Brittany Keogh is a reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Shortland Street hunts for newest (and littlest) cast member

Shortland Street is recruiting for a newborn baby to play the child of Lucy Rickman (Grace Palmer) and Ali Karim (Tane Williams-Accra). Photo / South Pacific Pictures
Shortland Street is recruiting for a newborn baby to play the child of Lucy Rickman (Grace Palmer) and Ali Karim (Tane Williams-Accra). Photo / South Pacific Pictures

New Zealand's favourite soap is on the hunt for its newest (and littlest) cast member - a newborn baby.

Young nurse Lucy Rickman (played by Grace Palmer) is pregnant with her ambulance driver husband Ali Karim's (played by Tane Williams-Accra​) baby on Shortland Street and casting director Andrea Kelland is recruiting for the role.

She had put out calls at Waitakere Hospital and the African Welfare Centre in Henderson for pregnant women who were due in the next few days, or those who'd just given birth, to audition their little ones.

The infant will need to be about 2-weeks-old when filming starts later this month, of mixed African and European descent, and live in west Auckland so the new mum won't have to travel far to get to the studio.

"Obviously it has to be ethnically believable to be Ali's baby - that's why we're going for African, Middle Eastern," Kelland said.

The job description was a bit different from that of your usual acting gig - being able to sleep, eat and cry convincingly were a must, but no previous acting experience was required.

"We don't ask them for anything spectacular," Kelland said. "Just be a newborn that's all."

The show was keeping details about how much the baby - or perhaps their parents - would be paid under wraps.

Kelland was also tight-lipped about what gender the Karim baby would be.

However she told the Weekend Herald what a typical day on set would involve for the little one and their mum.

"We have a room where there's a comfy chair and then we gently introduce one actor parent at a time. [They] come in and just be around the baby before it goes on set.

"We try to keep the baby's exposure to being on set to a minimum. We just do [each take] once with the baby and then the rest of the time we're just doing the grown up actors looking like they're holding the baby."

Over the years many infants had starred in Shortland Street.

"We had to fire one kid when it was 3-years-old because it refused to kick over a sandcastle because it was somebody else's sandcastle and he didn't want to ruin it," Kelland said.

"Once they start being picky about what they will and won't do then sometimes they have to replace them."

Anyone wanting to audition their baby can contact Kelland at akelland@shortlandstreet.co.nz

Growing up on the Shorty set

Feleti Aulika was just 3-weeks-old when he graced Kiwi screens as Vinnie Kruse and Nicole Miller's baby, Pele, on Shortland Street.

His mum, Tess Aulika, had found out about the acting role a few weeks before Feleti was born.

"They needed someone to be due the week that I was due and to be part Samoan," she told the Weekend Herald.

Aulika, who has some Samoan heritage, contacted the casting department to tell them she was interested.

"We were the only ones who applied so we got the role."

Feleti with his mum Tess Aulika. Photo / Supplied
Feleti with his mum Tess Aulika. Photo / Supplied

She was "quite nervous" when she and newborn Feleti arrived on the set for the first time.

"I didn't know what to expect but everyone's friendly and I got shown around the studio and met all the different departments and actors and everyone was really nice to us. They just wanted to see the baby of course."

Now, after nearly two-and-a-half years working with the cast and crew Aulika and Feleti have their routine sorted.

"We go in and Feleti knows to walk to his wardrobe room and he'll get dressed in his outfit that they need him to wear for the day," Aulika said.

"We go around and say hi to everyone while we wait for our turn and when it's final filming of the scene we walk in and I hand him over and I hide so that he can't see me."

Feleti enjoys going to the studio and seeing his onscreen parents who he calls "Mummy Sally" and "Daddy Pua".

"He really does know them so he'll go to them no fuss. They always take time to spend one-on-one time with him so that he is used to them. He has a chill personality - just an easy, go-with-the-flow kind of baby."

Feleti Aulika (left) as baby Pele on the Shortland Street set with onscreen mum Nicole Miller (played by Sally Martin) Photo / South Pacific Pictures
Feleti Aulika (left) as baby Pele on the Shortland Street set with onscreen mum Nicole Miller (played by Sally Martin) Photo / South Pacific Pictures

- NZ Herald

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