After graduating from Unitec School of Performing Acts in 1999, Leighton Cardno soon found himself balancing two television roles at the same time — as a confident doctor on Shortland Street and lazy brother to the main character on Being Eve. Since then Cardno has spent time in North America, played a journalist on Go Girls, and in 2014 co-starred in offbeat film Jake — as the man who takes over another person's life.

I was drawn to Jake because of the unusual concept – the idea that you could see your life being played out by a complete stranger right in front of your eyes seemed bold, challenging,and ultimately engaging. Leighton Cardno on movie Jake

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Jake

2014, As: Jake - Film

“Everyone plays a part. Who’s going to play yours?”. This tagline is given a Twilight Zone twist in this Moa-nominated feature about two Jakes. Jacob (Jason Fitch) is an everyman who is made redundant when his life is ‘recast’ by a shadowy agency. When the new, more confident Jake (Being Eve's Leighton Cardno, also award-nominated) makes moves on his lost love, Jacob fights to get his life back. The Listener’s David Larsen tweeted of Doug Dillaman's indie-funded debut: “The smartest bit of low-fi high-IQ science fiction New Zealand has produced.” 

Roundelay

2011, As: Victor, Writer - Short Film

Licked

2010, As: David - Short Film

Rescue Special Ops

2010, As: Freddy - Television

Power Rangers R.P.M.

2009, As: Kilobyte

Go Girls

2010 - 12, As: Leo - Television

Rachel Lang and Gavin Strawhan created Go Girls out of a desire for an upbeat show about "people who liked each other". Audiences liked the characters too: the show ran five seasons, after introducing us to a group of 20-something friends, each aiming to make a major life-change in the next year. Over five series various romantic adventures ensued, and the core cast of Anna Hutchison, Alix Bushnell, Bronwyn Turei, Jay Ryan and Matt Whelan were joined by others — before finally departing altogether, with one final season revolving around a new cast of wanna bes.

Sea Patrol

2006, As: David Thompson - Television

Jet Black

2007, As: Jet Black - Short Film

The title points the way towards this stylish short's film noir intentions, but a generic set up - a drifter rolls into a seedy motel diner — springs surprises as a tainted love time-travel plot unravels. Convincing performances from Leighton Cardno (Shortland Street's Dr Adam Heyward) as the eponymous Jet, burdened by murderous guilt, and Marissa Stott as the winsome waitress, realise a screenplay co-scripted by writer Chad Taylor. Black was directed by Kezia Barnett as part of a short film series to promote Schweppes by advertising agency Publicis Mojo.

Being Eve - Being Upstaged

2002, As: Ned Baxer - Television

Being Eve was a popular and self-aware comedy-drama for teens. It launched the career of actor Fleur Saville, who played 15-year-old teen anthropologist Eve. This excerpt from episode 22 of series two sees angst and ambition collide, as Eve dreams of Hollywood success via a school Shakespeare production. Shakespeare himself makes a cameo (as Eve's muse), while she struggles with her original vision for the classic. But will she be upstaged by Sam? The series later won best drama at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, and fostered young directing and producing talent.

Shortland Street - Nick and Waverley's wedding

2002, As: Adam Heywood - Television

It was third time lucky for twice-engaged Nick (Karl Burnett) and Waverley (Claire Chitham) to finally make it to the altar. Since first getting together in 1994, viewers had followed Nick (who joined Shortland Street on episode two) and Waverley through sickness and health, estrangement, and even a kidnapping during a previous marriage attempt. Their union was dubbed the TV wedding of 2002. The nuptials saw the return of Marj (Elizabeth McRae) and Jenny Harrison (Maggie Harper). In May 2017 the couple were set to return from Taranaki, for Shortland's 25th anniversary.

Being Eve

2001 - 2002, As: Ned Baxter - Television

This quirky, upbeat comedy-drama looked at teen life through the eyes of 15-year-old Eve (Fleur Saville). Something of an amateur teen anthropologist, Eve questions everything in her world, musing on life to the camera. The series' fresh, self-aware style appealed directly to media-savvy teenagers. The TV3 series launched Saville's TV career, fostered young directing and producing talent, won many awards (including Best Drama Series at the 2002 NZ TV Awards) and was nominated for an International Emmy. It sold to over 40 territories, including the United States.

Being Eve - Being a Couple

2001, As: Ned Baxter - Television

Kiwi comedy-drama Being Eve "tacked the trails and tribulations of everyday adolescent life"  (as website The Spinoff put it). It launched the career of Fleur Saville, starrig as amateur teen anthropologist Eve. In this excerpt from episode 10 of series one, Eve grapples with the day-to-day stuff of negotiating relationships (now that Matt is her boyfriend, does she have to sit next to him in every class?). Friends and family expose their relationship-challenging racial prejudices. Rated best drama at the 2002 NZ TV Awards,  Being Eve was nominated for an International Emmy.

Home Kill

2000, As: Barry - Short Film

In this dark short film, an isolated rural idyll is spoiled when a farmhand (Craig Hall) gets ideas above his station. There will be blood in the barn as the interloper puts new meaning into dirty dairying, and upturns the lives of farmer Ken (Ross Harper), his wife (Sara Wiseman) and Ken’s simple sibling (Leighton Cardno). Director Andrew Bancroft’s earlier short Planet Man (an award-winner at Cannes) was set in a dark future; Home Kill takes the dystopia to the heartland with gothic horror glee, depicting farm life in a way that is unlikely to be endorsed by Fonterra.

Possum Hunter

1999, As: Hamish - Television

Jackson's Wharf

1999 - 2000, As: Rory Watts - Television

Created by Gavin Strawhan and Rachel Lang, Jackson’s Wharf was set in a fictional coastal town and revolved around a sibling rivalry between brothers Frank (the town cop) and Ben Jackson (a big smoke lawyer). Returning with his family, golden boy Ben has controversially inherited the local pub from his recently deceased father. Produced by South Pacific Pictures, the one hour popular drama screened for two seasons. Writer James Griffin and director Niki Caro worked on the show, alongside much of the talent who would later create Mercy Peak and Outrageous Fortune.

Da Vinci's Inquest

2004, As: Kenny Bell - Television

Shortland Street

2001 - 2003, As: Doctor Adam Heywood - Television

Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an inner city Auckland hospital. The long-running South Pacific Pictures production is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the hospital's staff and patients. It screens on TVNZ’s TV2 network five days a week. In 2017 the show was set to celebrate its 25th anniversary, making it New Zealand’s longest running drama by far. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture — starting with “you’re not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!” in the very first episode. Mihi Murray writes about Shortland Street here.