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Shorty Street love on the rocks

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    Shorty Street love on the rocks - 4-Mar-2007
    New Zealand's first gay TV marriage is over and it looks like the fans of Shortland Street's lesbians will be taking it harder than the stars.

    After just a year of not-quite-bliss civil union, Jay and Maia called it quits on the TV2 soap this week.

    It was a fairytale Valentine's Day wedding but after two failed pregnancy attempts, an affair with a man and countless arguments, Maia pulled the pin.

    Jay is taking it "very very badly", according to the actress who plays her. But it's certain the fans will take it even worse.

    Jaime Passier-Armstrong, who plays Jay, told Sunday News that Shortland Street never realised how popular the girls were - until they tried to break them up the first time following Jay's affair with Dylan Preston.

    "There was an influx of fan mail," Jaime says.

    "They were all saying, 'When are Jay and Maia going to get back together?' That's when we knew how popular the girls were.

    "When you break them up and there's an outcry, that's when you find out how much people like them being together."

    Now it's over, Jaime is bracing herself for a bit of a backlash but the actress has a reality check for those crying into their TV dinners at 7pm.

    "It's Shortland Street! People forget it's a drama. We need to remind them that no one stays together on the show and no one stays single either.

    "A year on Shortland Street for a marriage is like 20 years in real life!"

    The popularity of Kiwi TV's first lesbian couple couldn't have been predicted when Jaime and Anna Jullienne, who plays Maia, joined the cast nearly three years ago.

    There was a storm of controversy and media interest surrounding the storyline.

    "Anna and I expected it because there hadn't been a young gay couple on the show before," Jaime says. "I knew there was going to be a lot of curiosity around it. We were prepared for that."

    But how times change - from the initial 'shock factor' the coupling of Maia and Jay in Kiwi living rooms during primetime has become normal to the majority of viewers.

    "We have been really lucky," Jaime says. "We get fan mail from people of all sorts of ages, from really young kids, to teenagers, to mums and dads and also grandparents.

    "There have been teenagers who've written in saying they were at points of their life they were going to commit suicide because no one could understand where they were at with their sexuality - they didn't understand it themselves.

    "It's been cool to help out in that sense just by having a young gay couple on the show. Because it's a family time slot, it normalises it. It's not such a big thing anymore."

    Anna agrees: "I don't think the fact they were a lesbian couple is a big deal anymore. We were just another couple which is really nice. It's really positive for New Zealand and gay people."

    A consequence of the break-up for Jaime and Anna is they no longer do scenes together - a big change from spending most of their working hours together for the last three years.

    "I had my last scene with Anna three or four weeks ago," Jaime says. "It is very different.

    "I'm working with some of the other actors now that I hadn't actually had any scenes with ever.

    "I see Anna at work and we say, 'Hi wifey! Hi ex-wifey'" she laughs.

    The two actors joined the show at the same time and have become good friends.

    "It's a bit sad because it's the end of an era," Anna says of the break-up. "Jaime's lovely to work with. As far as being intimate (in scenes), we are so comfortable with each other.

    "If it was with someone you didn't get on with, I can't even imagine what it would be like."

    Filming the last "destructive" months of Maia and Jay's relationship - including affairs, arguments, and the baby storyline - were emotionally draining for both actors.

    "You just kind of feel really emotionally exhausted at the end of those kind of days," Anna says.

    "It's like you've been at a funeral or something. I normally need a glass of wine and a early night. Even though it's not real, the emotion is real. Your body's crying."

    Working on a fast turn-around soap like Shortland Street is a balancing act.

    "You do have big storylines but then they drop off," Jaime says.

    Both actors believe the break-up is best for their characters.

    While Jaime comes across as protective of her character, she can see Maia's perspective.

    And analysing their relationship has made her think about relationships in general.

    "I think most people my age have gone through relationships and break-ups and that kind of stuff," says Jaime, who was once engaged.

    "It's the same whether it's a relationship at home or work, when you are fighting for something and it's not working, there comes a point when you just have to let it go. In this case, Maia lets it go."
    Ref: - Sunday News - Shortland Street

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