Seasoned Kiwi actor Tim Foley doesn’t shy away from a challenge. This week, he’ll grace our screens playing one of New Zealand’s biggest icons – All Black legend Richie McCaw – in a television movie about the 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign. But if that isn’t enough to get the knees shaking, Tim has another epic role on the horizon – becoming the husband of Laura Hodges, his girlfriend of five years.
The dad-of-one, who appears on The Kick on TV One on August 10, will add these latest two milestones to a growing list that also includes his new job away from the cameras as a real estate agent.
Tim (35), who popped the question to Laura (27) with a ring hidden inside a laundry powder box, says the “non-traditional” couple have both made career changes to support daughter Manaia (22 months), and have plans to extend their brood.
“In the past few years, I’ve been lucky to work on Jack the Giant Slayer, The Blue Rose and Nothing Trivial, but as soon as you have a child, there’s much more responsibility,” says Tim of pursuing a career in real estate.
Tim will soon list his first home with Auckland firm Ray White in Henderson, while Laura is training to become a youth worker. “Work-wise, the future is looking exciting,” says Tim. “We’re getting married and we have a daughter who surprises us every day with how awesome she is. Life is fantastic!”
Not that Tim will be turning his back on acting (in fact, he’s growing a goatee for an upcoming role). He says the flexible hours of real-estate work will allow him time to audition for screen and theatre projects.
Laura – who bravely approached “handsome” Tim in their home town of Dunedin on a night out in 2010 – was the one who encouraged him to pursue this new career path.
“He’s got the gift of the gab, is very smart and likes helping people so I thought he’d make a great agent,” she explains. “I was thinking of things that would be helpful for Tim to do so he could continue acting.”
Tim nods. “Whenever I’ve taken time out from acting to focus on paying the bills, Laura pushes me gently back towards it because she knows it’s what makes me happy. She’s the most emotionally intelligent person I’ve ever met. She pulls me up when I’m not being communicative and acting like a typical bloke!”
It’s for those reasons that laid-back Tim, who became a household name as Dr Mark Weston on Shortland Street from 2004 to 2007, wanted to marry bubbly Laura.
“I’d told her marriage was something I wanted right from our early days, but I just didn’t know when exactly. It was coming up to Laura’s birthday and I thought, ‘What’s the point in waiting? I love her and want to spend my life with her, plus we have a child together!’”
The birthday proposal came as a complete surprise for full-time hospitality worker Laura. “Tim told me my birthday present wouldn’t be expensive but was full of love. I didn’t think he’d propose!”
Tim hid a stunning diamond ring in a small box inside a laundry-powder package gift-wrapped in a brochure advertising engagement rings.
“I didn’t even notice the wrapping paper!” smiles Laura. “Tim grabbed my hand and said, ‘I just want to let you know how much I love you and how much you mean to me.’ I said, ‘Thanks, darling. I love you too,’ not knowing what was going on. Then he got on his knees and I burst into tears! He asked, ‘Is that a yes or a no?’”
The couple are planning a relaxed wedding ceremony at Piha Mill Camp, west of Auckland, in October 2015.
“Tim’s a real romantic,” says Laura. “I’ve saved every bunch of roses he’s bought me over the years and dried them. My plan is for Manaia to throw them into the air at our wedding.”
Their special day will be an intimate occasion with family and friends from New Zealand and Australia, where they lived for 18 months before settling in Auckland in 2012.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, like any relationship, but at the end of the day, it’s about persistence and listening,” says Laura. “We click even though we are opposites in many ways.”
Supporting his love of sport, which sees Tim spending most of his spare time on the cricket pitch or in front of the television, was another deal-maker for Tim.
“Tim told me early on, ‘If you want to be in a relationship with me, understand that cricket’s my life. You will never be able to take that away from me,’” laughs Laura. “I thought, ‘It’s just a guy who likes his sport.’ But no, he has to play cricket every single weekend in summer!”
Stepping into Richie McCaw’s boots for The Kick required Tim to trim down and get in shape.
“It was a tremendous honour to play Richie but a phenomenal burden too. He’s been voted the third most trusted New Zealander,” enthuses Tim. “Maybe that will help me in my real-estate job,” he laughs.
“I tried to capture what Richie embodies without doing an impression of him. It will be interesting to see how people receive it.”