TV: Is it you or is it Minnie?

By Louisa Cleave

What's happening on Shortland Street? Minnie and Nick, who used to play together as kids, are playing together as adults. Katrina Devine explains the facts of Street-life to LOUISA CLEAVE.

Minnie and Nick. Nick and Minnie. There is no way to look at it this latest romantic twist on Shortland Street and feel right about it.

An earthquake, a murder, lies and deception have shaken the Street's characters lately. But the latest couple who've got together on our most popular soap has shaken viewers even more.

Minnie and Nick have grown up together. We've watched them hover around in mutual dislike/tolerance of each other in a kind of brother/sister relationship.

Now she's staying over at his place and it ain't no pyjama party.

Katrina Devine, who has played Minnie for six years, said she was not expecting the latest man in her character's life to be Nick.

And she says Karl Burnett, who plays Nick, also had some reservations. He joked he was scared of Katrina's boyfriend, Blair Strang, who plays Rangi on the show.

Karl is one of the original cast members in the eight-year-old soap, which celebrates its 2000th episode in June, and Katrina joined a couple of years later at the age of 14.

Katrina says she and Karl have "a great working relationship." And that didn't make the romantic scenes any easier.

"I always find kissing scenes really uncomfortable, no matter who it is, because they're not my partner," she says.

Looking back at Minnie's love life, it's not surprising the actress feels uncomfortable in a clinch. There's been a string of disastrous boyfriends.

She's been cheated on more than once; lied to about a partner's neo-Nazi side; been raped by a boyfriend and fallen in love with a gay chemist.

It's no wonder that Katrina says one of her favourite times on the show was when Minnie was off men, wearing no makeup and acting staunch.

"What you see now - the Minnie and Nick relationship - it changes a lot. Towards the end it got very interesting and that was fun [to act]."

Katrina says she does not worry too much where Minnie is taken by the writers.

"To me, this is my job and this is my storyline, and I will perform it to the best of my ability. As long as I'm happy in my life, my character can do whatever she wants."

Separating Minnie and Katrina is easy, she says. "We're completely different. I'm very strong-willed and I don't think she is at all. I'm a Taurus,that's my star sign. I think Minnie's a Scorpio so she should be fiery, but I don't know, she's lost it a bit.

"I've got a fiery personality but I don't mind that. I think it's a good thing [for an actor] ... if you're an emotional person it's much easier. If I have to yell at you I can yell at you. Or if I have to cry, I find it easy to cry. I just do it."

Try telling that to some viewers. Katrina says people find it hard to disassociate her from the character but she can understand why fans feel they know her.

"Yeah, that's cool because we're in their house five nights a week.

"I don't mind people coming up and feeling like they know you. But also there is another side of it, where people feel they can say anything to you.

"Like people say, 'You're much smaller in person' and I go, 'Thank you'. I don't really know whether that's supposed to be a compliment or not. I just smile, because there's not much you can say."

Katrina expected her stint on Shortland Street would last a couple of months and she never imagined Minnie would become one of the central characters.

She is always asked what it has been like growing up on the soap, but says it's a question she can't answer.

" I don't know what it's like not to have been on the show. I don't know what it's like to have gone to school ... and to have gone to varsity."

Fans are quick to point out that Minnie has become the new blonde bombshell since the departure of Kirsty (Angela Dotchin), but Katrina disagrees.

"I don't consider myself like that. That scares me. I think I've changed heaps from looking like a little girl to an older little girl."

Katrina says she is happy with her job on the Street but does harbour a desire to do musical theatre and has started singing lessons.

"I'd love to play Sandy in Grease. I think it's fantastic, I love Grease. A musical is what I want to do because it's acting and singing. Maybe one day. Fingers crossed."

Watching brief

The star: Katrina Devine

The show: Shortland Street

Where and when: TV2, 7 pm Monday-Friday

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