His character Dr Callum McKay has been a blackmailer and a womaniser. He has cheated death in an
explosion, seen his son Hunter battle drug addiction and even had an affair with Hunter’s ex girlfriend, nurse Jill Kingsbury.
Now, after appearing in 489 episodes over six years on Shortland Street, Peter Mochrie is packing his stethoscope and leaving the fictional hospital for good – heading for LA to discover what Hollywood has in store. “It’s been a wonderful journey, but it’s time to go. From Shortland Street, from this end of the world,” says Peter (53).
His wife of three years, Sally (42), and their two-year-old son Cade will stay in Auckland while he fi nds his feet in the US. “For Sally and I, everything has always worked out with a sort of divine timing. We’ve learned to trust that everything has been set up the way it should be. Your spirit knows this was meant to be. Everything begins and ends at the right time and place.”
“There is no other way than to take a leap of faith,” says Sally, who gave up her job as a brand manager when Cade was born. “I’m quite happy to do something different for a couple of years. It’s not forever.”
Peter’s return ticket is booked for six weeks, but the couple say he’ll stay until he gets a job, or they’ll just see what happens. “He needs to be there if he’s going to succeed,” says Sally. “We’ll stay in touch via Skype, and if it all works out and he gets a job, then we’ll be on the next plane over there.”
But despite the couple’s absolute conviction that this is the right step for them, there’s one concern at the back of both their minds – that Cade won’t deal well with his dad going away. “I’ll be fine, but Cade won’t understand where Dad is,” worries Sally. “Peter’s job on Shortland Street has meant he’s here more than many dads during the day, so Cade’s as attached and close to Peter as he is to me.”
“It’s terrifying, the thought of being about being away from Cade and Sally,” agrees Peter, who was a successful actor in Australia before Shortland Street. “Leaving them behind is definitely the hardest thing for me. They are my world.”
Giving up the security of your home and family to chase a dream in your fifties could be frightening for some but for Peter, it’s the next step on a path he wholeheartedly believes in. “For the past year, as much as I loved Shortland Street, I was coasting,” he admits.
“The big thing was when my on-screen family [played by Kim Crossman and Lee Donoghue] moved on – they are both spending time in LA. Not only did that leave me in a different place on the show, but off screen they were my best friends too. It wasn’t the same.”
Rather than falling into the deep depression that envelops many actors after leaving a long-term role, Peter felt excited when producers told him they were writing him out. “When I first came to New Zealand, I thought I’d be here for a year – six years later, I’m finally leaving!” he explains. “The night I found out I was leaving Shortland Street, Sally and I talked until 4 in the morning – we sat down and made a plan.”
The couple’s strategy is certainly brave, but it’s well thought-out. “First stop Hollywood, where I’ve got somewhere to stay,” says Peter. With his working visa in place, meetings with agents lined up, plus a plan to sell the family’s Auckland house in a year’s time, if anyone’s likely to succeed, it’s Peter.
“I know how the acting world works,” he says. “I’m not there to muck around. You have to be accessible so when you’re up for the role of the 50-year-old guy in CSI or whatever, you’re available for the audition.”
And if it doesn’t work out? “We have a three-year window until Cade starts school, but by then we’ll know,” says Peter. Until then, there’s faith. “I’d love a TV show but I might get a job in Houston, or South Africa, or Australia. It’s time to cruise for and see where it takes us.”