It's not often you can say you've been shot, had a brain aneurysm and died in front of 400,000 people only to "return" to tell the tale -- but it's an experience reserved for just a few, to die on a Shortland Street cliffhanger.

For six years, Jacqueline Nairn was the soap's reigning matriarch. As the moody-but-loving Wendy Cooper, Nairn developed the character from a divisive figure to the heart and soul of one of the soap's most loved families.

Until it all ended, in one of the bloodiest Christmas cliffhangers of all.

"The scenes in the hospital bed [as I died] ... I was sobbing on my last day. It was awful."

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Weekend caught up with Nairn one year on from her emotional exit. When it was revealed Wendy was the one to perish after the dramatic cafe siege, her death shocked viewers and reduced many to tears.

Yet for Nairn, it was the perfect way to go.

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"I'm glad it's a cliffhanger no one will forget and that was a pretty unforgettable one. The way they did it was fantastic."

The bloody ending, which saw Wendy shot and dying on the operating table, was tough to watch. To many viewers, it can be difficult to say goodbye to characters they have let into their homes every night for years. But Nairn was prepared for the end.

"It's nice to have a full stop on the character."

"If you look at Shortland Street over the years, you will see there is a kind of cycle [with the families]. Each family has its cycle and you understand that as an actor. It's not a forever job. You know that cycle's going to run its course.

"The thing about working as an actor on Shorty is we all love the job. You appreciate it while you've got it, but we all know it's going to end at some point. I've watched other people get the 'it's your time', so I knew it would come.

"That conversation is never easy. They said to me 'We want something that will have a big impact, and Wendy will. She's not just going to walk off into the sunset, we're going to do something big', and I really love that. Any other way would have been predictable."

The reaction to Wendy's death was "intense", and took Nairn by surprise, thinking people would have been glad to see the nurse go.

"I thought about it, and, you know, everyone finds relatives a bit annoying. Wendy is like everyone's auntie, and while you have a moan about them, you don't want the family to be without them. You take out the heart of the family, and no one copes. You don't want her to be there and be moany, but you don't want to be without her."

"I'm all about saying 'what's the next adventure?' instead of 'oh my god, what's happening next?'."

Saying goodbye to a job after six years is never easy, but Nairn didn't have to go far to find her next move. She went from wrapping her final scenes to a director internship at South Pacific Studios that has her returning to Shortland Street -- but on the other side of the camera.

"I'm really loving it. I'm all about saying 'what's the next adventure?' instead of 'oh my god, what's happening next?' It's been the busiest year of my life, but it's been great."

Nairn has just wrapped up her latest four-week block of filming, and has two more set for next year.

"When you get to the end of the day and you've shot 27 minutes of television, it's a great feeling. I love it."

The internship has meant Nairn has not taken on any acting work , but hopes to get in front of the camera again soon.

"I am looking forward to playing a character that's not Wendy. Maybe a baddie, someone evil who wears sharp suits and messes things up a bit. Something with an edge, Wendy didn't have an edge, she just had a heart of gold."

"I am looking forward to playing a character that's not Wendy. Maybe a baddie, someone evil who wears sharp suits and messes things up a bit."

Nairn says though the role will never leave her -- people still call out 'Wendy!' across the street -- she does not mind the fact she won't be able to return. "The thing about that is I'd wonder 'are they ever going to ask me back?' You'd always have that 'I could go back' [mentality], but if they don't that's kind of awful, so it's nice to have a full stop on the character."

Nairn is ready to leave Wendy Cooper in the past, even if saying goodbye was difficult.

The morning after her last scene, she got up at 6am.

"I just wasn't sleeping. I sat out on my deck and took about half an hour and just sat there and let it all go, and said 'it's done, the sun has come up again, everything's going to be okay'."

In suspense

1995: Ambulance Crash

For the original cliffhanger,

Shorty

ended its second year with a bang as an ambulance careened into the hospital. In the aftermath on Christmas Day, an injured Carmen accepted Guy's marriage proposal before dying in his arms, leaving him and baby Tuesday all alone.

1997: Lionel and Kirsty's Plane Crash
It was a jam-packed cliffhanger, full of accidental incest, a murder conviction and people rushing to hospital. But the big moment came when the plane carrying fan favourites Lionel and Kirsty crashed on its way back to Ferndale.

2003: Christmas Party Collapse
As evil Dominic's reign of terror continued, seeing Chris arrested for false molestation charges, Anne and Tama were caught in the Christmas party from hell after the building they were in for a charity function suddenly collapsed.

2007: The Ferndale Strangler
The 15th anniversary was dominated by one question: who was the Ferndale Strangler? After months of speculation, it was finally revealed that quiet nurse Joey was behind the murders as he attempted to make Tania Jeffries his fifth victim.

2013: Bomb at the Beach
Unstable Doctor Josh interrupted the hospital Christmas party by blowing up the Warner's bach in a deluded attempt at being a hero. The explosion killed him and his former love, Roimata, and injured many others after they fell into the flames.

Shortland Street cliffhanger
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