Posted on www.GayNZ.com last night:
Tonight’s one-hour episode of TV2’s flagship local drama Shortland Street was the last to feature popular lesbian character Jay Copeland, who was found dead, seemingly at the hands of a serial killer.
Played by Jaime Passier-Armstrong since 2004, bar manager Jay formalised her relationship with her long-term partner Maia Jeffries, in New Zealand’s first (and so far only) televised Civil Union on Valentine’s Day last year – with over half a million New Zealanders watching.
Jay’s appearance was originally intended to be for only three months, but the character proved popular with viewers. After the character’s first few weeks on screen, Shortland Street’s producer Harriet Crampton said fans asked for Jay to stay, and remain lesbian.
Whenever interviewed, actress Passier-Armstrong said she always appreciated how important her TV character was as a role model for young lesbians who wrote to Shortland Street. She even occasionally appeared with her on-screen partner at Family nightclub. “I’ve got a lot of gay friends, so it wasn’t something I had to get my head around. It was more the viewers’ curiosity,” she told Spasifik magazine last month.
The discovery of Jay Copeland’s body at the end of tonight’s episode makes her seemingly the third victim of the ‘Ferndale killer’. Producers say the ‘whodunnit’ storyline will play out for many more episodes to come. Her on-again off-again partner Maia remains in the show.
This is the second time a LGBT character on Shortland Street has been murdered – gay doctor Geoff Greenlaw was bludgeoned to death and thrown in the chiller of a local bar in 2003, just a few weeks after the character came out.