By MIKE MATHER in Rotorua
Graham Puddle is used to people looking at him with quizzical expressions on their faces when they pass him in the street.
A vague flash of recognition is a common reaction, seeing that he has appeared on prime time television most nights of the week.
Puddle, better known as the mysterious Dr Ben Marshall on Shortland Street, recently moved to Rotorua.
Although he was seen on many episodes of the series, Puddle never became a household name, unlike Michael Galvin, Karl Urban or any of the other longstanding actors who have graced the show.
A "featured extra" on the show, it was his job to look busy in the background of the hospital set, while the actors played out a scene in the foreground.
Often he would walk out of a lift before the main actors walked in, or fill out the ranks in one of the many meeting scenes.
"I loved every minute of it ... I was the only featured extra who was allowed to go to the cast Christmas party every year," he laughed.
The 68-year-old finished his 13-year stint on the soap in July and his last episode screened in September. He said he decided to shift to Rotorua to spend his retirement and be closer to his three children, who also moved to the city in recent years.
His contribution to the series was recognised with a special leaving party earlier this year.
"They said you are one of the family, you are part of the furniture."
Puddle said he made many friends among the core cast, including Tim Foley (Dr Mark Weston), Anna Hutchison (Delphi Greenlaw) and Shane Cortese, who played the evil Dominic Thompson.
For now, Puddle is looking forward to his next challenge, learning the intricacies of his new home computer.