Strolling into an up-market Auckland hotel, Shortland Street actor Adam Rickitt seems refreshed, tanned, and in the mood for talking.
Wearing a crisp white shirt – unbuttoned to reveal his toned and hairless chest – the former singer is days away from relocating to the UK, where he will debut the remix of his 1999 hit I Breathe Again at gay festival Liverpool Pride.
Just a few months ago, Adam's return to his native England was tipped to mark a new chapter in his romance with 'the love of his life' Kate Green, 30. But last month the couple announced their sudden split, and once again those age-old rumours re-emerged that the former model is gay.
The 32-year-old, who wrapped up filming in New Zealand three months ago, admits he's not surprised. 'I'm the campest straight man you'll ever meet,' he jokes. 'But no, I'm not gay – though my life would've been a lot easier if I was.
I've never had any inclination to be gay, it's just not my thing. But I'm not going to make a big fuss about it. To be honest I find the rumours boring. I've been lucky to have the support I've had from the gay community; they've been fantastic to me. That's how I've got this music opportunity.'
Adam, who will record his new remix on the Spanish party island of Ibiza, admits he's actively courted gay audiences as a singer. Why? They're his most loyal admirers. The male fan base Adam garnered when he played Coronation Street's bad boy Nick Tilsley – famously sharing an onscreen kiss with a man – still remains. And playing Shortland Street's rogue bar owner Kieran Mitchell made him one of New Zealand's hottest stars.
'They love Kieran because he's a naughty boy,' says the handsome blond, who plans to base himself in Manchester, relocating with his beloved blue heeler dog Rufus.
'You need to be business-orientated,' he continues, explaining it's important to keep his gay fan base onside.
Adam makes no apologies for this, but is adamant he's not trying to hide his sexuality. 'The way I was raised there was nothing wrong with being gay,' he says. 'If I was, I would have stood up and said, "I'm gay. If you don't like it, f**k off". But I'm not.'
Adam is determined to further his acting and music career, and has hush-hush projects in the pipeline in the UK and the US. It was this ambition, conflicting with Kate's desire to start a family, that led to their split.
When Adam was told his contract with Shortland Street was ending last December, Kate, a UK bar manager who he first met when he was 18, was diagnosed with ovarian abnormalities – a condition Adam prefers not to discuss. The British beauty was advised by doctors to try to conceive as soon as possible or risk never having children.
Torn between furthering his career, parenthood, and his feelings for Kate, Adam knew he wasn't prepared to be a dad. 'I was honest with Kate and told her, "I love you to bits and don't want to lose you, but I'm not ready to have kids. It wouldn't be fair on you, the children or me,"' explains Adam, who is still in daily contact with his ex.
Kate was prepared to end her dream of having children to be with Adam, but the star felt it was too big a sacrifice.
'It was going to grow a seed of resentment between us,' says Adam, who spent Christmas with Kate in the UK before her fleeting visit to New Zealand in April. 'It really sucked that after 14 years of searching we have a year of amazing bliss – then it hits the buffers.'
With Adam's plans for globe-trotting, he realises he would be an absent father. 'I was sent to a boarding school at seven, so I know what it's like to see your parents only in the holidays. That's not the kind of father I want to be,' he explains.
Adam confesses his relationship with his dad, financial analyst Peter Rickitt, is rocky. But his time in New Zealand has helped father and son reflect on their strained relationship, and actually brought them closer.
'Being 18,000km away has made our relationship, as it's given us the time to see what's important – that we love each other,' says Adam, the youngest of four boys.
Within weeks of his arrival in New Zealand he was photographed looking exceptionally frail.
It's no secret Adam battled bulimia as a teenager, and his slight frame lead to rumours he was still suffering from the eating disorder.
However, Adam reveals that he's plagued by the condition Ankylosing spondylitis, which means his weight will yo-yo for the rest of his life. It's a crippling autoimmune disease that painfully fuses the spine together.
'When I got to New Zealand there was a big hoo-haa about how thin I was, but I'd been on this medicine that had given me the s**ts for six months,' Adam reveals.
'Usually it's manageable through exercise and drugs, but sometimes it can physically wash you out and leave you on the floor feeling violently ill, but my weight issues aren't psychological.'
However, questions about Adam's mental health were raised during his infamous 2007 shoplifting incident. For the first time, Adam confesses he was drunk when he was caught red-handed leaving a West Auckland Pak 'n Save with a block of cheese, a bottle of HP sauce and a jar of coffee.
'It was the most embarrassing moment of my life,' Adam says. 'I went shopping pissed, and you shouldn't do that.'
Adam's cousin Janet, who he considered a sister, had died the night before, after a battle with breast cancer. The shock prompted Adam to hit the bottle, and the next morning he was still drunk.
'I'd paid for my entire week's shopping – about $450 worth – but my lunch, which I'd put in a separate part of the trolley I forgot to pay for,' Adam explains.
'My first thought was, "Will I get deported?" But even the police said, "Don't worry about it." When I was at the station they were taking the piss out of me. They were lovely because they could see how beaten up I was about it. The entire world knew then I had HP sauce and brie sandwiches for lunch.'
Finding the silver lining
The incident, along with his break-up with Kate, will be remembered by Adam as some of his darkest days in New Zealand. But despite his heartache and personal troubles, the tormented optimist always sees the silver lining to his situations, saying these grim moments help him become a greater actor.
'I can call on emotions from the time I was bulimic as a teen to the isolation starting out on Coronation Street, when suddenly I was in the public eye,' Adam says. 'The more messed up the person, the better the actor. The darker you are in your past soul, the more you can relate to characters.''
His intense nature is perhaps the reason Adam initially struggled to make friends. But he leaves New Zealand with solid friendships among the Shortland Street cast, including Peter Mochrie (Dr Callum McKay) and Harry McNaughton (receptionist Gerald Tippett). There were never any off-camera flings, notwithstanding his secret crush on 'incredibly hot' Emily Robins, who played Claire Solomon.
'There's only room for one superficial, vain, insecure person – and that's me. Two actors getting together is a really bad move,' Adam says with a laugh.
Although his time on the popular New Zealand drama has come to an end, don't be surprised if Adam return to our screens.
'I don't think it's the end,' Adam says, grinning. 'I love the place too much.'
April 2010: 'I'm leaving for love'
September 2009: 'Why New Zealand is my home now'
By Caroline Botting