By LOUISA CLEAVE
Michael Galvin is surprised that the return of "Dr Love" to Shortland Street has aroused such interest.
No sooner had the Herald announced that the London-based actor was coming home to resurrect Dr Chris Warner, an original character on the home-grown soap and a viewer favourite, Galvin was interviewed on Kim Hill's National Radio show, a slot usually reserved for the major issues of the day.
He will start filming early next month, although it will not be until later in the year that Dr Warner makes his much-anticipated entrance.
Galvin's character was written out of the show when he left the fictional medical clinic to work in the United States.
The sudser has lost a handful of popular characters, including Rachel (Angela Bloomfield) and Kirsty (Angela Dotchin). Fans still expect — and want — Lionel (John Leigh) to pop up again one day. His disappearance at sea was never resolved.
Instead, the producers have thrown a curve ball by enticing back Galvin, who spent four years on the show.
On the phone from London, Galvin explains his reasons for accepting.
"I got a call quite a number of months back asking if I was interested, and at first I thought, 'I wonder if I am?'
"I kind of thought it would be very strange going back because I have such strong memories. It was a very intense period of my life, being on that show.
"I realised that most of the cast there will be completely new to me, I would never have worked with them.
"That was one of the things I thought would be a really good thing, because it will be almost like doing a new show, I suppose.
"The people I worked with the first time I loved. But at least this time I wouldn't be continually reminded of that. It would have been too much of feeling like I was going back in time."
His character was best known as the Street's Romeo, romancing many of the leading ladies.
The "Dr Love" tag has stuck despite Galvin's protests that Chris Warner was only sleazy for the first six months of the show.
"I don't have a clue what they intend to do, but I guess that's what people think when they think of the character. So maybe they'll put some of that spice in there. Be a bit of a waste if they didn't."
Galvin has spent his two years in London concentrating on writing. He started penning a screenplay shortly after leaving Shortland Street and has sold it to a small film company, which is developing the script with Galvin and looking for funding.
"It's a love story. It's a comedy. Sort of a media satire," he explains. "There's a girl who's the star of a reality television programme — a lot like Sylvania Waters but it's been going for quite a while — and a rather obsessive fan who manages to get himself involved in her life and all the terrible things that go wrong as a result of that."
Galvin says he was fascinated by reality television when he embarked on the script, and since then the genre has taken over television.
He guiltily admits to becoming hooked on the recent British reality show Big Brother.
"At first I didn't want to watch it. I
couldn't bear it because it was 10 people in a room trying to be attractive and likeable and it just reminded me too much of a drama school audition. But by the end I was hooked."
Galvin also contributed to Emily Perkins' anthology of new New Zealand writers and has a short story in another upcoming anthology edited by Graeme Lay.
He reunited with another ex-Shorty actor, Josephine Davidson (Gina), in Edinburgh last year and acted in a Duncan Sarkies play which won the cast an award for best ensemble.
But Galvin says he is over London and ready to come home.
"I was completely in awe of it when I arrived but now, having lived here for two years, I see it more for what it is rather than the strange dream of it.
"London is a fantastic place but it can be very tiring. There's a lot of us here trying to make something happen, so it has the problems of any city that has got far too many people in it and too small a space. [It's also] very expensive, very difficult to get around and very crowded."
Galvin is not sure what plans are in store for his character and says he has lost touch with the show.
"I wouldn't even know who any of the characters are or anything. I'm hoping that when Chris Warner comes back he's supposed to be ignorant about the whole thing too, because that will make it easier."
By LOUISA CLEAVE