started his LA career when I was going all-out with my business, so we each had passions outside of ourselves, which were distractions," tells Steph.
"We tried to go our own way in the beginning and it didn't work because we kept getting together. I would be travelling and think, 'Oh, it's just a couple of hundred dollars extra to go to LA on my way home.'
"And then he would come back to New Zealand for something and we were just drawn to each other."
Nodding, Jono adds, "In the end, the distance made our relationship stronger. The thing with a long-distance relationship is that we both have to have something to care about outside of the relationship. It can't be everything – you can be an individual within your couple. That's why we're here together today."
Currently, Steph is trying to travel to LA every six weeks, but they have been separated for up to three months. Her support has been important to Jono as he faces an uncertain future and tricky auditions in the sometimes heartless world of Hollywood.
Kiwi fans caught sight of him recently during a guest role in local drama 800 Words and while he's had a few small parts in the US, booking jobs has been a struggle without permanent residency.
"You can have one or no auditions, or you can have six a week," he explains. "There was one audition that I had this pilot season where the producers ended up wanting me and I was very close to getting it until the studios blocked it.
"There was a lot of panic over visas because they didn't want to spend a whole lot of money on me and book a six-year deal if I can't renew my green card. It's positive but also frustrating."
While his future in Hollywood is unclear, one thing Jono can always count on is Steph. They celebrated their fifth anniversary on July 4, Independence Day in the US, which the lovebirds have renamed "No Longer Independent Day".
It's clear the 10,500km that usually separates this pair doesn't faze them, with Jono concluding, "We're not the most sentimental couple. The only rule is that I have to pick her up from the airport!"
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