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Shortland Street

Weeknights at 7pm | TV2

The Name Game

TK (Ben Mitchell) and Sarah (Amanda Billing) in Shortland Street on TV2

Hone Ropata, Maia Jeffries, Joey Henderson, Chris Warner....ask any Kiwi what these names remind them of, and nine times out of ten, they will answer ‘Shortland Street’.

But did you know that Chris Warner was originally called Chris Perry? Or that Maxwell Avia was initially called Maxwell Novak?

Choosing the names of the characters is a big responsibility and one that the storylining team at Shortland Street take very seriously.

We take a look at all the things that need to be considered when deciding on the names that will become part of Shortland Street history.

1. When the character is originally created, they are given a working name. This is based on where the character might come from, their nationality, their socio-economic background and what other names are already being used amongst the characters of the show. These can be decided upon by combining the names of people that the storyliners know, reading the newspaper, or going through name books.

2. Once the name has been agreed upon, a name check is done through the South Pacific Pictures legal department. To get approval on a name, it must either be extremely common in NZ (ie Jane Smith) or no other New Zealander has that combination of first and second names.

3. Once an actor has been cast in the role, names can be changed again based on the looks and nationality of the actor. When Robbie Magasiva turned up for an audition for the role of Dr Maxwell Novak, it was clear that if he got the role, the character’s surname would have to be changed as Novak wouldn’t relate to Robbie’s nationality. From there, the creation of names for characters associated with Maxwell Avia was dictated by the fact that they too would be of Samoan descent.

4. Often the storyliners will work through the alphabet if there are too many names that start with the same letter. For example, with a Brooke, Bree and a Bella in the core cast at the moment, the odds of another girl character with a name starting with ‘B’ turning up are not high. (That said, we do have a male character coming up that has a ‘B’ name!) The storyliners are also constrained by characters that have already been on the show. It would be silly to have another character called Hone arrive in Ferndale when the old once is still so memorable!

5. The storylining team also have to be careful of making clear distinctions between the character and people associated with an actor in real life. For example, baby Tillie Potts was originally called Millie, but it was thought too close to actor Ben Mitchell’s real life daughter, Mila so it was changed to Tillie.

6. The storyliners also keep an eye on trends in names in NZ and around the world. Phoenix Raynor is name that was based on a ‘trend’ occurring in the early 90’s.

So, the next time a new character arrives on the show, spare a thought for the effort that goes into deciding their name! And watch to see if it’s a name that will be ‘world famous in Ferndale!’

Strange Premonitions

Interestingly, the storyliners have had many experiences over the years where they give a character a name and then an actor with that name coincidentally turns up within the next six months to play another role. Examples in include –

Character - Brooke Freeman, actor Brooke Williams (character, Lana Jacobs)
Character - Toni Warner, actor Toni Potter (character, Alice Piper)
Character – TK Samuels , actor TK Tuhaka (character, Kingi Te Wake)
Character  - Henare Ngatai, actor George Henare (who’s mother’s name was also Ngatia)
Character – Kieran Mitchell, actor Kieran Hutchinson (character, Jonathon McKenna)
Character – Rachel McKenna, actor Rachel Blampied (character, Bree Hamilton)
Character - Gerald Tippet, actor Gerald Urquhart (character, Luke Durville)
Character - Harry Warner, actor Harry McNaughton (character, Gerald Tippett)
Character – Jacqui (IV bar staff), actor Jacqui Nairn (character, Wendy Cooper)

Sometimes silly names do get thrown up around the table.  The storylining team were very tempted to call an overweight patient Emile Fetu and the agoraphobic patient Heidi.

When Sarah’s dream man arrived on the show, they joked about wanting to name him Mr Slee-awesome - just so that when they married Sarah would become Sarah Slee-awesome.   

Drag queen names are also fun to come up with, and Mika played drag queen Lydia-Lunchbox.

Celebrating 20 years of drama on Shortland Street