Lamenting a lack of good roles for Asian women, Chinese Kiwi JJ Fong teamed up with fellow actors Ally Xue and Perlina Lau and director Roseanne Liang. The result was comical web series Flat3. Fong played aspiring actor Jessica, whose life is overly dictated by her libido. After three seasons, the quartet began on follow-up web series Friday Night Bites, and short film Sugar Hit (part of anthology series K’ Rd Stories). JJ Fong originally studied dance, which led her to musical theatre and acting. Her screen CV also includes web series ADK, TV's Go Girls and Shortland Street, and a memorably bitchy part on Step Dave.
We just wanted to have fun and make the kind of diverse content we love ... Asian Kiwis have told us they really relate to it but people of any ethnicity can because it's just about three girls flatting together in Auckland. It's about love, friendships, jobs, boys — all that sort of stuff. JJ Fong on web series Flat3, in The NZ Herald, 13 December 2016
Funny As traces the history of New Zealand comedy through archive footage, and extensive interviews with local comedy talent. Debuting on TVNZ 1 in July 2019, the five-part series explores how Kiwis "have used comedy to navigate decades of profound cultural change". Funny As touches on everything from live and musical comedy, to pioneers of Kiwi screen humour (e.g. Fred Dagg, Lynn of Tawa) and the hit exports of later years (Flight of the Conchords, Rose Matafeo). The series was made by production/creative agency Augusto, and produced by comedy veteran Paul Horan.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shows off her comedy prowess in this Funny Girls special, celebrating 125 years of Kiwi women attaining the right to vote. Ardern corrects the blatant lies of "Pauline the producer" (Jackie van Beek), and puts up with Pauline kissing her. This episode is a who's who of female Kiwi comedians, featuring (for the first time) live stand-up alongside the sketches — including Justine Smith and Billy T winners Melanie Bracewell and Angella Dravid. The Suffragette Special followed series three.
Alongside Shortland Street's 2016 Christmas finale, a charity single was released which featured cast members Lionel Wellington and JJ Fong. The first clip is a short promo for their single 'Time of the Year'. The other clips are from the cliffhanger episode. While Wellington and Fong take turns behind the mic at a Christmas party — which sees punches, romance and a heartfelt speech from Fong's character — scenes of mayhem unravel elsewhere, after Hayden forces TK to dig a grave. Hayden gets some of his own treatment, while cars go up in flames on a far from holy night.
A trio of mysteriously bloody and bruised women order tea in a cafe in Auckland's St Kevin's Arcade. The sugar debate gets a K Road twist as they talk boobs, revenge porn, and wonder if the sugar bowl has drugs hidden in it (riffing off a local urban legend). A trip to the toilet before last orders sees the cafe transforming into a dance floor, providing a groovy testimonial to the imaginative powers of the sugar hit. This edition of the series of short films exploring life on K’ Rd was directed by Roseanne Liang (My Wedding and Other Secrets), and stars the actors from her web series Flat3.
Twenty-four year-old barman Dave finds his life turned upside down when he meets the girl of his dreams — Cara, 14 years his senior, and the owner of three kids. Over two seasons, the light-hearted drama explored whether their live-in relationship could survive the weight of low expectations, and her unruly family. Created by Kate McDermott (This is Her), Step Dave starred Swedish emigre Sia Trokenheim (2014 film Everything we Loved) and Brit born Jono Kenyon. Interest in the format encompassed the Ukraine — which remade the show in 2016 — France, Hungary and Greece.
Described by co-star Neill Rea as the "little show that could", The Brokenwood Mysteries has screened in over 15 countries and and involved a long run of fictional murders. Each feature-length episode of this Prime TV crime drama is a standalone murder mystery, set in a small Kiwi town. Neill Rea (Scarfies) stars as veteran detective Mike Shepherd, who works alongside Detective Kristin Sims (played by Fern Sutherland from The Almighty Johnsons). Backing up the pair are Detective Sam Breen (Nic Sampson from Funny Girls) and Russian pathologist Gina Kadinsky (Cristina Ionda).
A lack of roles for Asian women inspired three Chinese-Kiwi actors to create a comedy web series starring themselves. JJ Fong, Perlina Lau and Ally Xue play flatmates in Flat3. Roseanne Liang (My Wedding and Other Secrets) directs and writes. In this third season, Perlina is pursued by two ex-boyfriends, "slutty" Jessica struggles to stay on a "no guys diet", while reserved Lee gets swept up by nude model Dan (Dan Cowley). Madeleine Sami (The Breaker Upperers) features as an arrogant acting teacher, while Shavaughn Ruakere (Shortland Street) is a pushy saleswoman.
In the first episode of comedy drama Step Dave, solo Mum Cara (Sia Trokenheim) finds herself rescued by womanising barman Dave (Jono Kenyon), after a disastrous blind date ends in a sprained ankle. Dave is convinced he's met 'the one'. Cara's daughters and mother in-law (Lisa Harrow) are horrified. And Cara fears there isn't enough time in her busy life for a man who calls her favourite song "ancient". Meanwhile Dave's flatmate is falling for the workmate who has stolen his desk. Created by Kate McDermott, Step Dave screened for two seasons — and was later remade in Russia.
Tired of being portrayed as "the shy one, the dragon lady or the prostitute", three Chinese-Kiwi female actors turned the tables and starred in their own web series. JJ Fong, Perlina Lau and Ally Xue teamed with director Roseanne Liang (My Wedding And Other Secrets) to create flatmates comedy Flat3. It began in 2013 on the smell of an oily rag. A Kickstarter campaign raised $10,000 for the second season, then NZ On Air put $100,000 into the third. Guests included Rose Matafeo and Madeleine Sami. Flat3's three stars (and Liang) returned for 2016's Friday Night Bites.
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.
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.