Double life of Shane Cortese

BY CATHERINE WOULFE
Last updated 05:00 11/07/2010
shane
Photo: Lawrence Smith
Shane Cortese used to fear mediocrity.

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There are two sides to Shane Cortese, the 42-year-old actor says over coffee in his beloved Takapuna.

"I suppose a lot of people think they know me because of what's been said in magazines or whatever but there's a completely different side ... There's a side I keep pretty much to myself."

Given that, it's startling when Cortese starts to talk about his son, Kees.

"He's good, he's a grand kid, he's a great kid.

"He's now turned three and he's offering all the challenges that a three-year-old offers parents and he, um, he's a great kid." Cortese trails off and pauses.

"We just recently learned he has some small development issues, which meant major changes in our lifestyle, and his lifestyle, and we dealt with that and he's going great guns.

"He got diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum and we didn't really know how to deal with that.

"For a week we had this information and we didn't know where to go with it, and imagine what it's like as parents of this wonderful kid and being told that, you know ..."

But Kees' condition is "very mild", they caught it early and have had incredible support from the health system, Cortese says.

The family has gone gluten free and Kees is off dairy for a while.

He's also going to speech therapy and has started preschool four days a week to help build his social skills.

"Now he's just this normal, wonderful kid who looks people in the eyes and kisses and cuddles and plays with other kids."

Today Cortese has a cold and worries he's coming across as gloomy but he isn't – tired, yes, but honest and thoughtful and remarkably open about the side he usually keeps hidden.

He fixes those round blue eyes on me and talks about his fears. "Ten years ago, if you asked me that question, I would've said I'm scared of mediocrity – of just getting by. Now I'd be quite happy just to get by as long as I've brought up a beautiful child."

He says a shrink would have a field day with him – his incredible highs, and also the lows, that hit when work is slow and he feels he's not being a proper alpha male. "I hope I never lose that because men should be men."

He says his wife, Kees' mum Nerida, is more level-headed and helps to smooth out those ups and downs.

His voice is warm when he talks about her. The pair met and danced together on Dancing with the Stars in 2005, when both had other partners.

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Although fans picked up on their chemistry, nothing happened until eight months later, when were then both single. They married in January 2009.

"It scared me, marriage... And I still get a thrill out of calling her my wife. It's weird, the weirdest four-letter word in my vocabulary. And I love saying it: `This is my wife'."

The other woman in Cortese's life is daughter Tammy Hastings, 17, who lives in Palmerston North with her mother and stepfather. Cortese learned he was her biological father two years ago, when she sent him a letter and photos.

"She's my daughter and I'm determined to – not make up for lost time, you know, because that's gone now, whatever – but I'm determined to make sure she's involved in mine and Nerida's and Kees' life forever now."

He and Nerida want more kids but are waiting for things to calm down with Kees first.

Nerida is teaching dance five or six days a week – she's just done a course on how to teach kids Zumba. But Cortese most certainly does not Zumba. Despite – or perhaps because of – DWTS he doesn't even dance.

When filming finished on Outrageous Fortune he says he slipped into one of his slumps.

But last week he picked up two jobs – he'll be narrating another series of Serious Crash Unit and has a guest role on upcoming South Pacific Pictures project The Almighty Johnsons.

He knows that despite his profile he will always have to chase work, saying a successful actor in New Zealand is someone who "can pay their overdraft off in time for it to start all over again".

Still, things have been good enough for long enough that the couple own a townhouse in Takapuna and a property on Waiheke Island.

They rent it out and pop over to tinker with the house now and again – he's got white paint streaked up his arms today and the plan is that when Kees finishes school: "Nerida and I will grow our hair long and move to the island."

Outrageous Fortune, TV3, Tuesday, 8.30pm.

- Sunday News

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