5 minutes with actor Henry Rolleston

25 Nov 2020

Henry Rolleston (14488) might look familiar.

It could be because he’s on TV most weeknights, in his role as the brash yet kind Louis King on Shortland Street.

Twenty-one-year-old Henry attended Christ’s College from 2012–2016. After leaving, he’d planned to study Law at Victoria University but took quite a different path when he was accepted into a relatively new and very exciting acting school in Auckland called the Actors' Program. It was only a year-long course, but offered heaps of training and the chance to do what he loved. Thus Henry put his law studies on hold and headed to Auckland.

We caught up with Henry amid his busy schedule to find out a bit more about life now.

When did you become involved in acting?

I always used to love giving everything a go at school, including the annual plays/musicals put on by the phenomenal David Chambers, my Drama teacher at College, but when I got the lead role in 2015's Faustus I realised “hang on, maybe there's something to this acting thing I really like”, and went from there.

How did you get into Shortland Street?

My agent gave me a call one Wednesday night while I was at work telling me that Shortland Street needed someone who could start ASAP and asked if I'd be interested. Of course I said yes, and he said “Great, audition's tomorrow morning”. It was one of the best auditions I've done, and I basically had a 48-hour window where I went from working in an Escape Room to going on one of New Zealand's most recognisable TV programmes as a member of the core cast.

What are the challenges you face on a programme like Shortland Street?

The go-to answer is usually the fast turnaround they have on the show. We have to make five episodes of TV each week, which isn't easy by any means, and the speed at which they work on set is exponentially faster than any other project I personally have worked on. For the actors, specifically, the lack of knowledge about what's around the corner is also a bit of a challenge. There's always this air of uncertainty surrounding what's going to happen next in the story, whether our characters are going to be featured heavily or play more of a supporting role, or even in it at all! Not being in the story for a bit means we have some downtime though, which is always welcome, especially because the work can be very demanding when the story revolves around your character and you're shooting most of the scenes in a day.

What do you enjoy about acting?

Acting is an awesome job. We're able to work with a large variety of people, and no two filming sets are exactly alike. We also have loads of opportunity to sit down with the writers and say “hey, I think my character would do X, or hasn't talked about Y in a while.” There's a lot of freedom involved in how we portray our characters, and it's exciting being able to have a direct influence on the creative lines in the show.

What are your medium term ambitions?

For the meanwhile, I'm very happy on the show. To be honest, I'm not sure how long I'm going to stay working at Shortland Street, it depends on what the writers want and whether they're still enjoying writing my character. I'd really love to try working on another project somewhere down the line, however, as I feel I've learned a lot being in an environment where I get to act as my means of full-time employment, and would love to apply the skills and knowledge I've gained to another character and story. I'd also like to revisit studying sometime in the future, as I currently don't have enough time to spare to continue studying while I work.

Do you have a favourite actor/one you most admire – anywhere in the world?

It's almost impossible to choose just one. Of course I'm biased towards the people I work with on a daily basis because I get to see their process in action and learn more from them than I feel I could from just watching someone in a movie/show. That said, I'm a huge fan of both David Tennant and Olivia Colman. David, in particular, had a huge impact on me growing up, as I'd watch him in Doctor Who when I was younger, with my Dad and brother. In Broadchurch, David Tennant and Olivia Colman really blew me away, particularly in the first season.

What would be the part you would most like to play?

I don't really know if there's one answer to that question. I'd love to do some voice acting, or once I've aged up a bit, I really want to play a part in a project that really messes with the viewers by breaking the fourth wall or exploring some more mature themes. Teddy Daniels from Shutter Island or Ephraim Winslow from The Lighthouse come to mind. I guess man going mad on an island with a lighthouse answers that question nicely.