TelevisionMay 26, 2022

Who is the most successful Shortland Street alumnus of all time? 


Robbie or Robyn? Marton or Martin? The Spinoff writers argue their cases for Ferndale’s biggest success story. 

To celebrate Shortland Street’s 30th birthday, we are dedicating a whole week to the good (and not-so-good) people of Ferndale. Check out more Street Week content here.

Here in Aotearoa, we love nothing more than seeing one of our own do well on the international stage, allowing us all to bask in the glory for a moment before we start a low grumble that they’ve gotten a bit up themselves lately. Just this week, film-maker Taika Waititi was listed as one of Time’s top 100 influential people of the year, which is something we can all pat ourselves on the back for. Other recent success stories to have made waves internationally include Lorde, Dug the potato and of course Sir Edmund Hillary. 

Alas, we don’t have a Hollywood Walk of Fame, aside from this weird thing in Ōrewa that seems to be micro-managed by everyone’s favourite Austin Powers impersonator. But if we did, there is no question that it would be stacked to the gills with Ferndale’s finest. Over 30 years, Shortland Street has produced some of our brightest show-business stars, who’ve gone on to shed their scrubs and dazzle the rest of the world. But who’s the most dazzling Shorty star of all? Allow us to plead our cases in The Spinoff court. 

The case for Martin Henderson

One achievement we don’t celebrate nearly enough as a nation is Martin Henderson’s long career as a genuine grade-A Hollywood hunk. His progression from local teen heartthrob Stuart Neilson in the early years of Shortland Street to hunky characters in internationally renowned shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Virgin River happened so organically we took it for granted. But with career highlights including roles as Britney Spears’ love interest in the ‘Toxic’ video and Mr Darcy (a premium hunk/heartthrob character if ever there was one) in Bride and Prejudice, it’s clear Henderson is in a class of his own when it comes to New Zealand actors on the world stage. / Calum Henderson (no relation)

The case for Thomasin McKenzie

What were you doing at 21? Had you already worked with Jane Campion, Taika Waititi, Edgar Wright and M Night Shyamalan? Had you popped up in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Esquire and Elle? Had you been tipped for an Oscar? And do you owe it all to little old Ferndale? Well congratulations, because that can only mean you are one Thomasin McKenzie, critical darling of the last few years and Timothee Chalamet red carpet support person. First appearing on the Street as Pixie at the age of 14, McKenzie was dealt an acting boss challenge – her character found out she was dying of cancer. From there, McKenzie would go on to play a Jewish girl forced into hiding in World War II, a tortured fashion designer and a child forced to live her entire life in one day on a haunted beach. May I suggest a breezy rom-com next, Tom? / Alex Casey

The case for Frankie Adams

I’m making the case for Frankie Adams, who played Ula on Shortland Street from 2010-2014, based on one role and one role alone: Bobbie Draper on The Expanse. Do you watch The Expanse? Possibly not – it’s on Amazon Prime Video, which is not exactly our biggest streaming service – but The Expanse has a massive fanbase, and it’s been rumoured to have been continually picked up on the streaming service (after being cancelled by its original network, SyFy) due to being Jeff Bezos’s personal passion project. So not only does Adams have the upside of being on her CEO’s passion project, she’s on a show whose stars people will turn out to conventions for decades to see. What does that sound like to you? Money, free accommodation, a constant stream of benignly loyal fans. That’s success to me. / Sam Brooks

The case for Temuera Morrison

Shortland Street’s original hunk, Temuera Morrison is almost too big to even be featured on this list. It feels like dragging up high school yearbooks to even suggest that he be associated with or remembered as a star of Shorty. Instead, Morrison has built a millions-strong global fanbase as Jango and his clones, including Boba Fett in Disney’s smash hit show The Book of Boba Fett. Of course he’s one of, if not the, most successful actors to ever grace our small screens. But he doesn’t belong on this list, he belongs to Comic-Con now. / Madeleine Chapman

The case for Rose McIver

According to IMDB, Rose McIver was in The Piano. Judge, jury and public gallery, I rest my case! But seriously, McIver’s had a career that any actor would break legs for. After appearing on Shortland Street in the early 90s at the tender age of four as Holly, she’s had an incredible run since breaking out in The Lovely Bones. There’s the warmly received series (iZombie), the popular recurring role on a massive show (Tinker Bell on Once Upon a Time) the dream fluff role in a series of wholesome Netflix films (A Christmas Prince), and she is currently starring on two series receiving much critical acclaim (Woke, Ghosts). But most excitingly? A role in the upcoming “Untitled Blastoise spinoff” project (according to Wikipedia). Water gun me in the face, Squirtle, because I’m seeing that on opening weekend! / SB

The case for Robbie Magasiva

Yes, he’s a successful Sāmoan actor who paved the way for many Pasifika in the field, featuring in New Zealand’s box-office record-breaker Sione’s Wedding and heading across the ditch to star in the Australian award-winning drama Wentworth, but I don’t think people appreciate Robbie Magasiva’s greatest achievement – moving from the summer-all-round nation of Sāmoa to windy Wellington at such a young age. People shouldn’t underestimate the difficulty of trying to keep a lavalava from blowing off you in the capital. Magasiva says that for a long time, when he’d land at Wellington airport, he’d pretend he was smoking because it was that cold. If that wasn’t enough to impress you, Magasiva’s character Dr Maxwell Avia (2009-2012) was the first Sāmoan head of department for the emergency department at Shortland Street. We all love them “breaking the glass ceiling” stories, right? / Sela Jane Hopgood

The case for Karl Urban

Hollywood has worked so hard to make Karl Urban happen. Lord of the Rings! Star Trek! Doom! Judge Dredd! With that IMDb list, Urban should be the biggest action star in the world. Somehow he isn’t, but the fact that Hollywood wants him to be surely propels him to the top of this list. We as a nation just want to be wanted. And everybody wants Karl Urban. / MC

The case for Marton Csokas

You can keep your Karl Urbans, your Frankie Adamses and your Temuera Morrisons. My pick for MVP in the Shorties multiverse is someone who has a resume far longer than many restaurant menus. He’s played Charles Kingsleigh, Lord Celeborn and Young Stefan Gold. He’s been in Æon Flux, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and The Bourne Supremacy. He is Marton Csokas, and he’s been in probably nearly every movie and TV show you’ve watched over the past two decades. That’s because anyone needing someone to play a weathered hitman from a far-flung eastern European country with an accent of undetermined origin asks Csokas to do it. He is your man. He is the man. “He often plays villainous roles,” says his Wikipedia page. Ain’t that the truth. / Chris Schulz

The case for Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran, the hugely successful British pop star, appeared on little old Shortland Street on June 23, 2014. His one scene was alongside an unknown actor by the name of KJ Apa (what’s he up to these days?). The pair do some acting, kind of, do some guitaring, and Sheeran says “bro”.  That short scene aired just three days after the release of Sheeran’s second album X (confusingly pronounced “multiply” and not like the letter x). That album would go onto dominate the global charts, sell over 4.4 million copies in one year, and spawn a massive world tour. Coincidence? Or a direct result of a slightly uncomfortable one minute cameo on Shorty? I’m just asking questions. / Stewart Sowman-Lund

The case for KJ Apa

If we’re just looking at numbers, our KJ has over 18 MILLION FOLLOWERS on Instagram. Can you even IMAGINE being that famous?!?! Apa graced Ferndale as Kane Jenkins from 2013-2015, before scoring the role of a lifetime as Archie in a small, underground Netflix series called Riverdale. Also, his uncle is Michael Jones, which surely has to count for something. Eighteen million followers!!!!!! / AC

The case for Robyn Malcolm

Come on. She’s Cheryl West. She’s Ellen Crozier. She has the most speaking lines of any woman in the Lord of the Rings [citation needed, exaggeration possible] series. This is a no-brainer, she could’ve ended her career 10 years ago and still be one of our most successful, beloved actors. In the last decade, she’s had a wealth of meaty roles – mostly on Australian telly, which speaks badly of ours – and has been a pro-union face when it wasn’t popular to be so. She’s a legend, living in the flesh. / SB

The case for Paul Reid

Sorry to all the lovely and talented alum who have gone on to wildly successful careers in the creative industries, but the horrible truth is Paul Reid is more successful than any of you. His career took a different trajectory after playing wayward teen Marshall Heywood in the early 2000s – instead of finding fame as an actor he mastered our national sport of house flipping, earning over $4m selling 70-plus homes in 2013 alone. In a country with a whole industry devoted to encouraging people to become obnoxious landlords, he may be our most prominently obnoxious, with a merciless approach to his hospo tenants during the early stages of the pandemic and lately even bagging venues in his own building on social media for using vaccine passes (“not punk”, somehow). Despite his immense wealth, he still finds time to syphon NZ On Air money into his terrible new band, which is suspiciously successful in random places like Madison, Wisconsin and Putin’s Russia, and which has minted the world’s least popular NFTs. Most impressively, he seems to have been on the better side of a deal with real-life cartoon villain Peter Thiel, the tech cyborg who helped get Trump elected and bankrupted Gawker to settle a score. The luxurious lair they traded has increased in value far less (just 42%) than the NZ market (up 145%) since Thiel bought it in 2011. Face it: real-life Paul Reid is somehow even more villainous than the villain he played on Shorty, and an absolute winner at the “make as much money as possible” game. / Duncan Greive

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Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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