She's the girl who almost got away twice – and she's been Will Hall’s rock throughout a tumultuous 2012. As Will went through career highs and deep personal lows that saw him robbed of thousands of dollars through internet hackers, Morgan Manson has been by his side with an unwavering smile and plates of home baking. And after the craziness of the last 12 months, the 31-year-old former self-described party boy has finally settled down.
"She's incredible," he grins. "She keeps me in check." After a less-than-poetic beginning, where Will had to fight with his mate over who saw the gorgeous blonde first in a Hamilton pub, to missing a good friend's wedding the same day he finally managed to get her number, the couple are now about to celebrate their second anniversary.
"We met in the thriving metropolis of Hamilton,” remembers Will. “I was filming a pilot for a TV show and Morgan was visiting her parents. "I saw her in a bar, but so did my friend Ron. We had a fight about who saw her first; we fought about that for months actually."
"It turns out that Ron actually spoke to me first, but never mind," chimes in makeup artist Morgan (22) with a smile. "I saw her again a couple of months later in Auckland and managed to get her number,” smiles Will playfully.
“But on the same day that I met her again, I was supposed to be at a really good mate's wedding – I'd forgotten all about it. I was texting him an apology and accidentally sent it to Morgan. That was our first text. But it all worked out – I missed the wedding, but I found Morgan."
"I wasn't sure if I wanted to go out with a guy who missed friends’ weddings," grins Morgan, who is clearly more than a match for Will’s quick humour.
After she agreed to go on a date with the former Shortland Street star, they hit it off and realised that their personalities were incredibly similar – although Will says Morgan is still the "mature one" of the pair. But Morgan and Will admit their relationship was tested last year when the couple had their car broken into outside a takeaway shop.
"I'd just picked Morgan up from the airport, so it had all of her suitcases from her trip, all of her makeup brushes, money, my laptop – pretty much all of our good stuff," says Will. But worse was to come, as Will discovered a few hours later that the thieves had managed to hack into his bank accounts from his laptop and withdraw tens of thousands of dollars – money he still hasn't got back.
"Neither of us had been through anything like this before," says Morgan. "I think we learned a lot about each other; it was a learning curve."
"I wasn't prepared for how much it would affect us, to be honest," adds Will. "But you have to remember, it's only stuff."
Despite the difficulties, the couple have stayed firm – and Will is quick to point out how much he's relied on Morgan during the busiest year of his career, where he took on three separate projects: Nothing Trivial, Underbelly and his first play in eight years, Mike & Virginia.
"Morgan was the one who convinced me to do the play," he says. "I was thinking, there's no way I can do all of this at the same time. But she told me I could, and I did."
"I know every single word of that play, back to front," smiles Morgan. "She sat down and read through the entire thing with me countless times. That's when I really started thinking, ‘This girl is special. She can go through this with me again and again, and she still has time to make the entire cast cookies and Moro-bar slice,’" says Will.
Their developing relationship has seen the pair, who share the same dry sense of humour, move in together after Will purchased a home in the Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn. Parties have largely been replaced with nights in, low-carb options are the first preference when it comes to dining, and you're more likely to find him reading over a script than in a bar in central Auckland. But that's just how he likes it.
"Last Saturday, I decided the movies would be a good option. Morgan couldn't believe we were at the movies on a Saturday night," he laughs. "But being a homebody has been great. It's had a lot to do with owning my own home, I think. Having a nice home to go to is very appealing."
Surprisingly enough, domestic bliss seems to be suiting Will just fine – in fact, as soon as we're done with our interview, he's off with Morgan to buy a microwave. "I'm not happy about it," he says jokingly. "We need one. I'm putting my foot down," Morgan says. "I've had to sacrifice having one in favour of Sky Sport, but not any more."
"Sky Sport helps me be a homebody," Will fires back with a grin. "If I have it, along with Morgan of course, I never need to go out. Morgan never lets Sky Sport get above her in the house though.”
"No," laughs Morgan. "I know when I have to pull the plug!"