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Actor Ilona Rodgers made her name with a starring role as magazine editor Maxine Redfern in prime-time soap Gloss. But Rodgers' career began in her native England; her globetrotting career has seen her acting alongside Doctor Who, The Beverly Hillbillies, and the inhabitants of Marlin Bay.  Read the full biography

Ilona Rodgers was probably the most famous woman in New Zealand at the time but she was always so gracious with fans and gave them her time no matter what.

Screenography

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Utu

1983, As: Emily Williamson - Film

It's the 1870s, and Māori leader Te Wheke (Anzac Wallace) is fed up by brutal land grabs. He leads a bloody rebellion against the colonial Government, provoking threatened frontiersmen, disgruntled natives, lusty wahine, bible-bashing priests, and kupapa alike to consider the nature of ‘utu’ (retribution). Legendary New Yorker critic Pauline Kael raved about Geoff Murphy’s ambitious follow up to Goodbye Pork Pie: “[He] has an instinct for popular entertainment. He has a deracinated kind of hip lyricism. And they fuse quite miraculously in this epic ...”

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Gloss - Episode One

1987, As: Maxine Redfern - Television

Yuppies, shoulder-pads, sports cars and méthode champenoise abound in this cult "glitter-soap", Gloss was NZ's answer to US soap Dynasty, with the Carrington oil scions replaced by the wealthy Redferns and their Auckland magazine empire. The series epitomised 80s excess and became something of a guilty viewing pleasure. In this Rosemary McLeod-penned pilot, a 'Remuera Revisited' plot unfolds as Brad Redfern's plans to have a quiet wedding get waylaid by ex-wife Maxine. Schoolgirl Chelsea wags, listens to her Sony Walkman and gets an unorthodox haircut. 

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Close to Home - Episode One

1975, As: Vivian - Television

Pioneering soap opera Close To Home first screened in May 1975. For just over eight years (until August 1983) middle New Zealand found their mirror in the life and times of Wellington’s Hearte clan. At its peak in 1977 nearly one million viewers tuned in twice weekly to watch the series co-created by Michael Noonan and Tony Isaac. This first episode sees the family gathering for Grandfather’s 78th birthday. Vivian (Ilona Rodgers) moans to Tom (John Bach): “you’ve drunk all my cooking sherry”, then tenderises the beef with the empty bottle.

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A Portrait of Katherine Mansfield

1986, Voice of Katherine Mansfield - Television

Katherine Mansfield, a rare New Zealand writer to achieve international renown, left for Europe as a 19-year-old. This doco examines her complicated relationships with her family and homeland, her turbulent personal life, her writing (credited with changing the course of the English short story) and her early death in France in 1923, at age 34. Shot in five countries and presented by Catherine Wilkin, it includes excerpts from interviews with her companion, Ida Baker (from 1974) and biographer Claire Tomalin. Ilona Rodgers reads from Mansfield’s writings.

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Shortland Street - Highlights from the first 15 years

2003 - 2005, As: Ngaire Thompson - Television

Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff, family and patients. Screening five days a week on TV2 it is New Zealand’s longest running drama. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, "you're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!". This 2007 promo, set to the theme song, collects together highlights from the first 15 years of the show.

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The Billy T James Show (Sitcom) - Excerpts

1990, As: Thelma - Television

In these excerpts from his last TV series — a family based sitcom — Billy T has to deal with his radical older daughter who wants to get a moko, a teenage boy trying to smuggle beer into his younger daughter’s birthday party, a defamation writ, and another tribe becoming his landlord. There are varying degrees of help from his wife (Ilona Rodgers), his aggressively dim Australian brother-in-law (Mark Hadlow) and his daughter’s painfully politically correct pakeha boyfriend (Mark Wright), as well as cameos from Temuera Morrison, Martin Henderson and Blair Strang.

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Ngaio Marsh Theatre - Died in the Wool

1978, As: Ursula Harme - Television

Died in the Wool was part of a TV anthology adapting the murder mysteries of Dame Ngaio Marsh. MP Flossie Rubrick has been found dead in a wool bale, and it's up to Inspector Roderick Alleyn (UK actor George Baker — Bond, Z Cars, I, Claudius) to unravel the secrets of a South Island sheep station. The tale of a cultured Englishman amidst World War II spies, Bach and seamy colonial crimes — like Marsh's books — found a global audience: it was the first NZ TV drama to screen in the US (on PBS). Includes a Cluedo-style sitting room inquest and a wool shed reveal.

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Utu Redux

2013, As: Emily Wiliamson - Film

In 1983 director Geoff Murphy stormed out of the scrub of the nascent Kiwi film industry with a quadruple-barreled shotgun take on the great NZ colonial epic. The New Zealand wars-set tale of a Māori leader (Anzac Wallace) and his bloody path to redress 'imbalance', was the second NZ film officially selected for Cannes, and local cinema’s then second biggest hit (after Goodbye Pork Pie). A producer-driven recut was later shown in the US. This 2013 redux — led by cinematographer Graeme Cowley, with Murphy and editor Mike Horton — is Utu “enhanced and restored”.

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Hunter's Gold - Episode One

1976, As: Molly Grogan - Television

This classic kids’ adventure series follows a 13-year-old boy on a quest to find his father, missing amidst the heady 1860s Otago gold rush. Under the reins of producer John McRae, it brandished unprecedented production values, and panned the Central Otago vistas for all their worth. Its huge local popularity was matched abroad (BBC screened it primetime); it showed that NZ-made kids’ drama could be successfully exported. This first episode sees plucky Scott Hunter (Andrew Hawthorn) steal away to Tucker’s Valley, spurred on by his doubting uncle.

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The New Adventures of Black Beauty - Ride a Black Horse

1990, As: Hilda Burton - Television

A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in New Zealand and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera. This extract from the fourth episode sees Vicky striving to convince the postmasters (Bill Kerr and Ilona Rodgers) that she and Beauty can be posties; and she faces hostility from local kids (including a young Claire Chitham).

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The New Adventures of Black Beauty - The Old World

1990, As: Hilda Burton - Television

A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, produced by Tom Parkinson and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera (Illona Rodgers, Ken Catran). This extract from the first episode follows preparations for the trip down under, and introduces Vicky to the original Black Beauty.

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Night of the Red Hunter - Telefeature

1989, As: Jill Piper - Television

This sci-fi telefeature for kids follows the adventures of runaways Peter (Toby Laing) and Maggie (Toni Driscoll), who meet when Maggie’s attempt to get Picnic bars on a five finger discount go awry and "rich brat" Peter is on the lam on a 10-speed. After falling into a grave of golden light at a farm cemetery, they wake up in the house of the strange Piper family. Laing is now trumpeter for Fat Freddys Drop, and a young Kerry Fox appears briefly as a policewoman in the opening. Scripted by veteran Ken Catran, the telefeature was re-cut from a four-part series.

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Marlin Bay - Series Three, Episode 11

1994, As: Charlotte Kincaid - Television

Created by writer Greg McGee, Marlin Bay was one of the first primetime drama series from South Pacific Pictures. It follows the events of a far-north resort and casino; a number of well-known actors made up the cast of earthy locals, wealth foreigners and city weekenders, including Ilona Rodgers, Don Selwyn, Andy Anderson and Katie Wolfe. Kevin Smith received a 1995 Best Supporting Actor nod for his role as villain Paul Cosic. In this episode the swarthy Cosic cooks up an illegal smuggling scheme to diversify a farm's income stream. 

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The New Adventures of Black Beauty - The Birdman

1990, As: Hilda Burton - Television

A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera. This extract from the eighth episode sees Manfred attempt to fly on Karekare beach in a Richard Pearse-like contraption, as a shady-looking Kurt (Michael Hurst) looks on, and Vicky charges to the rescue on Beauty.

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I'm Not Harry Jenson

2009, As: Margaret - Film

In this dark whodunit Gareth Reeves (The Cult, A Song of Good) stars as a crime writer who goes bush with strangers while on a break from researching a story on a serial killer. Soon there’s death in the muddy Waitakere back-blocks. The debut from young writer/director (and ex-Shortland Street actor) James Napier Robertson won support from a strong ensemble cast (Renato Batolomei, Ian Mune, Ilona Rodgers et al), an invitation to the NZ film festival, and praise from NZ Herald reviewer Peter Calder, for "smart writing and good acting".

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Rest for the Wicked

2011, As: Esther - Film

Comedy Rest for the Wicked showcases an all-star aged A-team of Kiwi actors — among them Ian Mune, John Bach, and Gloss boss Ilona Rodgers. Gravel-voiced Tony Barry (the man who uttered the immortal line "goodbye pork pie") stars as Murray, a retired detective going undercover in an upmarket rest-home. Frank hopes to catch his longtime nemesis (Bach). Instead he finds himself in the company of the randy, and the unexpectedly dead. The "sweet, rather knowing little movie" (Linda Burgess, Dominion Post) marks the feature debut of ad veteran Simon Pattison.

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The New Adventures of Black Beauty - Deceptive Appearances

1990, As: Hilda Burton - Television

A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, produced by Tom Parkinson and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera. This extract from the fifth episode sees Vicky and Beauty meet a mysterious travelling circus; and postman Samuel (Bill Kerr) learns a lesson in trusting shysters.

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Anzacs

1985, As: Lady Thea Barrington

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Salt and Pepper

1968, As: Marianne Renaud

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The New Adventures of Black Beauty

1990 - 1991, As: Hilda Burton - Television

A continuation of the classic 70s UK TV series cherished by herds of horse-loving girls, the New Adventures follow Vicky Denning (Amber McWilliams) who has emigrated to the antipodes with her step-mother, where she is captivated by a mystic black horse. The co-production was set in NZ, produced by Tom Parkinson and features many Kiwi names in front of and behind the camera (Illona Rodgers, Ken Catran). Key original cast and the famous original title sequence and tune are reprised, but now with Beauty galloping along a west coast beach. Two seasons were produced. 

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Winners and Losers: The Woman at the Store

1975, As: Katherine

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Marlin Bay

1992 - 1994, As: Charlotte Kincaid - Television

Marlin Bay was a drama series following the comings and goings of a far-north resort and casino. Andy Anderson, Ilona Rogers, Don Selwyn, Pete Smith, Katie Wolfe and others made up the cast of earthy locals, wealthy foreigners, and city weekenders. Created by writer Greg McGee, Marlin Bay was one of the first primetime drama series from South Pacific Pictures. Kevin Smith received a 1995 Best Supporting Actor nod for his role as villain Paul Cosic. 

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The Far Country

1988, As: Jane Armitage

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Good Morning

2001 - 2, Presenter

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Martin Chuzzlewit

1964, As: Mary Graham

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Riding High

1995, As: Mrs Harrington

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The Sullivans

1976 - 1983, As: Kate Meredith

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Gloss

1987 - 1990, As: Maxine Redfern - Television

Gloss was a popular Kiwi television drama series made by TVNZ that screened in the late 80s; it combined a wealthy family, the Redferns, with a lucrative high-fashion magazine business. Yuppies, shoulder-pads and méthode champenoise abound in this cult "glitter-soap". New Zealanders wanted to see themselves as less bottom of the world and more "here we come and we are sailing" (as the infamous Cup campaign song warbled), and Gloss was just what the era demanded.

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Maddigan's Quest

2005, As: Gabrielle - Television

This children's post-apocalyptic fantasy series follows a circus troupe, Maddigan's Fantasia on their quest to save the world's only remaining city, Solis. The show was created by children's writer Margaret Mahy, developed for television by writers Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang for South Pacific Pictures, who produced the 13 x 30min series for TV3. Award-winning and successfully exported, it marked a debut lead performance from Rose McIver (future Tinker Bell in US TV show Once Upon a Time) acting with Michael Hurst, Peter Daube, Tim Balme and Danielle Cormack. 

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Gold

1991, Actor

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Doctor Who

1963 - ongoing, As: Carol Richmond

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Sara Dane

1982, As: Julia Ryder

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Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

1995 - 1998, As: Queen Camilla

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Ngaio Marsh Theatre - Colour Scheme

1978, As: Ursula Harme

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Prisoner

1983, As: Zara Moonbeam

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Sons and Daughters (Australia)

1981 - 1987, As: Margarette Dunne