Actress Rachel Forman has flown from the Shortland Street nest and soon she’ll be leaving behind a nest of another kind. Rachel (30), who played Paige Munroe on the hit soap for nearly two years, is headed stateside with her partner of five years, Brad Knewstubb.
While Rachel is excited at the prospect of moving to the US, she’ll be saying goodbye to her Shorty castmates, her family and some feathered friends. The passionate environmentalist is the proud owner of six chickens, who will be passed into the care of one of her atmates, along with responsibility for her bountiful vege garden, while she and Brad tour his successful play Apollo 13 throughout the US.
Rachel will be living out of a suitcase for almost four months as she travels around with a camera capturing the tour. But the actress has no qualms about working closely day after day with her partner because nothing will compare to the mammoth project they undertook when they converted the backyard of her 1910 villa in Grey Lynn, Auckland into a vege and chicken haven.
“The backyard project was probably the biggest test of our relationship,” says Rachel. “There were definitely moments where you’d think, ‘Oh my God, are we ever going to get this finished?’” Up to her ears in mud and muck while converting the garden during a rain-filled summer, Rachel says it was Brad, an industrial engineer by trade, who kept her calm during her moments of DIY despair.
Rachel would race home from the set of Shortland Street each day, don her gumboots and get to work, still in her full face of thick stage makeup – and Brad was there, boots and all.
“He has this amazing ability to see things in his head and he knows exactly how they’re going to work, whereas I panic more and need to be able to see it instantly,” says Rachel. “We definitely learned a lot from each other during the process and how to work together, which was great.”
Rachel took a lot of inspiration from environmental crusaders such as Weekly columnist and Green Goddess Wendyl Nissen, and British author and River Cottage star Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. She hopes they’d be proud of her efforts to create a sustainable life.
Her chickens produce several eggs a day, but although she admits she’s rather fond of one particular brown hen, she hasn’t named any of them in an effort to distance herself. She had one harsh reality check early on in her chicken-raising days, after she and Brad bought their chickens from Trade Me, but were unaware that one of the birds was in fact a rooster, which are not permitted in the city.
“One morning I’m sitting in the makeup chair at work at about 7am and I got a text from Brad saying, ‘The rooster’s gone’,” says Rachel. “I rang him and he said the ‘chicken’ crowed so he got rid of it. I think he watched a video on YouTube of how you get rid of a chicken in the most humane way to do it because he loves the chickens.”
Rachel’s efforts to live a sustainable life also extended to her time on Shorty. She tried to follow the example of her castmates Matt Chamberlain (Murray Cooper) and Gerald Urquhart (Dr Luke Durville) by biking to work, but was deterred by the Auckland weather. She then started a car pool system with Shavaughn Ruakere and Chris Tempest. “It’s funny pulling up at the lights and the person in the car next to you is going, ‘Look it’s Roimata, Paige and Josh!’”
Shortland Street has been a big part of the actress’ life over the past few years. Though she’s really excited about the time ahead, leaving is bittersweet. “It’s such a great job. I’ll miss the routine of doing it every day and talking to everyone. “Brooke Williams, who plays Lana, is a good friend of mine and we spend most days hanging out together so I’ll really miss that,” she says.
When Rachel returns to New Zealand next year she’ll get back to work on her home. Rachel has plans to add a pizza oven in her backyard, do up the kitchen and paint her home a bright colour.
“I love driving down streets and seeing lots of brightly coloured houses. I’ve just got to find the right shade, but I think that could be the next job.”