When best mates Tim Balme and Shane Cortese first met in the Bay, fame was several years - and video rentals - away.
Tim Balme and Shane Cortese might be two of New Zealand's best-known actors, but they are also best mates - their friendship was cemented 27 years ago when they met, as teenagers, in a Tauranga video store.
Balme, 43, made his movie debut in Peter Jackson's 1992 "splatter" movie, Braindead. He has since gone on to star in, and script, numerous television shows and last year became head of development at South Pacific Television.
Cortese, 42, known for roles in Shortland Street and Outrageous Fortune and for his stint on Dancing With The Stars, will next month lead a cycling tour of Vietnam to raise money for Variety, the Children's Charity. He has the lead role in Balme's new made-for-telly sitcom, The Brown Brothers.
The pair are currently appearing in TV3's The Almighty Johnsons, which Balme co-wrote.
Tim on Shane
I met Shane in 1984. I was working weekends in my cousin's shop, The Video Station, on the corner of Eleventh Ave and Cameron Rd. This was when videos were new; there was still a choice between VHS and Beta, DVDs hadn't been invented and computers were not part of mainstream retail. So, yes, this was definitely last century. Business was brisk and Shane became the second hired helper.
He was a great guy even then and often had my back when things were bleary on a Sunday morning. The main thing I remember was that he played cricket (he used to wear one of those white cricket jumpers a lot), was blond and well-dressed - and I was none of those things.
Then I left town for Wellington and we lost touch. It turns out he ended up in Palmerston North (guess he must have sinned in a former life). Many years went by and I'd forgotten his last name. So when Shane Bond appeared on the NZ cricket scene I assumed for a long time they were the same person. And I thought 'good old Shane! Bloody well-deserved'.
That is until our Shane Cortese arrived on Shortland Street. He proved then and has, ever since, that he's a fine actor and it's been a joy to watch him inhabit a variety of roles. He's a consummate professional who brings an X-factor to his work with minimum fuss. He's ambitious without being ruthless and his comic timing is masterful.
Shane on Tim
It was a Saturday morning when I met Tim in the video store. I knew who he was - everyone knew who he was. Handsome, talented, alternative head boy of Otumoetai College. He was the lead singer of an aspiring rock band - unfortunately in the era that introduced us to New Wave, synthesizers and electronic drum machines.
It was the era of Video Killed the Radio Star, so getting a job at the shop was pretty cool. Tim and I worked the weekend shift. He was the boss - a result of him being both head boy and a year older than me. But yes, he was cool. All his mates were cool as well. I remember one, a goth, coming into the store and proudly showing Tim the scratch marks on his back earned courtesy of a girl from the Mount.
Tim was well-loved, respected and widely known for his artistic skills. I can remember him doing a one-man play and thinking how brilliant this guy must be to stand on stage and do that by himself. I wanted to do what Tim was doing and now, 30 years on, I not only do what Tim was doing, I do it specifically to what he has written.
He's a champion guy and a fantastic actor. With only a year's difference in our ages, we will always contest similar roles, but how cool is it to contest those roles with someone you admire?
Tim wrote a sitcom and was due to play the role. Due to the timing of the shoot he couldn't do it. I got a phone call, then a courier pack [with the script]. The phone call [from Tim] said, "there is no other person I would want to play this part". That was the biggest confirmation that I was doing OK, better than any review. He's a great guy, talented and, more importantly, just a little bit shorter than me. - As told to Julie Jacobson