We give you a sneak preview behind the scenes of the Shortland Street set, including the hot romances between cast members and a recipe for fake vomit. Read on to learn 10 things you didn't know about Shortland Street...
Eat, Drink and be Merry
Nothing on television is more illusionary than food and drink. That dinner at the Dog's Day Inn Bistro may look delicious on-screen, but chances are it's fake - and if the food is real it's bound to be cold. There's a lot of food eaten on Shortland Street and it's all prepared by the Art Department who have a special kitchen reserved for 'prop food.' The food is made well in advance, so when you see Nick and Wave tucking into a pizza (without pineapple, of course) you can bet it has been sitting on set for a few hours. The actors are given real drinks but only non-alcoholic ones. At parties and bars, low alcohol beer is used for beer, juices of various types are used instead of wine, and the single malt whiskies that Victor and Chris are so fond of are actually flat, watered-down ginger beer or cold tea. Mocktail anyone?
Everybody Loves a Wedding...
A Shorty wedding is always memorable, and no matter how many times a character goes through a disastrous wedding, they'll always come back and try again. Behind the scenes, a Shortland Street wedding requires all the trappings and organisation of a real wedding with cast and crew spending weeks on the dress, the venue, the hair and make-up, the guest list and the speeches. Preparing for a wedding is a lot of fun but the day itself (and it usually takes two or three days to shoot) is far from glamorous. On-screen, the beautiful Spring 2002 marriage of Anne Greenlaw and Victor Kahu took place in a marquee at the Greenlaw's home in Cambridge. In real life, the wedding was filmed over three days in chilly July in a marquee in the carpark of South Pacific Pictures. Emmeline Hawthorne was called for make-up at 5.00am so that she'd be ready for shooting in full wedding regalia at 7.45am.
... and a Baby
The birth of a Shortland Street baby is another big event. Mothers-to-be wear a series of specially made prosthetic stomachs to mimic the stages of pregnancy, and learn to hold themselves like pregnant women. The illusion is so convincing that viewers often ask if the actors are pregnant themselves. After Amber Curreen's realistic portrayal of Shannon's pregnancy, she was asked to take part in a documentary about the experiences of teenage mothers and had to explain that she really didn't have the appropriate experience. As the birth approaches, casting director Marianne Willison is responsible for finding someone to play the newborn baby. She makes contact with Auckland doctors and midwives to find parents-to-be whose baby might be suitable for the role. Callum Campbell-Ross, who plays Toni and Chris's adorable son Harry Warner, was a tiny prem baby when he first appeared as Harry. At first he was one of two babies who shared the role, but after three months (the time that babies become recognisable individuals) Callum was offered the part of Harry full-time. Callum's working conditions are strictly regulated and his mum or another family member always accompanies him to the studios. He's a favourite with the cast and crew, who have seen him learn to walk and talk and his scene-stealing antics have made him popular with viewers.
Off-screen Love & Friendships
Long working hours mean cast and crew get to know each other very well. Many friendships have formed over the years, and there have been a few off-screen romances. Cast-on-cast romances include Temuera Morrison and Angela Dotchin, Martin Henderson and Greer Robson, Blair Strang and Katrina Devine, and Emmeline Hawthorne met her fiance Bailey Mackay when he joined the script department at the Street. Don't be fooled by those passionate Shorty love scenes - real life couple Blaire and Katrina were kept apart onscreen, while David Wikaira-Paul and Amber Curreen, who play Tama and Shannon, have known each other since primary school and are like brother and sister. Friendships formed or developed on set often last the distance. When Shortland Street star Michael Galvin married artist Melissa Dimes earlier this year, his best man was Tim Balme (who played bad boy Greg Feeney) and his MC was Craig Parker (Guy Warner) who Michael had shared a house with for several years. One of Melissa's bridesmaids was her old friend Angela Bloomfield, aka Rachel McKenna, who had introduced Michael to Melissa. Angela, who is expecting her first child, met her husband Chris Houston through close friend Claire Chitham (Waverley Wilson) with whom she shared a dressing room for many years.
Shortland Street is such a slice of Kiwi life that it can be hard to imagine how overseas viewers respond to the show. But some of Shorty's most fanatical fans are in Fiji where the show plays every weeknight at 8pm. Here, the actors get more attention than the big Hollywood stars who regularly unwind at Fiji's world famous resorts. Each year members of the cast are invited to Fiji to meet their fans in what the stars say is the experience of a lifetime. The stars are treated like royalty and mobbed everywhere they go by excited fans. Much as they enjoy the red carpet treatment, after a week or so most cast are glad to get back to a slightly more low key life-style in New Zealand.
Bigger than Ben Hair
Cast members automatically sign away all rights to their hair. Actors wear their character's hairstyle 24 hours a day and because the show is filmed out of sequence, any changes must be very carefully planned. Haircuts are done at the studios every few weeks to keep the hairstyles as consistent as possible. In their private lives, the actors often express their individuality by wearing their hair very differently to their characters. Holidays are an opportunity for clean-shaven actors to grow some stubble, and for bearded actors to get rid of their facial hair. Some actors are asked to go above and beyond the call of duty for the show. When Dominic Warner underwent brain surgery in 2003, actor Shane Cortese had a square shaved in the back of his head and a prosthetic scar. The scar could be removed at the end of the working day, but it took a while for the hair to grow back. Shane took it all in his stride - and wore a hat in public. Anna Hutchison had long hair when she joined Shortland Street in 2002. But her hairstyle didn't suit her tomboyish character Delphi Greenlaw, and Anna sacrificed her locks for a mullet that rivaled Nick Harrison's earlier styles. Delphi has grown-up on screen, and Anna is now enjoying a more sophisticated hairstyle.
Fake Blood, Guts & Vomit
The make-up team is not only responsible for keeping the 20-30 strong cast looking good, they also do all the medical make-up. Scars, bruises, tattoos, open wounds - you name it, they can fake it. Continuity is extremely important so that scars and bruising heal convincingly over a number of days. The make-up team use a fake-blood recipe that includes golden syrup for the right texture. Weetbix and cornflakes are used to create masterful scabs; rice bubbles double as warts or cold sores, honey is convincing as pus, and babies are covered in strawberry jam for shooting birth scenes. In fact, the special effects make-up is often more edible than the prop food. If you've ever wanted to make your own fake vomit, a Shorty favourite is made from canned tropical fruit salad. A quick blend (not too much or you'll lose those chunky bits) and you are ready to go. Savoury vomit is usually chicken soup.
Celebrity guests have been a feature of Shortland Street over the years. Journalists Paul Holmes, Angela D'Audney and Kim Hill have all appeared as themselves, and Fair Go's Kevin Milne memorably busted one of Nick Harrison's dodgier money making attempts. Other notable cameos include supermodel Rachel Hunter, singer Annie Crummer who performed with Nancy Brunning's character Jaki Manu, Suzanne Lynch (of 'The Chicks' and more recently 'NZ Idol'), Che Fu, and alternative NZ music icon Chris Knox. All Blacks Jonah Lomu, Junior Tonuui, Liam Barry, Eric Rush and Frank Bunce have appeared as has cricketer Dipak Patel. And who could forget new MP 'Honest' Marj Brasch (played by Elizabeth McRae) meeting Helen Clark and Jenny Shipley at Parliament.
The Shorty Curse
Over the years, real-life events have coincided in an uncanny way with Shortland Street storylines. Life imitating art? Or simply testament to how good the show is at picking up on the concerns of New Zealanders? What makes the coincidence even more amazing is that storylines for each episode are decided over four months before it is broadcast - and unless there's a major calamity like an actor's illness, they don't change. The phenomenon has become known as the Shortland Streetcurse. Memorable examples include the nurse's strike...
10. Family Ties
The last 3000 episodes have featured some of New Zealand's best acting talent, including a surprising number of members of the same family. Newcomer Calum Gittins, who plays teen heart-throb Jake Valentine, remembers watching his father Paul Gittins star as Shorty's head Michael McKenna in the early years of the show. Now Paul watches his son on screen, in scenes directed by Angela Bloomfield who once played his teenage daughter Rachel McKenna. Emmeline Hawthorne who played the ill-fated Anne Kahu was the second member of the distinguished Hawthorne family to star in Shortland Street. Her mother Elizabeth had played Hospital Head Julia Thornton earlier in the series. Emmeline's father Raymond made a guest appearance late last year as Anne's birth father, the manipulative Rex Treherne. Siblings Rebecca, Katrina, and Chris Hobbs all had starring roles in the series. Chris played Frank Malone, Katrina played Janet Maxwell, and Rebecca achieved a rare double by playing two major characters, Annie Flynn and Kate Larsen.
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