PETER Mochrie is trying not to be controversial. He says so, three times, during our 58-minute interview. He apologises to anyone offended by comments he made three years ago, about how much Auckland women drink. He says the comments were taken out of context.
Then he says some of his co-stars on Shortland Street need a kick up the arse. He says the small country of New Zealand has to learn to have more self-esteem (note: he's an Australian). And he starts in on the selective nature of the Bible, and why Christianity holds little weight for him.
Near the end of the interview the 51-year-old says he is working on his people skills because "Shortland Street is like a religion here and you only have to pick up the paper to find people stepping out of line".
"A number of Outrageous Fortune actors [have] decided they're a little bit above the world. You know, you have got to be really careful about what you do and what you say."
He doesn't seem to realise that what he just said could get him in very hot water with his bosses at South Pacific Pictures, which own both Shorty and Fortune.
But in other ways, he seems extraordinarily self-aware. When asked about his personality, he takes a deep breath, pauses and says: "I don't usually tell this story, so I hope you will treat it with respect."
Another deep breath. He looks down at his hands, which are still, for once.
"Um, when I was 11 my parents split up. My father left, which broke my heart because I loved him so much."
Mochrie has tears in his eyes; his publicist rubs his shoulder.
"And the same month, my aunty who lived with us, my mother's sister, she had a baby and she had postnatal depression and she committed suicide.
"So at 11 I was always asking, 'where is everybody going?' And I blamed myself. I had a lot of guilt. As a boy does.
"So I had a lot of negativity and a lot of dark places, and my whole life has been therapy. And therapy is to get the light into the darkness and once that goes, everything is light. So I'm blessed every day because, for me, it was all about death and leaving and destruction and negativity, so I am just joyful to have each day come and it to be light."
Mochrie believes in Buddhism, in karma and kindness and reincarnation. He is besotted with his nine-week-old son Cade. "Oh, Cade. Makes me cry. He makes me understand and appreciate life."
And when asked whether he worries for his wife of seven months, Sally Lowry, because of his aunt's postnatal depression he replies: "Oh, Sally. I don't get nervous for Sally, she is such a vibrant, strong ... I am amazed by her each and every day.
"Before Sally I was lost, just, you know, using people and doing all those things that boys do with girls. You know."
Now Mochrie lives for 7am, when Cade awakes and gives a little whinny (his nickname is Pony) and the doting parents rush down the stairs of their Orakei, Auckland, home to say good morning.
"Those moments are just to die for, as opposed to one o'clock in a bar, trying to get laid."
Mochrie believes he was an alcoholic in a past life. In this one he doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, and bases his diet around superfoods: blueberries, almonds, salmon, bananas. He loves to run on Piha beach with his wife. He loves to surf. So far, so wholesome – but he admits he does slip up occasionally.
"Sometimes. Sometimes, we go to McDonald's and have a chocolate sundae."
Please say they have one each? "No, we share one. We're so in love."
Mochrie, who plays hospital CEO Callum McKay in Shorty, says he is less ambitious about his career now he has a family, but at the same time he's started to fret about school fees.
He's been paid to act since he was 17 and has done about 25 shows, the most significant being Aussie drama Water Rats. The Shorty job enabled him to move to New Zealand. He loves it here and wants to stay as long as they'll have him, but he and Lowry also want to live overseas at some point.
On the side he does lucrative voiceover jobs – for coffee, insurance and jewellery ads screened in Australia – and has a role in Predicament, a crime comedy starring Jemaine Clement and The Lovely Bones' Rose McIver, due out in July. Mochrie says that early in his career, when he started to make magazine covers, he became, "quite arrogant and full of myself".
As Shortland St celebrates 18 years he is sanguine about his early years."Thirty years later I'd like to think that I've learned some lessons about professionalism, about karma, about giving good and you will get good, if you give bad you will get bad.
"And I see it all the time on the show, I see these kids who come on – a couple come to mind, I won't name names – but they present themselves in a way that they're itching to be kicked in the arse, if you know what I mean.
"They've just got a life lesson that's going to come and smack 'em in the head. Once again, I've had that, I've been there."
Although he says some unwise things, it is difficult to imagine this chivalrous man, with his clean, shapely fingernails and his tucked-in Country Road shirt, being anything other than pleasant and polite. He laughs at that.
"Oh, sweetheart. Yeah. Awful. You learn, you know, to be old and wise, first you must be young and stupid."
- © Fairfax NZ News