Shortland Street has a talented newcomer this week and Lionel Wellington has already rigged up a role on the show for his real-life girlfriend.
Wellington’s first major role was in the New Zealand film The Dark Horse, the inspiring true story based on the life of charismatic, little-known speed chess hero Genesis Potini.
“It was surreal working alongside such great talent at such a young age — actors like Kirk Torrance, James Rolleston, Xavier Horan, and my ultimate all-time favorite Cliff Curtis. They are all great examples of this industry and I hope one day to be able to fill shoes as big as theirs,” Wellington, 16, told Spy.
The Auckland-born-and-bred star couldn’t believe his luck when he got the role of troubled teen Leroy.
“I have grown up watching Shorty Street, so to actually join the cast is mind-blowing. I feel like I have known these people my whole life.
“I remember on my first day, I was on location, which was a big deal on its own, but then meeting Michael Galvin was one of the biggest privileges of my life. I was trying really hard to remember to call him Michael, not Chris!”
After a rough patch with his family, Leroy decides to live on the street: “He thinks he is pure ‘gangsta’, but deep down, he is a funny, sensitive soul who’s more bravado than badass.
“Leroy takes a moment to fit in to find trust again, but I am loving the opportunity of playing the character as I think he and I are quite similar. We both have big hearts, we both share a mutual love for whanau and we are definitely not afraid to say what is on our minds.”
Lionel with girlfriend Sam Tipene-Rapana.
Wellington is stoked his girlfriend Sam Tipene-Rapana will be making a brief appearance on the show in an upcoming episode. The pair met at a traditional Maori weaponry fighting expo last year.
Wellington says he is balancing the challenge of juggling school, his hobbies and filming commitments.
“I am finding ways to make everything work . . . I make sure I plan my week and the more experienced cast members are giving me some great tips on how to juggle the line learning and everything that goes with Shortland Street.”