Shortland Street 'bomber' is a real-life hero

NEIL REID
Last updated 08:01 15/12/2013
Chris Tempest
Chris Tempest's character Josh Gallagher was responsible for last week's deadly cliffhanger bomb blast in Shortland Street.

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The Shortland Street "bomber" is a real-life hero. Viewers of the Kiwi TV soap were left shell-shocked this week after a bomb planted by nice-guy- turned-Dr Evil character Josh Gallagher exploded in a lethal blast under the Warners' beachside bach.

But the actor who plays the deadly doctor, Chris Tempest, is a real-life samaritan devoted to helping vulnerable young Kiwis.

Tempest is an ambassador for and public face of Barnardos 0800 What's Up hotline.

Counsellors on the phone helpline talk to callers aged from 5 to 18 about issues from relationships and development through to bullying, violence, neglect and suicide. It fields more than 100,000 calls a year.

"In a country where teen suicide levels are so high and there is a culture of cutting people down before they get too tall, it's essential that we support youth in any way we can," Tempest, 27, said.

"Being a teen is hard enough . . . add to that any domestic issues, abuse or even normal relationship dramas and it gets incredibly challenging for a developing human being. 0800 What's Up leads an ear, a counsellor, even a friend, and makes a positive impact, where there otherwise may not be."

Tempest, who moved to New Zealand from Britain as a 16-year- old, was introduced to the 0800 What's Up service by a family member who is a hotline counsellor.

He jumped at the chance to use his profile as a Shortland Street star to raise awareness of the hotline.

"If for any reason I help even one kid to use it, then I am very happy," Tempest said.

"[The counsellors] are there solely to talk to the kids. And the thing is it could be for the smallest problem, through to the biggest problem, or even just for a chat."

Tempest added: "When I was growing up I had certain difficulties at times, like every kid does.

"I was lucky enough to have someone who I could talk to and really work through those issues. And I have always been grateful for that. But it is not something that every kid has . . . to be able to talk to someone, to talk through their problems or be in that situation where they open up like that. What's Up offers that."

Tempest's samaritan work for 0800 What's Up is a world away from the on-screen antics of his Shortland Street character

Dr Josh Gallagher made a triumphant entry on the soap in May 2012, when he rescued co- workers in a helicopter crash at the show's hospital.

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But he began to display evidence of "hero syndrome" - putting patients, friends and colleagues at risk in a bid to be hailed as a lifesaver. His perilous acts included giving a patient on life support a drug overdose and poisoning his girlfriend's mother.

He planted the bomb under the Warners' bach after colleagues cottoned on.

"He [Dr Gallagher] started out as a really nice guy... [but] he does some dastardly things," Tempest said of his Shortland Street character.

Tempest began to notice a change in public reaction to him as his TV show character transformed.

"When my character was a bit of a good guy, there were a lot more people stopping me on the street going, 'Hey, how's it going?'," Tempest said.

"Every time I walk down the streets these days... people kind of look over their shoulder and go, 'Ohh'.

"People are more reluctant to come up to me and say 'Hi' these days. I don't think anyone out there really thinks I am a murderer or anything, but it does take them a few more seconds to go, 'Should I say hi?'."

To support 0800 What's Up (0800 942 8787), visit whatsup.co.nz. Or to make a $25 donation, please phone 0900 60125

- Sunday News

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