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More Before They Were Famous

By NZ On Screen team
17th March 2014

 More Before They Were Famous

More Before They Were Famous

 NZ On Screen team

By NZ On Screen team


When will I, will I be …

Buckle up as we blast more Kiwi celebs from the past. To introduce the collection Paul Casserly takes a long media lunch with a party of precocious pre-fame Kiwis — from Helen Clark to Tana Umaga, Lorde to Lawless, Hickey to Neill, Tem to Bic, Ko to Lowe — and muses on fame and fortune. “Was everyone young and gorgeous once? Helen Clark certainly was.”


Stars in their eyes

 Nationwide: Labour Party Youth Conference

A 24-year-old Helen Clark (with long, flowing locks) features in this NZBC current affairs footage from the annual conference of Young Labour. Twenty five years before she will become NZ’s first elected female Prime Minister, Clark is a junior politics lecturer making her way in the party machine.

 Intermediate Schools Battle of the Bands - Lorde excerpt

Before you could call her Queen Bee and ‘Royals’ was a Grammy-winning smash hit Ella Yelich-O’Connor was a 12-year-old hard-rocking singer in Extreme and competing in the covers category of the 2009 Intermediate Schools Battle of the Bands Finals.

 Gloss - Jim Hickey cameo

This 19 July 1988 Gloss episode features an acting cameo from future weatherman Jim Hickey. In these excerpts Hickey plays a policeman responding to the unexplained death of Brad Redfern. Hickey’s early incarnation as an actor can also be witnessed in a 1984 episode of Children of the Dog Star.

 Seekers - I Hope You Know What You're Doing (Episode One)

This high concept 80s TV drama series saw three young Wellingtonions drawn into a mysterious ‘fate and fortune’ game for a prize of $250,000. Two of the trio — real estate agent Selwyn and TV producer Nardia — represented early turns for actors Temuera Morrison and Jennifer Ward-Lealand.

 Fish out of Water

This early Survivor-style TV3 reality doco saw six Kiwi teenagers marooned on Rakitu Island to fend for themselves. The teens include future National MP for Auckland Central, Nikki Kaye, who defies her role as “the private school girl who couldn't survive without a hairdryer” by clubbing an eel.

 Bonjour Timothy

Seventeen-year-old Timothy’s parents hope the French-Canadian exchange student they’re due to host will settle the errant student down, but when ‘Michel’ turns out to be ‘Michelle’ — and spunky — plans go awry. Dean O’Gorman (Almighty Johnsons, The Hobbit) plays a star-gazing, rugby-playing Tim.

 Short Sportz - 1991 'Best Of'

This ‘best of’ edition of the Phil Keoghan-hosted kids show has a segment presented by a rising Wainui league star who’s just been signed by the Newcastle Knights: Tana Umaga. Umaga’s NRL career was short-lived, but he went on to become an All Black legend.


Luscious fruit, truckies, and Lucy Lawless feature in this short. En route home to her boyfriend, Sal (Tania Simon) is gifted a peach and meets a saucy tow truck driver (Lawless). “Watch it rot, or taste it when it’s ripe” teases Lawless, in an early role, hinting at the cross-sexual appeal of Xena.


Love Soup was a high school duo formed by singer-songwriter Bic Runga and guitarist Kelly Horgan. After placing third in the Smokefree Rockquest, they were picked up by Pagan Records. Aged 19, Runga was shortly to be signed by major label Sony; her debut hit single ‘Drive’ was only months away.

 The Water Cycle

This gem from the National Film Unit archives shows Godzone’s 1972 waterways to be far short of 100% pure. A 20-something Sam Neill — then working at the National Film Unit — cameos as an eau-so-suave drinker in a scene (16mins in) showing the disconnect between water use and where it comes from.

 E Tipu E Rea - Thunderbox

This father-son tale was an edition of pioneering Māori drama series E Tipu e Rea. It was director Lee (Once Were Warriors) Tamahori's first attempt at longer drama; 9.46 into part one marks the Shakespearean TV debut of actor Blair Strang (future star of Shortland Street and Nothing Trivial).

 Asia Downunder - Future to the Fore (Lydia Ko)

This excerpt from Asia Downunder’s final (2011) season joins 14 year-old golfer Lydia Ko at the driving range. Ko talks about the challenges of keeping up study while training 40 hours a week. Challenges that were shortly to become moot: the world’s top-ranked amateur turned pro on 23 October 2013.

 Radio Waves - 16 May 1978 episode

TV series Radio Waves charted the “lives and loves” of a commercial Auckland radio station. In this episode Andy Anderson is a randy ‘jock’ and Alan Dale is urbane station manager Jack. It was Dale’s screen debut, before finding fame in Australia (Neighbours) and the US (24, Lost, Ugly Betty).

 Night of the Red Hunter - Telefeature

This sci-fi telefeature starred future Fat Freddy’s Drop trumpeter Toby Laing, as one of a duo of runaway youths drawn into the orbit of the weird Piper family. Drama school grad Kerry Fox appears as a policewoman in the opening, shortly before her breakout role in An Angel at My Table.


On their second single, future BBC radio star Zane Lowe and his 90s hip-hop crew channel their "headphones and kerbstones", as they dedicate themselves to "knocking down the doors of the hip-hop frauds". Craig Jackson’s music video aptly tracks Lowe et al along 90s Auckland’s mean footpaths.

“These are designer jeans, they cost a hundred and twenty bucks”

“These are designer jeans, they cost a hundred and twenty bucks”

Find out who uttered these immortal words in an introductory essay from Paul Casserly (Eating Media Lunch, TUHONZ). Read more ›

The original Before They Were Famous collection

The original Before They Were Famous collection

For more BTWF bewilderment check out Russ le Roq, game show host Paul Henry, tweenaged Kimbra, catwalk model Rach, and more.

If I Could Turn Back Time …

If I Could Turn Back Time …

Who else’s pre-fame glory should to be dusted off and pulled from the archives? Email us