If life is like the movies — a Sliding Doors type of movie, to be specific — Michael Galvin has a parallel existence in which he's rich and hugely famous in London.
While he's now perfectly happy as Shortland Street's Chris Warner — a role he's played almost continuously since 1992 — there was a time when he left the show to seek fame and fortune in London.
"Guess what? I didn't find it," he says, in the new episode of Herald Travel podcast Trip Notes, available to download on Tuesday. In the episode, Galvin is refreshingly candid about his former failures, admitting he's now "at peace" with the way his career has played out.
Galvin debuted as Dr Warner in the first episode of Shortland Street, which hit Kiwi screens on May 25 1992. His character's womanising ways and serial relationships were a huge hit with viewers but, after four years in the show, Galvin quit. His partner at the time, artist Melissa Dines, got a scholarship to study at a highly prestigious art school and, as Galvin already had British citizenship (he was born in London), he decided to go too.
He says he soon found the UK acting scene was a lot harder to crack.
"It was really hard. I had all these supposed connections through my agent here, but they never really amounted to anything," he admits. "I would try to get all sorts of things going — I write as well as act — so I was trying to get things going and nothing was happening. It was certainly disheartening."
Although he says he was "dirt poor and failing miserably", Galvin says he made the most of his time in London.
"I absolutely loved the place. I had no money so I couldn't really go out, but I would just walk everywhere. No matter where I was, if it took an hour and a half to walk into town, I would do that, because inevitably there would be something fascinating.
"I had citizenship, but I certainly didn't feel like a Londoner, I felt like a Kiwi walking around."
He worked in various odd jobs — including as a post man, delivering mail in upper class St John's Wood — but ultimately it was acting he was yearning for. And, four years later when Shortland Street producers called and asked if he wanted to come back to the show, he realised it was time to go home.
Looking back, he says he has absolutely no regrets.
"I just love where I am so much. I feel so lucky ... it's a job that I love — it's acting — and the pay is pretty decent. It allows me to have a certain predictability in my life, which is great for me and my daughter [Lily, now 13].
"I learnt earlier on in the game that the more I focused on my image — my identity, as you think people see you — the less happy I was and the more anxious. And the more I can just focus on the real things — which is the job and doing that well and getting on with my co-workers and trying to be a good dad and all that stuff — the more I think about that, the happier I am."
You can also go to nzherald.co.nz/tripnotes to watch video from the podcast, and catch up on any episodes you might have missed.
For more travel inspiration, go to intrepidtravel.com
Catch Michael Galvin as Dr Chris Warner in Shortland Street, weeknights at 7pm on TVNZ2