Since winning his first lead role on stage at age 11, Todd Emerson has built a lengthy CV on stage and screen. In 2015 he joined the main cast on Westside, playing career criminal Bilkey Van Heeder, and starred as a man who enters a parallel world in Sally Tran’s feature film Timeslow. Emerson also played Peter Hudson in stage play Hudson & Halls Live, which recreates a TV show by the beloved chefs.
I was actually shooting Westside at the same time as performing Hudson and Halls, so I'd go from playing this super-closeted 80s dude in the day to this completely camp one at night. Todd Emerson in an NZ Herald interview, 14 June 2016
TV3 series Outrageous Fortune had six memorable six seasons. Award-winning prequel Westside takes the West family back to where it all began — to legendary safecracker Ted West (David de Lautour), and his fiery wife Rita (Antonia Prebble from Outrageous). Each episode of series one is set in a particular year of the 1970s. Season two moves to the 1981 Springbok Tour; the third, set in 1982, introduced a teen Cheryl West. Combining romance, crime and West family folklore with real life events, Westside was created by James Griffin and Rachel Lang, the duo behind the original.
A prequel to classic TV3 series Outrageous Fortune, Westside travels back in time to meet young Rita (Antonia Prebble), Ted (David de Lautour) and their son Wolf West, on the make in West Auckland. This first episode opens with Ted leaving Mt Eden prison, then sets him on a safe-cracking plot that is aided by the 1974 Commonwealth Games. Prebble played Loretta West in Outrageous, and first took on the role of Rita in flashbacks from season four. Devised by Outrageous creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang, Westside won acclaim: "all the hallmarks of a classic", said Stuff.
This musical retooling of the ill-fated love story began life as a concept album by ex Screaming Meemee members Peter van der Fluit and Michael McNeill. In 2010 they sent 38 songs to director Tim van Dammen, who decided to retell Shakespeare's classic romance as "a sort of trash opera — like an updated John Waters type thing". A caravan park is the canvas for a cast of beautiful young things, pop, rap, knives and beer crates. NZ Herald's Dominic Corry praised the film for its "emotionally-assured grasp of what makes this famous story so enduring".
Emily Chu (award-winner Michelle Ang) is a young ‘banana’ (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) hoping to conceal a cross-cultural romance from her prudish Chinese parents in this romantic dramedy. Director Roseanne Liang’s feature debut draws on her autobiographical ‘video diary’ Banana in a Nutshell, which screened at the 2005 NZ International Film Festival. In the audience was producer John Barnett, who immediately offered to fund an adaptation. On its March 2010 release My Wedding gained several five star reviews, and strong box office.
Created by superhero fan Stephen J Campbell, this light-hearted adventure series follows teen Ben Wilson (Carl Dixon) who discovers his father and grandad have done time as superheroes. Still getting to grips with the basics of being one himself, Ben enlists family and friends to help fight assorted villians. The show ran for three seasons, and spawned web series The Wired Chronicles and Origins. Nominated for awards in Rome and New Zealand, it picked up one in Korea. The eclectic cast included the tried (David McPhail) and the new (Hannah Marshall from Packed to the Rafters).
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six-series long saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular at home (beloved by public, critics and awards-nights alike), and imitated overseas, Outrageous Fortune has been a flag-bearer for TV3 and contemporary NZ telly drama; the series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that genre TV in NZ could be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
Inspired by the ageing Burt Munro — who took his home-engineered motorbike to America, and won a land speed record — this passion project was Roger Donaldson's first locally made film in two decades. Variety called it a "geriatric Rocky on wheels”; Roger Ebert praised Anthony Hopkins' performance as one of the most endearing of his career. The result sold to 126 countries, spent five weeks in the Australian top six, and became Aotearoa's highest-grossing local film — at least until Boy in 2010. Alongside an excerpt and making of material, Costa Botes writes about the film here.
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.
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.
One of the most successful television shows shot on Kiwi soil, The Tribe was the brainchild of British-born Raymond Thompson. In a future where the adults have been wiped out by a virus, the children that remain have formed into competing tribes, some of whom live to terrorise. Running five seasons, The Tribe sold to more than 120 territories, and the cast toured performances from the soundtrack for overseas fans. The cast were almost entirely New Zealanders, as were most of the crew. Sequel The New Tomorrow, following descendants of the original characters, screened in 2005.
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.