Westside’s Todd Emerson on what it was like having his husband Kip Chapman join the cast

The creative duo are now living the dream in Sydney, but they both agree about missing one thing in particular about New Zealand...

They live together, play together, travel together and work together, but this season’s Westside is the first time actor Todd Emerson and husband Kip Chapman have ever acted together.

And while Todd, 35, is a veteran of the hit Three show as criminal Bjelke “Bilkey” van Heeder, it’s a first for Kip, 38, who is fiercely passionate about his role of Will, a doctor who has HIV.

Set in the ’80s, it’s a time filled with homophobia and his character is unable to practise medicine because of the virus, and Kip hopes audiences will see how backwards thinking New Zealand was at the time.

“We haven’t gone far enough yet, but we should definitely celebrate our successes and honour those who fought for those successes,” he asserts.

The actors as Will (right) and Bilkey on Westside, where Todd says, “Both of our characters flirted quite a bit, so that was enjoyable!”

“The generation before us fought for our right to wed, and Todd and I got married and we acknowledge their effort.”

The creative duo plays an on-screen couple, with Bilkey looking after Will. It was an experience they both relished.

“It was so great to have him around,” Todd enthuses. “I felt quite proud of having Kip there because he was doing such a fantastic job and it was also fun being able to show him what it was like after years of telling him stories about the people on set. It was like having a ‘bring your husband to work’ day!”

Kip agrees, “I think the exact same thing. It was neat to meet the cast and crew, and see how Todd works in the great machine of a set, and how confident and good at his job he is.”

Todd and Kip faced a fair amount of drama on set.

Of course, it was natural for the husbands to play a couple. Kip and Todd were first introduced by fellow actor Fleur Saville in 2005. Friends at first, they dated on and off, and have now lived together for more than 10 years.

And in April 2016, they got hitched at Port Waikato School Camp in front of 140 family and friends.

“Everyone turned up on the Friday night and helped us make the wedding,” recalls Todd.

“Then our guests stayed in dormitories and we had a big party on the Saturday before they helped pack up in the rain on the Sunday.”

Kip adds, “It was all hands on deck. Everyone had a role to play to make it happen. My mum made the chocolate slice and Todd’s dad cooked the ham!”

It was another adventure for the loved-up couple, who took the stage show Hudson and Halls Live! around the country and Australia after it debuted in 2015.

They’re rightly proud of the popular production, which was co-created by Kip, and both have acted in it at various times. It tells the story of iconic chefs Peter Hudson and David Halls, who were famous for their spats and sparring on Kiwi screens in the ’70s and ’80s.

“We got to work together on a show that did pretty well,” says Kip modestly. “It helped bring Peter and David back into the nation’s consciousness, which was pretty great.”

The pair also spent months travelling around the world last year – and their adventures featured in the Woman’s Day Travel pages. The highlight for the couple was a 900km walk across the top of Spain. The famous Camino de Santiago follows a route through spectacular historic sites and mountain villages, and took five weeks to complete. “It was an incredible experience,” gushes Kip.

Since then, they’ve flown across the ditch to live in Sydney because they wanted to expand their horizons and experience new things.

“A lot of our friends are having children at the moment and there’s a big chapter change within our generation, so it was nice for us to do something different as well,” explains Todd.

“We’ve just done another season of Hudson and Halls Live!, which went really well, Kip has some shows in the making and I did an episode of Aussie series The Letdown. We’re getting out there and auditioning and we’ll see what happens next.”

But while they’re living the dream, they both agree about missing one thing in particular about New Zealand – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“Australia’s an incredibly conservative country and their policies are just so backward, particularly when it comes to climate change,” shares Todd.

“Every Australian we meet wishes that Jacinda was the prime minister here!”

Having female leaders is something both Kip and Todd believe is very important.

“Everything is about role models,” says Kip. “With Jenny Shipley, Helen Clark and Jacinda Ardern all serving as prime minister means girls now know in their bones what they can do.

“And the same goes for gays in sport – the more and more visibility we have, the less it becomes a thing. I’m really looking forward to the first gay All Black coming out!”

Todd pipes up, “Or the first Black Cap!”

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