When English-born Natalie Medlock moved to Te Puke, the town's welcoming sign left her a little perplexed.

"Get a slice of happiness - Te Puke." Or as she read it "puke", as in throw up.

"And then they had a [picture] of a potato with hair on top of it."

She laughs about the interpretation now, saying she has only fond memories of the kiwifruit capital she called home from ages 15 to 18.


Medlock, the actress whose television character Jill Kingsbury made a dramatic exit from Shortland Street this year, is a former Te Puke High School student.

Born and raised in the UK until she and her sister Kate were in their early teens, Medlock, now 27, emigrated with their parents to New Zealand in 1999.

The family settled on a drystock farm in Te Puke's Maniatutu Rd, and right from the outset she was a little unsure about her family's adopted home.

She went from an all-girls grammar school in Devon to a co-ed school in Te Puke.

"It was quite a culture shock to come to a new country, a mixed school and a rural school," she said.

She threw herself into schoolwork, horse riding, piano and performing arts - and her love for the stage is the result of a Te Puke teacher's influence.

Medlock said Te Puke drama and photography teacher Allan Smith became her mentor. Today he is a "dear friend".

Mr Smith told Bay of Plenty Times Weekend he was not surprised by her success.

"She just had that X-factor but that's become a bit passe now. She had that inner spark and determination. She was writing stuff when she was at school in her senior year, directed a one-act school play called Birds.

"She's done a phenomenal job at following her dream and passion, and she has still got a long way to go yet. There's a lot she can conquer."

After finishing Year 13, Medlock went to Wellington's top drama school, Toi Whaakari, and her big break came with Shortland Street.

When her character, Jill, was stabbed at the start of this year, Medlock said she did get the odd Facebook message from former Te Puke students.

Her parents moved from Te Puke recently and now live in the Coromandel.

Medlock is based in Auckland and last returned to Te Puke in the summer of 2010. She is due back in March for a friend's wedding in Papamoa.

Her role on Shortland Street may have come to an end but she has new projects in the wing and hasn't left the Kiwi soap entirely.

She has a contract storylining (writing) for the show and wants to move into directing.

She also co-wrote the script for Michael Hurst's show Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), premiering at the International Festival of the Arts in Wellington on March 2, and has acted in the Almighty Johnsons, which return to TV3 in June.

She will be performing in the upcoming New Zealand Comedy Festival in Auckland and Wellington.