In the head­lines:

How Short­land Street’s Holly Sher­vey coped with two con­tro­ver­sial sto­ry­lines.

The TV Guide - - CONCERT -

When Holly Sher­vey joined the cast of Short­land Street, she didn’t ex­pect her per­for­mance to make head­lines in the na­tional me­dia – and cer­tainly not twice in one month.

“When I started I knew I was go­ing to be Kate’s (Lau­rel Deve­nie) sis­ter and that I was go­ing to try to get my hooks into Chris Warner (Michael Galvin) so it all went down a very dif­fer­ent road to where I thought it was go­ing,” she says, of play­ing Zoe Carl­son.

“It’s been the most chal­leng­ing act­ing I’ve ever had to do.

“I don’t think I could have asked for bet­ter sto­ry­lines. I re­ally did stretch the bound­aries.”

Con­tro­versy first erupted when tests re­vealed that Zoe’s baby had Down Syn­drome and its doc­tor fa­ther, Chris, sug­gested abor­tion could be the best op­tion.

His re­ac­tion shocked and out­raged the lo­cal Down Syn­drome com­mu­nity, with The New Zealand Down Syn­drome As­so­ci­a­tion field­ing nu­mer­ous com­plaints from upset fam­i­lies and even Dis­abil­ity Rights Com­mis­sioner Paula Te­soriero weigh­ing into the de­bate.

Sher­vey, while ad­mit­ting she avoids the show’s Face­book page, says she never took any of the crit­i­cism per­son­ally.

“I was play­ing a char­ac­ter and I did hope peo­ple would re­alise that. It was Zoe mak­ing those de­ci­sions, not Holly,” she says, ad­ding the same was true of her co-star Galvin.

“Some­one might re­act that way so I think Michael was jus­ti­fy­ing it from Chris’ point of view. Again, it was a char­ac­ter. It wasn’t real.”

Iron­i­cally, Zoe opted to con­tinue with the preg­nancy only to lose the baby af­ter be­ing at­tacked and raped by the masked man tar­get­ing Fern­dale’s women.

It was an­other sto­ry­line that grabbed head­lines. This time, many view­ers felt that the as­sault was far too con­fronting.

Grabbed from be­hind while get­ting into her car at night, Zoe was left blood­ied and se­verely beaten in a dark al­ley­way.

De­spite warn­ings about the graphic con­tent be­fore the episode aired – and in­for­ma­tion on where to get help for those who had sur­vived sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences in real life – view­ers still took to so­cial me­dia to ex­press their opin­ions.

The show’s Face­book page was in­un­dated with com­ments from many peo­ple who were con­cerned it could bring back un­wel­come mem­o­ries for view­ers who had been abused in real life.

“I felt slightly trau­ma­tised and I’ve never been as­saulted,” said one viewer.

Some­one else queried, “Did the show need to be that graphic with Zoe’s rape?”

Yet an­other said, “I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual as­sault but some­how still felt trau­ma­tised by Zoe’s scene tonight. Not com­plain­ing. I saw the trig­ger warn­ing be­fore, just didn’t re­alise how much these scenes can af­fect you. Shed­ding light on a very real prob­lem.”

Sher­vey says she def­i­nitely felt a re­spon­si­bil­ity to view­ers who have lived through sim­i­lar ex­pe­ri­ences.

“Sex­ual as­sault and sex­ual vi­o­lence are al­ways go­ing to be con­fronting,” she says, ad­ding that she re­ally wanted to do jus­tice to the sto­ry­line. “I used my ex­pe­ri­ences of fear and loss and pain and tried to imag­ine what it was like for Zoe to go through those things which is pretty hor­rific and pretty raw. I just tried to make it as truth­ful as pos­si­ble. “Ev­ery at­tack is go­ing to be dif­fer­ent. For that one, it was a woman be­ing at­tacked in a dark al­ley but, as we know, it hap­pens in all sorts of sit­u­a­tions and en­vi­ron­ments.” Sher­vey says film­ing the at­tack scene and its af­ter­math was bru­tal. “It was an ex­haust­ing week be­cause it does take its toll but I have a won­der­ful fi­ance (The Almighty John­sons’ Em­mett Sk­il­ton), who is also an ac­tor, and so I could have a great de­brief with him and he’s won­der­ful at re­mind­ing me it’s just sto­ry­telling,” she says. The ac­tress doesn’t know what the scriptwrit­ers have in store for Zoe – but she hopes her sto­ry­lines are less con­tro­ver­sial. “It would be nice not to of­fend or upset any­one. That would be great,” she says. “I did think to my­self, ‘Man, imag­ine liv­ing with this kind of drama in your life. It would be so ex­haust­ing’. I live a re­ally bor­ing life and I like it.”

“It’s been the most chal­leng­ing act­ing I’ve ever had to do. I don’t think I could have asked for bet­ter sto­ry­lines.” – Holly Sher­vey

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