New Zealand actor: Martin Henderson

Hollywood leading man, Martin Henderson spends most of his time away from home but the Auckland-born New Zealander is still very much a Kiwi at heart.

Henderson - who started his career as a teenager in Kiwi television soap Shortland Street - now lives in LA where his credits include hit movies like Bride & Prejudice, Torque, and The Ring. He also starred in the award-winning Australian film Little Fish.

After first making his name in New Zealand, the young Martin Henderson moved to Australia where he landed roles in television series Echo Point and Home & Away. In 1997 he relocated to Hollywood to pursue a film career.

Home by Christmas

In 2010 Henderson starred in his first New Zealand feature film Home by Christmas, directed by Kiwi Gaylene Preston, which tells the story of a young New Zealander setting off to World War II.

The actor, who owes his existence to a WWII romance, said he jumped at the chance to star in a quintessential New Zealand tale of wartime love.

Home by Christmas is based on the wartime experiences of Preston's parents - Ed and Tui Preston.

Ed Preston signed up for the war with his mates as they came home from rugby practice. He told his worried wife Tui that he'd be "home by Christmas". Ed eventually did make it home - four years late, and having escaped from an Italian prison camp.

Martin Henderson talks about New Zealand

What do you miss most about New Zealand?
That's a tough question to answer because there are so many things that I miss about New Zealand - family, friends, food, the sense of humour.

Certainly the natural beauty of NZ is very hard to substitute and although I make a real effort to get out into the most rugged and spectacular parts of California, I am often comparing it to home and left a bit wanting.

I don't think that is entirely about the land though - and I must say that California has some magnificent scenery. I think it has more to do with a feeling that I only get in New Zealand. I think that has as much to do with the spirit of the people and the Kiwi culture as it does with the landscape. And has a lot to do with it being home too. It’s hard to articulate but I think all Kiwis know what I’m talking about.

How often do you fly home for a visit?
There were a couple of years where I didn't make it home at all, and that was a horrible feeling - so I always come back at least once a year for an extended time over the Christmas period. On average, I probably get back about 3 or 4 times a year, depending on my commitments up here. I have nephews now - so it's nice to be at home for their birthdays.

What’s the first thing you do when you get home?
Just hang out with my family really or catch up with mates.

Would you like to move back to New Zealand someday?
Yeah, I think about that more and more these days. I've spent my entire adult life living away from NZ - in Sydney, New York, Paris and Los Angeles. I’ve loved the adventure and experience, but the older I get, the more I think about living back in New Zealand. I really don't know what life will bring but at the very least, I would love to split my time between NZ and wherever else I end up.

What are the top five Kiwi foods that you miss?
Vogel’s bread (toasted) YUM!! There is a Vogel’s bread here, but it sucks compared to the Kiwi variety. LOVE New Zealand butter and fortunately that’s easy enough to find at Whole Foods Markets, which are all over LA. Whole Foods also stock manuka honey, which I'm never without, as well as fresh Kiwi lamb, grass-fed beef, and green-lipped mussels.

Tragically, nobody's even heard of a pavlova over here. But I did manage to convince a friend to learn how to make it. It's not as good as Mum's ... but it does the trick at least till I get home.

What’s your earliest memory of a Kiwi holiday?
It was around the time when I was 3 or 4 years old. My Dad had a little trailer-sailor and my parents took my sister and I away sailing around the Hauraki Gulf for a family getaway.

The favourite thing for my sister and I to do was to sit in the dinghy while we were sailing and be pulled along like it was our our own speedboat. Those holidays were some of the best memories of my whole childhood.

How do you feel about being a New Zealander living overseas?
I love it. I am constantly praising New Zealand to anyone who will listen. I feel very proud of being a Kiwi and the way it has shaped my outlook on life.

Do you speak with a Kiwi accent when you’re not working?
My accent is a total mongrel these days. I don't consciously use an American accent if I'm not working, but it's pretty contaminated - as my family will often bemoan! I guess it’s a bit of both. A good month back home usually sorts it out though.

Where's your favourite NZ place for a holiday or a recharge?
Great Barrier Island is definitely one of my favourite places to holiday. In fact, I love nothing more than sailing all around the Hauraki Gulf for a week or two and exploring the multitude of bays and coves and harbours. It is one of the best cruising / sailing grounds in the world - with so many anchorages and unspoilt places to just totally unwind and forget about the world.

Great Barrier takes the cake though, for it's rugged beauty, bountiful seafood and the feeling of truly getting away from it all. I’m pretty partial to Auckland's West coast beaches too because of the raw energy there.

I've had many great holidays at Piha and always try to get out to Karekare or Anawhata Beach to just walk along next to the pounding surf whenever I'm home. I grew up walking all over the Waitakere ranges and that is still something I love doing to reconnect and commune with nature. There’s nothing like the smell of native New Zealand bush to balance the mind.

Do you have any favourite cafes or restaurants?
Dizengoff cafe in Auckland’s Ponsonby Road is pretty hard to pass up for a great breakfast. If you haven't tried the mushrooms you're missing out! The coffee is hard to beat too. Actually I find most places in Auckland serve some of the best coffee I've ever had. I heard that the way we roast our beans is somehow different and it really is noticeable in the final taste. It leaves American coffee for dead.

I know I'm biased, but the food in general in NZ is so much more flavour-some. I've often come home with friends from overseas and they invariably comment on the wonderful tasting food - whether it's at some fancy restaurant or grungy cafe. I’m a sucker for the calamari at Prego, also on Ponsonby Road.

What’s the ultimate Kiwi holiday experience to recommend to friends?
If they're up for it and have the time, I always suggest getting a campervan and having a good look around. It's pretty hard to go anywhere in NZ and not be blown away by the beauty. For me it's all about the adventure and exploring out-of-the-way places. With a campervan you're free to just cruise around and the options are endless.

They can just design a route that encompasses whatever they're into - rivers, lakes, mountains, vineyards, beaches, country side, coastal regions, you name it. Of course Queenstown offers a ton of cool experiences, either for partying and adrenalin sports, or as a gateway to the fiords or surrounding countryside which is stunning.

For me, sailing is the ultimate way to see and experience NZ. I love that you can get away to remote places that are not accessible by car. One of the best holidays I've ever had was with a charter company called Gamesail - operating out of the viaduct in Auckland. That really was the ultimate Kiwi experience.

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