Meet Shortland Street's hip, young things; a great tradition of the show most notable since the days of Fergus (Paul Ellis), Minnie (Katrina Devine), Rachel (Angela Bloomfield) and everyone's favourite underdog Nick (Karl Burnett) who managed to be so uncool, he was cool.
Vinnie (Pua Magasiva), Li Mei (Li-Ming Hu), Norman (Jacob Tomuri), Maia (Anna Jullienne), Tama (David Wikaira-Paul) and Shannon (Amber Curreen) work at Shortland Street Hospital and live or hang out at groovy flat El Rancho, where all the best parties happen. And now that quirky ex-undertaker Norman has opened a hot bar/restaurant/nightclub called Coltrane, the group have a favourite new watering hole.
So how cool are these characters? This is no Beverley Hills 90210 line-up of rich, blondes with convertibles, but a more vibrant and down-to-earth kiwi mix of cultures and personalities. These cool kids have serious jobs, care about their patients (in the case of Vinnie, Li Mei and Maia), colleagues, friends and family and have all over come obstacles and learned from their mistakes. But they are also witty, fun and spontaneous. They throw parties, play practical jokes, have complicated love lives, they stress about boy/girlfriends, best friends, what to do with their lives and what to wear to parties. What more could you want in a group of friends?
Li Mei Chen is intelligent, driven and has a cutting, but often witty, way with words. Viewers love the way she says the things we all wish we had the effrontery to. She's an extremely ambitious young doctor who is good at her job, and her dress sense is eclectic but notably edgy. She's a complete individual who viewers enjoy - sometimes is a 'love to hate' way. Li Mei's relationship with handsome undertaker-come-barman Norman brings out her softer side. The couple is a favourite among younger viewers.
In real life, Li-Ming claims not to be cool, but she has plenty of rock 'n' roll credibility having put out two albums in 2003 with her hip band the Tokey Tones. She used to have a regular spot on Mikey Havoc's cult bFM breakfast show and is a regular invitee to sought-after events, from Fashion Week shows to film premieres. Like her character, Li-Ming has an academic side and has a MA in History from the University of Auckland.
Vinnie Kruse is definitely cool. He's Shortland Street's male nurse and a confirmed ladies man - although he has yet to bounce back completely from his failed love affair with Shannon. Vinnie's little black book is legendary - it's so comprehensive that Vinnie's even used it to try to hook up his lesbian flatmate Maia. Vinnie's a DJ who loves nothing better than to be playing music for his friends, and some good looking women. He's sure to be a regular at Coltrane.
Pua Magasiva often describes Vinnie as spookily similar to himself. Pua is as exuberant, and full of life as his on-screen alter ego, and yes, he is very popular with women. His talent and good looks run in the family - Pua's older brother Robbie was the heart throb of TV3's 'The Strip.' Pua was a finalist in the 2004 Cleo Celebrity Bachelor of the Year, losing to fellow cast member Jacob Tomuri (plays Norman) with whom he shares a dressing room. The two heart throbs also went to high school together.
On the surface, Maia Jeffries is probably more nerdy than cool. She's a lovely, warm nurse who's very good at her job, but less successful in her private life. Since her girlfriend Jay left town, Maia has been on a few dates, but nothing has quite worked for her. She's a babe, and often attracts attention from men, most recently new hunk Mark Weston (Tim Foley). Maia's the sensible one in El Rancho and is always ready to dish out relationship advice - even if sometimes her flatmates don't want to hear it!
At 21 years-old, actor Anna Jullienne is a relative newcomer to the show but has already made her mark. She's gorgeous, bubbly and warm, and completely un-phased at playing a lesbian character, saying she thinks it gives Maia an interesting edge. And there's nothing that makes a girl cooler to the male viewers than playing a drop dead gorgeous lesbian.
NormanHanson is about to transform himself from quirky undertaker to the owner and operator of Ferndale's hippest new bar, Coltrane. Norman's popularity lie in being the quintessential nice guy who draws the line when it matters. Viewers have also enjoyed seeing the relationship between Norman and ice-queen Li Mei develop. They love his ability to see through her off-putting defences and understand how she really feels. Norman and Vinnie are also good friends.
Actor Jacob Tomuri holds the coveted title of Cleo Celebrity Bachelor of the Year as voted by readers, who seemed to respond to his nice guy character and his well-toned body, developed through his love of martial arts and stunt work. Jacob was a stunt man on several of the Lord of the Rings movies. In real life he's a lovely guy who is likes nothing better than to hang out with good food, good wine and good friends - and maybe a guitar or some turntables. He's close to his family and has a tattoo that is the name of a beloved sister who died when she was only two and a half years old. You don't get much cooler than that.
Shannon Te Ngaru isn't strictly cool - she's a young woman from a disadvantaged background who has survived tragedy and heartache (including a teenage pregnancy, the death of her baby and a suicide attempt) to make a successful life for herself as the co-owner of a small business (the hospital cafeteria). Plus she's a Uni student - studying to be a social worker. She's had love affairs with two of the hottest men on the show, Tama and Vinnie, and is one half of the show's most popular couple, Tama and Shannon. Shannon does have her cool side, though. As a budding fashion designer, she created a range of rebellious T-shirts that sold like hotcakes. She's a great friend and enjoys a good night out with the rest of the gang.
Actor Amber Curreen is a remarkable 19-year old. Her street cred was confirmed recently when she was asked to be Pulp magazine's cover girl and she showed her sexy side in a 2003 billboard campaign featuring Tama and Shannon. Amber was a peer support counselor at school and is studying psychology by correspondence - doing many of the same papers that would be part of Shannon's sociology degree. She manages to be both an A student and a terrifically talented actress, fearlessly tackling storylines that would daunt more experienced actors. Shannon was originally written as a short-term character, but Amber created such a buzz that she is now a core cast member. How cool is that?
Tama Hudson could lay claim to being the coolest character on Shortland Street. Certainly actor David Wikaira-Paul gets the most fan mail of any cast member. As a character Tama is a great combination. He's a young man who loves his family, loves Shannon and works hard at his job. And he's a talented musician, DJ and chef. He can be sensible and serious and his problems are real rather than being trivial teenage anxieties, but he's also young, spontaneous and full of energy. He appeals hugely to young viewers - and to their parents who hope everything will work out for him. Tama's relationship with Shannon has been one of the key relationships of the past year, with viewers hoping for a happy ending.
Wikaira-Paul is one of the stars of Shortland Street. He's a
hugely charismatic young man, who is adored by the show's
fans. David impressed with his star quality when he and his
hip hop crew performed on TV2's marathon live music weekend
'National Anthem' earlier this year. He can sing, dance, play
the guitar and his popularity saw him voted Girlfriend Magazine's
spunk of the year at the end of 2003. There's no question
that the public see David as cool, but these days he's just as
happy to hang out at home with his girlfriend and their new born
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