Grand occasion: Holly Shervey and Emmett Skilton on their wedding day with her grandparents, Warren and Lorraine Cooper, who celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary this month; the florals were created by Holly’s step- mum, Queenstowner Ingrid Pritchard

Besides Queenstown’s dramatic scenery, the resort’s also proven to be a good breeding ground for dramatic talent. Think Jodie Hillock and Ben Farry. Then there’s Shortland Street star Holly Shervey. Still buzzing over her recent wedding, she tells PHILIP CHANDLER how she got into acting and reveals she’s written a TV series specially for her hometown

Christmas is always special for Auckland-based, Queenstown-raised actress Holly Shervey because that’s when she always returns ‘home’.

The 34-year-old — best known for her drama-filled role as Zoe Carlson in long-running Kiwi TV soap Shortland Street, but also getting attention for her YouTube/Instagram comedy series, Millennial Jenny — is the daughter of Queenstowner Warren Shervey.

She lost her mum Jo, however, when she was only six.

Jo’s parents were former local mayor and Cabinet Minister Warren Cooper and his wife Lorraine, whom Holly’s very fond of.

Holly also saw her dad and grandparents early last month at her Auckland wedding to fellow actor and Shortland Street director Emmett Skilton, eight years after they got engaged.

Holly — so named for being born a week before Christmas — was born in Jindabyne, near Australia’s Snowy Mountains, though, through her dad, her great-great-great-grandad was the first settler in Toowoomba, Queensland.

But, aged just two, she says ‘‘my mum laid down the law, said she didn’t want us to grow up there, and so we came back to Queenstown’’.

After Queenstown Playcentre, she attended St Joseph’s School — ‘‘it was great, it was like super-intimate, and one of my best mates, Whitney Nicholls-Potts, who was one of my bridesmaids, was at St Jo’s with me’’.

At six, Holly says her grandma Lorraine ‘‘forced me into drama classes’’ with then-local Annabelle O’Meara.

‘‘Holly was a sweet, freckle-faced presence in my speech and drama classes in the mid-’90s,’’ O’Meara recalls.

‘‘I have been an avid follower of her career pathway ever since — her diversity as a writer, director and actor is outstanding.

‘‘It takes a special person to not only survive but prevail in that competitive world.’’

Holly then attended Wakatipu High, which she says was ‘‘wild’’.

‘‘I had the best years of my life [there].’’

Lorraine gave her the opportunity to go to Dunedin’s Columba College in Year 12, ‘‘but I think I only lasted two terms, I just missed Wakatipu too much’’.

Her drama teacher was Pauline Inder-Simpson, and from Year 11 she started getting into TV commercials, and was also an extra in movies
The Lord of the Rings and Mee-Shee: The Water Giant.

A highlight was being cast with friend Ebony Webster in an American cereal commercial for a seven-day shoot.

‘‘One memorable day we transformed into American cheerleaders, showcasing our moves at the Events Centre.’’

Her ‘‘stand-out showbiz memory’’ was being cast, at 15, in a short film, A Thousand Masks, as the younger sister of a character who took his life — ‘‘the experience of being part of this remarkable short film profoundly influenced my love for storytelling and acting’’.

Another influence was her then step-mum Denise Cloughley, who was a casting director.

‘‘And grandma, from the age of six till probably 23, paid for all of my speech and drama training.’’

Holly next attended Auckland-based performing arts school, The Actors Programme.

She was smitten by a guest speaker, actor Emmett Skilton, whom she properly got to know after he attended her birthday brunch the next year.

On graduating, Holly was first cast in TV series Nothing Trivial, but got her big break in 2018 on Shortland Street, where she dealt with hard-hitting storylines, including sexual assault, over four years.

She says acting’s taught her ‘‘a ton’’ about empathy.

‘‘You start realising everyone — real or fictional — is this awesome mix of great and not-so-great stuff.

‘‘We’re all flawed and fabulous in our own ways, and that’s what makes the human experience and acting so interesting.’’

She and Skilton are getting great traction with their social media project, Millennial Jenny, including 5 million views for one episode, and have just picked up ‘‘an amazing’’ American sponsor for their next series.

They’d love to have a Queenstown holiday home, and Holly says she’s developing a psychological thriller that’s set here.

‘‘I know the title but I can’t say.’’

And reflecting on what a character Warren Cooper is, she adds: ‘‘I feel we need to write something based on him.’’

Skilton notes: ‘‘No matter where you go in Queenstown, there’s something of Warren everywhere.’’

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