After almost a decade on Shortland Street playing Nicole, Sally Martin is now facing her most demanding storyline, as Kerry Harvey finds.
Sally Martin faces her most challenging storyline.
Actor Sally Martin admits she suffers from anxiety but has never resorted to addictive drugs to control it, unlike her Shortland Street character Nicole Miller-Kruse. “I certainly struggle with anxiety on a week-to-week basis,” she reveals. “I’ve lost my breath and had my heart leap out of my chest but not that extreme that Nicole is having.” A self-confessed sensitive soul, Martin stays well away from public fan sites as comments about her and other actors can be upsetting. “It can be the littlest things; (comments about) the way you look or the way you sound,” she says. “I don’t get too offended by things they write about Nicole because that’s not me. Sometimes I have to perform things as Nicole and I go, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s she doing this for or saying that for?’ “It’s when it gets personal that I can’t handle it very well.” The drama’s third-longest-serving cast member (behind Michael Galvin and Ben Mitchell), Martin has played the Ferndale nurse since 2009 but says the past year has been the hardest her character has endured.
Nicole’s life took a turn for the worse after her lesbian affair with fellow nurse Ruby (JJ Fong) nearly ended her marriage to Vinnie (Pua Magasiva).
The couple reunited but the blows kept coming with their toddler son Pele being diagnosed with diabetes, Vinnie’s son Michael (Duane Evans Jr) leaving to join his mum in Singapore, Vinnie’s flirtation with another woman, and repeated financial disasters leading to the loss of the family home.
But it seems the latest storyline in which Nicole develops an addiction to prescription drugs while trying to control anxiety attacks, which started after she was run over by a drunk Dr Finn Warner (Lukas Whiting), could be the final straw.
“It just goes from worse to worse to worse. It’s been emotional,” says Martin, of her character’s struggles.
“I’m used to quite a lot of light with Nicole, especially with Nicole and Vinnie, so it’s been quite a trial.”
She admits when she heard about Nicole’s accident, she did wonder if her run on the drama was coming to an end.
“I read the script where she gets run over. It was the last episode in the block and the last scene that we had,” Martin says. “There’s this thump and the car, and Leanne (Jennifer Ludlam) screams, ‘Oh my god, you’ve killed her’ and then we had no more scripts. I was like, ‘What? She’s dead. That’s how you’re going to tell me’.”
While Nicole is badly injured she appears to bounce back, returning to work only days after surgery for a broken leg. However, then the panic attacks begin and she starts taking prescription drugs to control her anxiety levels.
When Vinnie is called to a family emergency, she starts to over-use the medication and when her supplies run out, she takes drastic action.
“I think she’s just come back to work way too fast and her anxiety is off the charts,” says Martin, adding she did her own research into addiction. “That feeling that she needs (the pills) happens much quicker because she’s put this pressure on herself to perform the way she used to when really she’s not ready at all.”
Martin also hopes the storyline will raise awareness of the danger of prescription drugs.
“I hope that people recognise how scary the addictive properties of drugs like that are. Even when they are controlled and prescribed by a doctor you have got to be very aware of taking them correctly – unlike Nicole – and understanding that there are risks and side-effects,” Martin says.
“I certainly haven’t tried it myself but from what I’ve read it is highly, highly addictive.”
She says of all Nicole’s storylines on Shortland Street, this latest one has been the most challenging.
“The others have been family-driven dramas or involved others. This is a hugely personal journey that Nicole goes on and it’s been really nice to sink my teeth into something like that.”
Pua Magasiva (Vinnie) and Sally Martin (Nicole)