Janice Finn began her acting career with lead roles at Wellington’s Downstage theatre. She played “mad Jane” on the long-running television soap Close to Home, appeared in some early shorts with Bruno Lawrence, and had a small role in historical epic The Governor.
Later Finn moved to Australia and acted with the Sydney Theatre Company, the Melbourne Theatre Company and the State Theatre Company of South Australia.
While across the Tasman, Finn acted on stage alongside a young Mel Gibson, and appeared in the long-running TV series A Country Practice. Behind the scenes, she worked as a production assistant on Gillian Armstrong musical Starstruck (1982), which featured music by another (unrelated) Finn - Tim.
After seven years in Australia, Finn returned to hometown Auckland to join Television New Zealand, and train as a drama director. She went on to direct episodes of mid-80s series Open House, Seekers and the long-running Country GP.
When TVNZ drama head John McRae was seeking ideas for a prime-time drama series, Finn knew exactly what to offer: “something a bit like Dynasty, something about the 80s and what was happening in Auckland”.
Described by author Trisha Dunleavy as “the first New Zealand supersoap”, Gloss mixed soap opera conventions with a knowing sense of its own silliness. Gloss was a ratings success, scoring best with women in the 20-39 age bracket.
As well as producing, co-creating, and occasionally directing episodes, Finn created storylines for Gloss, working alongside story editor James Griffin (on productions of this scale, the job of storyliner is often too big a job to be given to just two staffmembers, let alone to the producer of the show).
Before the third season of Gloss went to air in 1989, Finn successfully fought proposals to shorten the show from an hour to half an hour. She told Onfilm that the third series took things down a notch, after a first series that was "very aggressive and upfront".
In 1989, TVNZ sent Finn to South Pacific Pictures to produce a new series set around luxury resort Marlin Bay Lodge. Marlin Bay’s mixture of casinos, tourists and Kiwi scenery made it an impressive seller overseas, and initially a respectable ratings success at home.
Marlin Bay's cast included Illona Rodgers and Andy Anderson, who had both appeared in Gloss. Finn worked on the first two series.
Post Marlin Bay, Finn spent two years as general manager at production company Communicado, briefly returned to TVNZ as Commissioning Editor of Drama, and produced a variety of reality shows for Touchdown - including Changing Rooms and Dream Home. She has also written extensively for Shortland Street, directed reality television, been a producer on the top-rating NZ Idol, and continued directing for the theatre.
In 2003, having sworn she wouldn't act again, Finn returned to the small screen on comedy-drama The Strip (and later Agent Anna). In The Strip she played Leslie Lonsdale, the manipulative mother of the lead character, who opens her own strip club. Said Finn of her role: “She doesn’t lie down, she fights back. She’s good fun.”
'Gloss: Now We Are Three' (Interview) - Onfilm, August 1989, Page 31 (Volume 6, Number 5)
Trisha Dunleavy, Ourselves in Primetime - A History of New Zealand Television Drama (Auckland University Press, 2005)