Ed Sheeran rocks into Shorty Street

STAR POWER: Shortland Street's KJ Apa with British musician Ed Sheeran.
STAR POWER: Shortland Street's KJ Apa with British musician Ed Sheeran.

It is not that often that an international singer/songwriter heads to our shores to perform. It is even less often that we might bump into the singer at a local pub. But this week on Shortland Street, KJ Apa's character Kane does just that.

In New Zealand to promote his new album X, which is released on June 20, Ed Sheeran drops by Ferndale's bar and restaurant The IV for a spot of local hospitality.

After being on the show for less than a year, 16-year-old Apa was surprised to find out that he would be filming a scene with  the English musician.

"I was real excited because I obviously knew who he was and I'd listened to his music," Apa says. "He was quite funny, quite humorous.

"Obviously he had that hard British accent and he was cracking heaps of jokes off set. You could see he wasn't used to acting, but he did such a good job, and it was so good to be able to work with him."

Ed arrives on Shortland Street at a crucial time for Apa's character, Kane. Suffering what turns into a personal crisis after injuring his leg and being unable to play rugby, Ed helps Kane see the silver lining after hearing him play the guitar in  the IV.

"Kane is in a bit of a tough time and he's just there to cheer him up," Apa says. "In a previous storyline Kane, Honour and Toby had written a song for a fundraiser.

"Kane just started playing that and he sort of, well he didn't teach Ed Sheeran how to play, but Ed just started playing it and was giving him tips on how to sing...

"Kane is starstruck as well, just as anyone would be. It cheers him up. It does what Ed is trying to do."

Like his character, Apa enjoys rugby and music, though he says he does not have as much time as he used to for extra-curricular activities.

"I used to play rugby but I can't play any more, unfortunately, because of (Shortland Street)," he says. "No time and if I get injured or something... I do miss playing rugby.

"I love music, I love writing music and I love playing the guitar. That would be awesome to do something like that in the future."

In the meantime, Apa has a lot on his plate. As well as starring in Shortland Street he is also trying to finish his last years at school, attending classes some days and acting on others. Some days he even does both. This amounts to a tricky balancing act.

"It is hard," Apa says. "But I guess it's just staying on top of it and keeping in contact with my teachers and stuff. In between shooting, I  just try to get as much work done as possible."

Although acting is something he loves now, it wasn't always Apa's dream. On a guitar scholarship to Kings College, he was gently pushed into acting when his modelling agent sent him along to a Shortland Street audition. Apa says he never thought he would actually land the role of Kane.

"It was too good to be true," he says. "Acting was never something I wanted to do. I've always thought it was cool but I never could have imagined myself doing it. But yeah, I definitely had to step out of my comfort zone to really get out there and that was one of the best things I think I've ever done because it's made me more confident."

Apa is also surprised at how fast he is building up a base of devoted followers. After starting a page on Facebook at the end of March, Apa is up to 17,000 likes and counting, many of them adoring female fans.

Apa is unfazed by the attention.

"I don't think you really need to deal with it," he says. "I mean it's obviously quite a lot of attention... People think it's a real big deal sometimes but it's fun and it's a good way to communicate with my fans and the people who want to follow me."

The attention is less easy to manage in public though, Apa says, especially when he is out with
his friends.

"Obviously it's a massive change," Apa says of his newfound fame.

"I mean I'm not different, but it's different. I've got a real good group of friends and they keep me in line.

"If I change they get me back into place. I've been out with a few of them in public and it's weird when fans go, 'Can I take a photo with you?' and they ask my mate to take the photo. I'm like, 'Nah, you don't have to do  that, bro'. It's quite an awkward moment."

Shortland Street
TV2, Weeknights, 7pm

-TV Guide