Erik Thomson arrived in New Zealand from his native Scotland at age seven, and set about adapting to his new home. Thomson's teacher often got pupils to sample plays from the School Journal, with each child reading out a part. "I used to love getting to that time of the day ... and the whole acting and drama thing made me comfortable and allowed me to feel accepted into a new place and culture. I just carried on doing it."
Thomson studied Drama and English Literature at Victoria University, and graduated from the NZ Drama School in 1990. Though he worked prolifically in theatre, Thomson was most recognised in this period for a series of ASB bank adverts in which he played husband to Lucy Lawless and father to baby 'Stanley'.
Thomson's first experience of television involved spilling a glass of champagne during a big crowd scene for 90s resort drama Marlin Bay. He had won a small but recurring role as a waiter.
Later he played an American GI in acclaimed Sonja Davies biographical drama Bread & Roses, a policeman in Plainclothes, and small parts in forgotten surf and crime show High Tide. In 1994 he co-starred opposite Danielle Cormack in Twilight-Zone style short Snap, which was invited to a number of international film festivals including Clermont-Ferrand.
Thanks to legendary casting director Diana Rowan, Thomson appeared in an early episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. This led to an invitation to play Hades on Hercules episode 'The Other Side', during the show's second season. Thomson brought a "neurotic Woody Allen" interpretation to the overworked God of the underworld, both on Hercules and spin-off show Xena: Warrior Princess. His Hades appearances began to reduce in 1996, after he won a role in Australian glitz and sand soap Pacific Drive, a show Thomson admits taking partly because the Gold Coast location was "a surfer's paradise".
Pacific Drive marked the first of many Australian TV projects. The role which won him a wide audience was that of doctor 'Mitch' Stevens in long-running medical drama All Saints. Thomson also headlined as a former rock singer in The Alice (both tele-movie and TV series) and hosted a season of travel show Getaway. The time away from acting made him realise what he missed; that acting is what makes him "tick".
In 2004 Thomson began adding further feature films into his screenography, spearheaded by an impressively understated performance in acclaimed coming of age story Somersault, the breakout film for young Australian actor Abbie Cornish (Bright Star). Thomson won an Australian Film Institute Best Supporting Actor award for his role, as older family friend to Sam Worthington's character, who has Cornish in his sights.
Four years later Thomson was nominated in the same category for drama The Black Balloon, another AFI award-winner for film, direction and script. This time he played the soldier father of the main character.
In 2007 Thomson returned to New Zealand to star in feature We're Here to Help, recreating Christchurch property developer Dave Henderson's battle with the tax department. Lumiere reviewer Simon Sweetman praised the "superb" casting, and Thomson's NZ Film Award-nominated performance for expressing “a playfulness, a cheekiness that could be hiding something”.
In 2008 Thomson starred in the first of six seasons of hit Australian family drama/comedy Packed to the Rafters. Thomson's character of father Dave Rafter (opposite Kiwi-born Rebecca Gibney) was "an everyman suburban bloke", familiar to the actor from his own Tauranga upbringing. The series finished in 2013. Due in late 2020, sequel Back to the Rafters was set to be Amazon Prime's first Australian-originated drama series.
In 2015 Thomson took on another starring role, this time in 800 Words. As associate producer of the show, Thomson described himself as "the matchmaker" between the production companies who made it: Australia's Channel Seven and New Zealand's South Pacific Pictures. This time he played Aussie writer George Turner, who uplifts his two teenage children and moves to a small NZ town after his wife's death. The show resonated with Thomson because "it had a big strong heart, but also because I'm an ex-pat New Zealander, and it was about a man coming home, that really resonated with me, and that was how it got into my head."
In 2016 Thomson won the Best Actor Logie for his work, and was nominated the following year. The show was cancelled in 2018, after three seasons.
Profile updated on 17 September 2020
'Erik Thomson: Aussie TV's favourite dad...' (Video Interview) NZ On Screen website. Director Andrew Whiteside. Loaded 12 August 2010. Accessed 16 August 2010
Lydia Jenkin, 'Erik Thomson in 800 Words' (Interview) - The NZ Herald (TimeOut section), 31 October 2015
Simon Sweetman, 'A Taxing Story: We're Here To help' (Review) - Lumiere Reader website. Loaded 5 November 2007. Accessed 13 August 2010
Robert Weisbrot, Xena Warrior Princess - The Official Guide to the Xenaverse (New York: Main Street Books, Doubleday, 1998)
Unknown writer, ‘A chat with Erik Thomson’ (Interview) TVNZ website. Accessed 13 August 2010
Unknown writer, "Packed to the Rafters star Erik Thomson reprises father role in 800 words' (Interview) - The Guardian, 4 September 2015