Award-winning actress and writer Nancy Brunning dies aged just 48 after a months-long health battle

  • New Zealand actress made famous as Nurse Jaki on Shortland Street has died 
  • Brunning enjoyed a celebrated career in film, TV, theatre, and as a playwright 
  • Family friend announces tragic news on Facebook on Sunday morning 
  • This year it was revealed that Brunning was suffering from a mystery illness

One of New Zealand's best-loved actresses, Nancy Brunning, has died aged 48 after battling a mystery illness for several months.

Brunning was best known for playing Nurse Jaki on prime-time drama Shortland Street, but she also won awards for roles in film and television through an accomplished career spanning decades.

She was also a talented playwright, acting coach and director.

Family friend Stacey Morrison announced the tragic news on Facebook on Sunday morning.

Actor and writer Nancy Brunning, an award-winning New Zealand actress best known for playing Nurse Jaki on Shortland Street,  has died aged 48. She is pictured here in 2016 at the Berlin International Film Festival for the premiere of the film The Patriarch in which she starred

Actor and writer Nancy Brunning, an award-winning New Zealand actress best known for playing Nurse Jaki on Shortland Street,  has died aged 48. She is pictured here in 2016 at the Berlin International Film Festival for the premiere of the film The Patriarch in which she starred

'With a heavy heart, I post this message on behalf of Nancy's Whānau ...

'Our māmā, our sister, our aunty, our friend, she has followed the call of her tīpuna.' 

'Nancy's passion was to bring unheard stories to the light. To remind our people that our voices are a powerful tool and aroha is the most important thing of all.'

'And while she was loved by the world, she was loved even more by us. She was the person that bound our whānau together.'

In July, friends and family made an appeal to donate money for a life-prolonging medical treatment for Brunning on the crowdfunding page Boosted.  

It is not known what medical condition Brunning was suffering or what the drug was, but the authors of the page said it was a 'special medication' that was not subsidised and cost $7000 a month.

The authors of the page asked to raise $67,000 but exceeded their total and reached $82,820. 

Ms Morrison thanked those who had supported Brunning during her illness, and asked for privacy for the family and friends as they say their farewells.

'We wish to express our deep gratitude and mihi to everyone who has supported Nancy and our whānau,' she wrote on Facebook.

'Thank you to the kind people at Mary Potter Hospice and the hardworking staff at Wellington Hospital.'

'Thank you to all of you who supported her battle in many ways, including the Manaakitia fundraiser.'

Brunning (third from left) starred as Tania Rogers in What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? the 1999 sequal film to the 1994 cult classic Once Were Warriors

Brunning (third from left) starred as Tania Rogers in What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? the 1999 sequal film to the 1994 cult classic Once Were Warriors

Brunning (left) played Tania Rogers in the 1999 film What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

Brunning (left) played Tania Rogers in the 1999 film What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?

Nancy Brunning (right) with actor Akuhata Keefe (left) at the Berlin premiere of The Patriarch in 2016. Ms Brunning starred as the woman who sparked a bitter feud between two rival Maori families after she was stolen from her betrothed by a man who had fallen in love with her

Nancy Brunning (right) with actor Akuhata Keefe (left) at the Berlin premiere of The Patriarch in 2016. Ms Brunning starred as the woman who sparked a bitter feud between two rival Maori families after she was stolen from her betrothed by a man who had fallen in love with her

Shortland Street has been one of New Zealand's best-loved prime-time dramas since it began in 1992 with original cast member Brunning playing Nurse Jaki until 1994. 

The highly respected Māori actress went on to a long and storied career during which she won Best Actress at the NZ Film Awards for her starring role as Tania Rogers in the film What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?, the sequel to the cult classic film Once Were Warriors.

In 2016, Brunning played a lead role in The Patriarch, a film about a bitter feud between two Maori families sparked when Brunning's character Ramona Mahana is stolen from her betrothed by an unrequited lover.

She has also won awards for her work in television and was a highly esteemed acting coach and director, especially in theatre where she directed stage dramas from 1995.

Nancy Brunning as Nurse Jaki on Shortland Street - the role that shot her to fame. Brunning was an original cast member of New Zealand's best-loved soap opera in 1992. Brunning played Nurse Jaki until 1994 then went on to star in film, TV, theatre and as a playwright

Nancy Brunning as Nurse Jaki on Shortland Street - the role that shot her to fame. Brunning was an original cast member of New Zealand's best-loved soap opera in 1992. Brunning played Nurse Jaki until 1994 then went on to star in film, TV, theatre and as a playwright

Brunning directed the short film Journey to Ihipa in 2008, a film about a boy with a European mother who is taken by extended Maori family after his Maori father dies in WWII.

The film was screened at festivals in New Zealand, Russia and New York. 

A spokesperson has said her body will be taken to Raukawa Marae in Ōtaki.

 

Actor and writer Nancy Brunning dies aged 48

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