Ria Vandervis grew up in Dunedin, before completing a major in acting at Unitec in Auckland. Moving to Australia after a spell as a Power Rangers villain, she won a recurring role on the second season of Packed To The Rafters, and on police drama Cops LAC. Returning to New Zealand she continued to act in law enforcement; she was Detective Christie Mills in Harry, TV3's acclaimed police drama. Shortland Street's Doctor Harper Whitley was her next role, in 2013. The character initially appeared as best friend of fan favourite Sarah Potts, and continues to be a regular on the series — including doing time as hospital CEO.
It was terrifying. You get chucked in the deep end. We shoot an episode a day, so you've got 20 minutes to do a scene. You just try try get your words right and hit the mark. Ria Vandervis, on the pressures of acting in Shortland Street, to the Otago Daily Times, 18 June 2013
Possibly the longest-brewing wedding on Kiwi television was that of Shortland Street’s Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) and Rachel McKenna (Angela Bloomfield), in February 2014. Between them the couple had overcome stalkers, alcoholism, car crashes, bombs, brain damage, and a total of six prior marriages…but on this occasion there are no last minute objections to interrupt proceedings, just a firm answer to the decades long 'will they, won’t they?' question for the show’s golden couple. Only Grace (Lynette Forday), who is carrying Chris's baby, doesn’t look like she feels the love…
This TV3 drama series follows a troubled Auckland cop (Oscar Kightley). Solo parent to a teenage daughter following his wife’s suicide, Detective Sergeant Harry Anglesea is thrown into a murder investigation and an underworld of P and gang violence. Harry, not a stickler for the rules, marked a rare dramatic turn for Kightley. Sam Neill played his boss. Herald reviewer Paul Casserly called it a “great, gritty crime show”. Written by Kightley, director Chris Dudman and veteran South Auckland detective Neil Grimstone, Harry was notable for using unsubtitled Samoan in prime time.
This first episode of this 2013 crime drama begins with a meth-fuelled bank heist gone very wrong. Harry is a troubled Samoan-Kiwi detective (played by Oscar Kightley, a million miles away from bro' Town) pursuing justice in South Auckland. Sam Neill, in his first role on a Kiwi TV series, plays Harry’s detective buddy. Off the case, Harry struggles with his teen daughter in the wake of his wife’s suicide. The Chris Dudman-directed series screened for a season on TV3. Broadcaster John Campbell tweeted: “Not remotely suitable for kids. But nor are many excellent things.”
Continuing the Shortland Street tradition of packing surprises into its Christmas cliffhangers, the 2013 finale featured kidney transplants, mad doctors, marriage talk for Chris and Rachel, and this unexpected antidote to all the drama: a cast singalong of Mutton Birds classic 'Anchor Me', led by Chris on guitar. Actor Michael Galvin was hardly new to matters musical. In 1990 he won acclaim for a singing/acting role in play Blue Sky Boys. Being Shortland, this moment of tentative bonding as the sun set on the Warner family bach was unlikely to last. Downstairs, a bomb was ticking...
Matt Heath and Chris Strapp dragged their characters from bogan TV series Back of the Y to the big screen for this movie, which follows Randy Cambell's rocket car driven mission to be "New Zealand’s greatest living stuntman". Gross and petrol-fuelled mayhem ensues, as Cambell romances a one-legged female Evil Knievel and fights a family curse. Scott Weinberg (Cinematical) praised this "cross between The Road Warrior, Mad Magazine and Jackass" as "loud, raucous and adorably stupid" when it premiered at US festival South by Southwest in 2007.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.