“Being Blown Up Trying to Save the Staff of Shortland Street at the Warner Xmas Party? Now THAT’S an Exit!” Shorty’s Biggest Stars on Their Big Death Scenes – The Aftermath, the Goodbyes & the Weird Public Interactions

A massive happy 30th birthday to everyone’s favourite Kiwi soap – yup, it’s been three whole decades since Dr Ropata was informed he was, in fact, NOT in Guatemala anymore and yes, that does make ALL of us feel old. And then there’s the Shortland St death scenes.

But along with Waverley and Marj, you can’t think of Shortland Street without the iconic death scenes that sent the nation into mourning – the deranged Joey Henderson, the ‘Ferndale Strangler’ throwing himself off a roof after being unmasked as the show’s serial killer; beloved fan favourite Roimata Ngatai sacrificing herself to save everyone from a bomb at Chris Warner’s bach; mum-of-the-show Wendy Cooper succumbing to a brain haemorrhage after being shot; and the evil Dominic Thompson who died following an attempt on his half-brother-but-not-really Chris’ life. After all, there’s nothing like a Shortland St death!

Capsule spoke to the actors of these iconic characters – Johnny Barker (Joey); Shavaughn Ruakere (Roimata); Jacqueline Nairn (Wendy) and Shane Cortese (Dominic) about their incredible death scenes and the impact they had on Kiwi pop culture history.

Shavaughn Ruakere – Nurse Roimata Ngatai 2011-2013

Your character had an incredible arc – what was it like saying goodbye to her in such dramatic fashion? 

My last scene on Shorty was me playing dead. Problem was I kept crying. The poor makeup ladies had to keep running in to wipe tears away from my supposedly dead corpse. Then, (thankfully for them, not so much for me) I was zipped up into a bodybag. Haha, just a little confronting! I remember the studio feeling quieter than usual. Like even though none of it is real, everyone had respect for the fact that we’re filming a death scene. It felt quite beautiful to me…silently crying in my body bag. 
Did you like your Shortland St death? Would you have done anything differently? 

 Shavaughn Ruakere
Shavaughn Ruakere

Being blown up by a bomb trying to save the staff of Shortland Street at the Warner family Christmas party? Now that’s an exit! I loved that Roimata got to be a part of a Christmas Cliffhanger. Roimata got to be a heroine in the end as well. It felt like a good ending for her. 

When you look back on your time on the show, what’s the most enduring memory? 

Just how much I appreciate being a part of the show. Shorty is an incredible training ground for Kiwis in the film and TV industry. Just yesterday I was filming another show and there were so many ex-Shorty crew on set with me and in the makeup room! It’s a rite of passage kind of place and I learnt so much there. Happy 30th Shorty. To many more years entertaining Aotearoa!

“It felt quite beautiful to me…silently crying in my body bag.” 

Shavaughn Ruakere

Johnny Barker – Nurse Joey Henderson (2007-2008)

Joey was, without doubt, one of THE most iconic characters the show has had – what was it like finally seeing him get what he deserved?

In the beginning when i was cast, I was told, ‘think JD from Scrubs,’ so playing goofball, nice guy “Joey” was a really fun place to start. Ending up brutally murdering seven characters is one hell of a place to finish. In terms of going out in a dramatic fashion, it was a really satisfying way to wrap it all up for me! 

Johnny Barker
Johnny Barker

What happened after your character died? How did fans react?  

I think there was a bit of a raucous disbelief. We pushed the boat out and everyone was generally shocked and satisfied. The fan reactions really spanned the gamut, some people loved it, some people hated it and everyone loved telling me about it!

Did you have any strange fan moments afterwards?  

Nope, not a single one. [Wink.]

Were you prepared for the reaction that happened following your character’s death?  

I wasn’t quite prepared for how people would react. Thank GOD social media wasn’t really a thing then. It’s still nice to hear when some Shorty fans tell me they think it was the greatest storyline. 

Did you like your death? Would you have done anything differently?  

I loved it. The filmmakers and cast did a great job. We actually shot a camera angle from above as I was dropped by a crane five stories to the ground but it was considered too graphic so it wasn’t used on TV. That’s the only thing, I would’ve done differently – included that shot.  

Shane Cortese – Dominic Thomson (2003-2005)

Dominic Thompson Shortland St
Dom met a fiery end – fitting for one of the most iconic villains Shortland St has seen

What was it like saying goodbye to Dominic in such dramatic fashion?  

As much as I enjoyed the regular work, the storyline, the cast and the crew, Shorty can’t let an evil character win, it’s morally wrong. So, I was ready to say goodbye.

Shane Cortese
Shane Cortese

What happened after your character died? How did fans react?  

I think they were pretty happy, it would have been exhausting for them LOL!! 

Did you have any strange fan moments afterwards?  

None whatsoever, if someone talked to me about Dom I talked about him in the third person. There was no crossover. I also went onto the first season of Dancing with the Stars pretty quickly afterwards where people go to know me as Shane, so it was a little easier.

Did you like your Shortland St death? Would you have done anything differently?  

The death was great, the writing was great and I got to hang out with Michael [Galvin], who is one of my best mates.

When you look back on your time on the show, what’s the most enduring memory?  

Two handed scenes with Mike on a Friday afternoon to complete a week, doing scenes with Anna Hutchinson after she had coffee with sugar in it! And walking down the halls [of the studio] and seeing pictures of a who’s-who of NZ telly.

“Six years was long enough in lavender scrubs!”

Jacqueline Nairn

Jacqueline Nairn – Nurse Wendy Cooper (2010-2016)

Wendy Cooper
Wendy’s daughter Bella saying goodbye to her mum

Wendy was such a stalwart of the show for so long – what was it like saying goodbye to her after a a famed Christmas Cliffhanger?

There’s no coming back from getting shot through the heart and then having a brain bleed on the operating table … so I knew that it was the final goodbye for Wendy Cooper. By the time it got to filming those scenes I’d had a few months to get used to the idea … plus I had the new plan of training to be a director on the horizon which was super exciting and I was so ready for a new adventure. Six years was long enough in lavender scrubs!

Jacqueline Nairn
Jacqueline Nairn

What people outside the building don’t know … is that when it’s your last scene at Shorty, it’s usually shot last thing on a Friday and the cast and crew, your family and friends (that can keep secrets) all gather outside the studio to watch on monitors, and the scheduling department choose a scene to be your last that is usually with the actors that you’ve worked most closely with. When the director calls cut for the last time … the studio doors open and all the people you love flood onto the set clapping and cheering. It’s like being wrapped in a huge cocoon of love and support and lots of people say lovely things and you get to say goodbye to people that have become like family. And I threw a huge party myself which didn’t wrap up till three in the morning!

What happened after your Shortland St death? How did fans react?  

I was completely overwhelmed with how heartbroken the fans were… I guess they’d got used to her feisty but fiercely loving character and she was the mum of the show at the time. Six years after that cliffhanger, I still get people messaging me online or stopping me on the street telling me how much they miss Wendy and the Coopers. It’s really touching and means the world that our divine pretend family made such an impact. 

Did you have any strange fan moments afterwards?  

No, just an overwhelming outpouring of love and ‘why did they have to kill Wendy’!  

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