It’s been a return to his roots for 22-year-old Shortland Street actor, Tane Williams, as he rejoined the WOW team for judging this month.

Williams, who plays ambulance driver Ali Karim on the popular soap, says his time modelling garments and performing with WOW gave him valuable experience early in his career.

“I love being a part of it,” he says. “WOW is awesome, and it’s really fun. I’ve met a whole bunch of cool people through it who have influenced me in the direction I’ve taken. It’s given me stage time, which is a boost of confidence, and got me performing.”

Williams started working with WOW in 2011, in his last year at Wellington’s Rongotai College. He’d always loved performing, but when the school’s drama teacher suggested he and close friend Jayden Daniels – who now plays Curtis Hannah on Shortland Street – attend the audition for models, he wasn’t sure.

“At first, I said no – I’m a bit shy,” he recalls. “But Jayden and I ended up getting brave and going to do it.”

He and Daniels had danced together for eight years before WOW, so they were both very comfortable on stage. “The opportunity to do that more and to get paid for it was like ‘Hell yeah!’”

For four years, he modelled garments for the show, including creations such as Kate Mackenzie’s 2014 Supreme Award-winning entry Poly Nation, a three-part costume made of suitcases that combined Maori and European cultures. He also studied stage and screen acting at Wellington’s Whitireia.

Further learning at New Zealand drama school Toi Whakaari and his subsequent Shortland Street contract saw him take a leave of absence from performing with WOW, but he still enjoys returning to the camaraderie of the in-house judging weekends, where the models display the entries for judges.

“I think the show is amazing,” he says. “It’s taking over the world from a little thing that was started in a backyard in Nelson. To go from that to having hundreds of thousands of people coming to exhibits in the States is incredible.”

In the future, he hopes to land a big film role overseas, and would love to head to Los Angeles to try his luck in the next several years.

“But my history with WOW has been awesome,” he says. “It’s been one of the best things I’ve ever been a part of; I’ve loved every moment of it. Doing the shows every night in front of thousands of people is so satisfying, and it’s definitely helped me solidify that I want to perform as a career. It’s shown me that it’s a real passion of mine to be on stage.”