Simon Prast studied law, and graduated from Auckland’s Theatre Corporate drama school in 1984. Alongside a busy stage career he was soon winning a national profile thanks to one of his earliest screen roles – as Alistair Redfern, the spoilt rich kid on hit soap Gloss. Prast's character endured a tumultuous marriage to the bitchy Gemma (Miranda Harcourt), but began to show hints of growing maturity in the show’s third and final season.
Prast was also part of the cast of pioneering one-off film A Death in the Family (1986). Based around a group of friends caring for an AIDS victim in his final days, and directed by filmmakers Peter Wells and Stewart Main, the 48 minute film won acclaim here and overseas.
Prast also guested on police show Mortimer’s Patch and appeared among the cast of ambitious mini-series Erebus: The Aftermath. In the 90s he spent time on the staff of Shortland Street, and had small roles in Letter to Blanchy and on the Xena/Hercules franchise.
His biggest screen role that decade was in 1998 romantic drama When Love Comes, the second feature directed by Garth Maxwell. The film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, and was later retitled When Love Comes Along in the United States. It is perhaps best known for the Variety reviewer who confused two movie projects and spent a number of paragraphs expounding on his mistaken conclusion that lead actor Rena Owen was playing a transvestite.
Prast played best friend to Owens’ singer character, who has recently returned to New Zealand after many years overseas. Both characters are at a personal crossroads.
When Love Comes director Maxwell searched widely before deciding Prast "was really the only one" to play Stephen. Added producer Jonathan Dowling: "Stephen's characteristic trait in the film is that of the listener, which is difficult to pull off. An actor whose role is to listen sympathetically to others while actually having quite a number of issues to deal with himself, is not easy."
Though Prast has acted occasionally since then (including TV’s Serial Killers and as late father to Olivia, in hit show Go Girls), his main roles have been off-screen. In 1992 Prast became founding artistic director of the Auckland Theatre Company, which performs from different venues around the city.
During his 11 years at the company, Prast produced or directed more than 60 plays, including the world premiere of Tom Scott’s The Daylight Atheist, a retooling of Briar-Grace Smith’s Haruru Mai (starring George Henare and Nancy Brunning) and 12 Angry Men. The latter production was voted ‘Production of the Decade’ by the theatre’s subscribers.
Prast went on to direct the first Auckland Festival AK03, then took command of acting agency The Waitakere Agency (TWA).
In June of 2010, Prast entered the race to become mayor of Auckland.
Michelle Hewiston, 'Simon Prast: Star-struck box office winner' (Interview) – NZ Herald, 18 January 2003
Glenn Lovell, When Love Comes (Review) – Variety, 2 November 1998
Gloss (Press Kit for Third Season) 1990
When Love Comes (Press Kit) 1998
Plays Archive. Auckland Theatre Company website (page now removed). Accessed 25 June 2010
'Simon Prast - Director' (Profile) Auckland Theatre Company website (page now removed). Accessed 25 June 2010