Spy: Meet the two new powerhouses of Shortland St

Shortland Street has one of our most successful actresses returning to the show and one of our biggest up-and-comers also joining the ranks.

Multi award-winning Sara Wiseman is joining the cast as new head of surgery Dr Francesca Telford.

“I’ve been inside these iconic hospital walls three times! All doctors — once before I went to drama school, I was very green. The second was the end of 2010. So, it’s been more than a decade since I’ve embraced the lightning-speed velocity of shooting here,” says Wiseman.

Her latest doctor is a no-nonsense powerhouse, who was raised in the South Island and worked all around the world and has just transferred from Sydney.

“When we meet Francesca, she is all business and she loves it that way. She supports those who strive for success, especially women trying to get ahead to even the playing field dominated by men. But I’m sure all good intentions will be challenged,” she says.

Newcomer Ava Diakhaby will play Jojo Okoye who is technically Gen Z — but unapologetically millennial.

Diakhaby, 27, is London born and raised and moved to Auckland in 2009. After a stint acting back in the UK, she was offered roles back home in the Avatar franchise and Netflix series Sweetooth.

“Most of the screen work I have done has been international, so it feels incredible to finally get a chance to grace New Zealand screens. I’m African/European, born and raised in London, but Aotearoa is my home — I’m a Kiwi so it feels really important to me to have that representation there. All the little black girls at home hopefully have someone they can watch and see that anything is possible,” she says.

Diakhaby was a part of Shortland Street The Musical, but says it is wonderful be a part of Ferndale on screen.

“I have a lot of friends in the acting circle and quite a few of them on Shortland Street already, so it’s exciting to get to play with them on screen. My best friend, Jess Sayer, who plays Maeve, helped me prep for this role. I think she was more thrilled than me when I got cast.”

The young actress says Jojo is an absolute whirlwind who brings “I’m living my best life to a whole new level”.

“She’s a firecracker with a big heart, she’s cheeky and loves being the centre of attention.”
Both actors have been playing catch-up filming the show, which halted when Auckland was in alert level 4.

Wiseman says the core cast and crew and production are well oiled in the strict protocols in place and she has been in total awe of them all.

“It’s a whole different skill set to how I am used to filming but I’ve had huge support from the cast and crew, many of whom are great mates. Doing your own hair and make-up is a little panic-inducing, but hey, I am truly grateful to be working when the rest of the industry is unable to,” she says.

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