Accepting a role in Step Dave was a welcome relief from Wentworth, finds Dionne Christian.

It was one of the most shocking scenes Kiwi TV star Aaron Jeffery has ever filmed or watched. Matt Fletcher, the prison officer Jeffery portrays in women's prison drama Wentworth, crossed a quiet suburban street when, out of nowhere, a speeding car roared toward him and knocked him skywards.

When Jeffery watched the finished scene, filmed using special effects for the stomach-churning final shot, he couldn't believe how hard the car hit the unsuspecting Fletch.

"My jaw just dropped. It's one of the most shocking things I've seen on TV and I didn't expect him to be hit that hard. I was like, 'did you have to hit him that hard'?"

So when Jeffery got the call to come home to New Zealand and join series two of TV2's Step Dave, he couldn't wait to play a role which offered a little light-relief. He plays Warren, the father of title character Dave (Jono Kenyon) who is still working on finding happily-ever-after with mother-of-three Cara (Sia Trokenheim).


When series one ended, the duo had decided to make a go of things and Dave, the 24-year-old, fun-loving barman, accepted Cara's kids - Scarlett, Jasmine and Logan - were part of the deal.

Now he's having fun with playing the role of, well, step Dave so it's not the kids, the age difference with Cara, who's 39, or her mother-in-law, Marion (Lisa Harrow), disrupting his life.

His family dramas are likely to be a little closer to home when Warren visits and Dave discovers something that will test his love for his "old man" - although Warren's not that old.

The story goes Warren and Dave's mum, Natalie, were high-school sweethearts who married in their late teens when Natalie discovered she was pregnant.

They have been together ever since and Warren, a successful self-made businessman, has always been there for Dave. Warren doesn't sweat the small stuff, likes to have fun and enjoy the finer things hard-work, money and a positive attitude bring him.

Jeffery is one of our most popular TV stars since appearing in some of New Zealand's favourite TV series - Water Rats, McLeod's Daughters, Outrageous Fortune and Wentworth - but it's been seven years since he crossed the ditch to appear in Outrageous Fortune.

"I couldn't believe it had been that long, although I do get home regularly to visit my family [he's from Howick in Southeast Auckland]. I love coming home and, because we were filming in late summer, hearing the cicadas and just being around Kiwiana has been wonderful.

"Playing someone dark like Fletcher can be very taxing so Warren was an absolute joy. But Warren does have his faults. He's loveable and fun and Dave thinks he's a pretty cool dad - in fact, he hero-worships him - but Warren has his flaws."

He says because Step Dave incorporates comedy amid the drama, it is challenging to strike the right balance and tone. But he relished that test, as well as the chance to play a TV dad for the first-time. Jeffery has two daughters, aged 11 and 3, so he says portraying a father of a 24-year-old is a little different from his day-to-day reality.

"I'm 45 now and that's an age when you can start to sink your teeth into some real character roles. which tends to happen as you get older.

"As a father, you can relate to the depth of connection you can have with kids, the well of love you have for them and how that affects your life and thinking, so that makes playing a dad easier.

"But it could have been difficult to establish a rapport with a fictional son in his mid-20s. It wasn't difficult, though, because Jono was so good to work with. I loved working with him - and all the cast - and found we had stuff in common and were able to establish a relationship that was comfortable and looked as if we were at ease with one another so you could believe we were father and son."

Kenyon says Jeffery was a true professional whose skilful performances and work ethic taught him a lot.

"He was always well-prepared but he'd come off set and have a laugh," says Kenyon. "We'd be relaxing, hanging out and talking and then the cameras would roll and Aaron would just switch it on.

"I always wonder if I could be working harder but I think with series two, I've learned to work smarter. I know the job and what's required of me a bit more so I could concentrate on adding depth and bringing some more nuance to Dave."

He says that is important because, thanks to his relationship with Cara, Dave has matured a lot since we first met him. He is enjoying step-parenting but perhaps doesn't realise how responsible he has become until Jasmine (Lily Powell) puts him to the test.

She decides while mum is away, she might as well play. She throws open the doors of the family home to party with her friends but things get out of hand quickly.

There's no guarantee Dave will arrive home from work and stop the party. After all, he has always been the type more likely to be organising a booze-fuelled rage than breaking one up.

"Let's just say his parental instincts are coming out more often, perhaps unknowingly, because he wants to do the right thing by Cara," says Kenyon, who was born and raised in Essex, England, before moving to Marlborough as a 13-year-old with his family.

He attended Toi Whakaari straight after finishing his last year of school and graduated in 2010. Kenyon still has a trace of an English accent despite working on a number of local plays, plus Go Girls.

A lack of acting work saw him spend 2013 working part time at Chapel Bar on Auckland's Ponsonby Rd and living on $300 a week. It proved to be the best preparation for Dave Kenyon could have asked for when he landed the leading role.

"I think people enjoy the show because it's relatable. We're a bunch of real people in situations most of us will be familiar with even if they are a little heightened for TV. It's fun and emotional and we keep it real."