Shorty ex­clu­sive

Reuben’s red-hot ro­mance

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - Woman's Day This Week -

When Short­land Street star Reuben Mil­ner propo­si­tioned Ella John­son for a spon­ta­neous sleep­over at a mu­tual friend’s house party, he hadn’t thought for a sec­ond he’d get shot down.

He was 19 and feel­ing in­vin­ci­ble af­ter leav­ing home in Whangarei to take up his first pro­fes­sional act­ing gig in the City of Sails. “Ella is the life of the party,” says 21-yearold Reuben, who plays or­derly Jack Han­nah on the TVNZ 2 soap. “She caught my eye as she was danc­ing across the room – once I’d no­ticed her, I couldn’t get her off my mind.

“I must’ve been feel­ing pretty con­fi­dent be­cause I walked over to her with a sleep­ing bag wrapped around me and asked If she’d like to have snug­gles. She took one look at me, screwed up her face and gave me a flat-out no!”

His ego in tat­ters, red-faced Reuben sulked him­self to sleep on a couch in the lounge. He was con­vinced he’d well and truly blown it. So you can imag­ine his sur­prise, when less than a week later, his phone lit up with a mes­sage, from none other than Ella.

“I wasn’t ex­actly im­pressed that night, but I was def­i­nitely in­trigued,” smiles den­tal as­sis­tant Ella, 22. “At least he had the nerve to come up and talk to me – the eas­ier thing to do these days would have been to jump on Tin­der.”

The next Thurs­day, af­ter Reuben’s weekly Amer­i­can ac­cent class, Ella in­vited him to her flat, where they re­mem­ber lock­ing them­selves away in the bed­room and laugh­ing all night long. “We’d hang out ev­ery Thurs­day, and soon that turned into Fri­day, Satur­day and Sun­day, then Mon­day, Tues­day, Wed­nes­day and be­fore we knew it, we were in­sep­a­ra­ble,” says Ella.

“We moved in to­gether three months later – he was stay­ing at mine ev­ery night any­way, so the only thing left to do was to pick up his draw­ers. We never thought to slow things down as ev­ery­thing felt so natural.”

In­deed, de­spite their ini­tial hic­cup, lov­ing comes easy to the beach bums, who en­joy week­ends away at Reuben’s fam­ily bach, home-cooked meals and catch­ing the lat­est movies at the cin­ema. “Our sense of hu­mour is ex­actly the same – no mat­ter what we’re do­ing, we have fun and can crack each other up for hours,” says Ella. “But we def­i­nitely have our dif­fer­ences. He’s got the big­gest, kind­est heart and never wants to say anything that might rock the boat, whereas I’m the op­po­site and al­ways speak my mind, so com­mu­ni­ca­tion is some­thing we work at. The up­side is we rarely ar­gue and when we do, we never stay mad for long.”


It’s true, Reuben’s a real softie at heart. De­spite his natural charm and cool con­fi­dence on cam­era, the Shorty star con­sid­ers him­self a bit of an in­tro­vert, who still strug­gles with the at­ten­tion from fans. “I went from try­ing to be the pop­u­lar kid in school to all of a sud­den get­ting recog­nised by the whole coun­try – it’s pretty strange. My natural in­stinct is still to hide from it.”

Born in Auck­land, Reuben was 10 when he moved to Whangarei and dis­cov­ered act­ing. At first, drama class was an easy way to get out of do­ing writ­ten work at school, but even­tu­ally his as­pi­ra­tions to be­come an anaes­thetist took a back­seat to a ca­reer in Hol­ly­wood. “Act­ing was a re­lease for me,” says Reuben, who ad­mits he turned his nose up at a job on the pop­u­lar soap. “When I was start­ing out, I said to my­self, ‘No mat­ter what hap­pens, if I get of­fered a part on Shorty, I’ll turn it down.’ But as I got more pas­sion­ate about pur­su­ing act­ing, I fig­ured out how hard it was to get au­di­tions let alone land parts, so when I was asked to au­di­tion in my fi­nal year of high school, I was like, ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes!’”

In his three years on the show, Reuben’s most chal­leng­ing sto­ry­line was ear­lier this year, when rugby jock Jack came out of the closet. “At first, I wasn’t keen to do it,” he tells. “I had gay friends, but I just didn’t want to por­tray that as my­self. I knew ev­ery­one was going to be looking at me and I didn’t know if I’d be able to han­dle it.

“Self­ishly, I got on board be­cause I thought it would be good for my port­fo­lio to show my range, but as I got deeper into the char­ac­ter, I re­alised how im­por­tant my role was. It opened my eyes to how much s*** gay men must get. My brother told me one of his mates took a lot of in­spi­ra­tion from Jack. His story gave him the courage to open up about his sex­u­al­ity af­ter hid­ing it for so long.”

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