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Liddy Holloway

Actor, Writer

On screen Liddy Holloway played everyone from the chief of a marching team to Hercules' mother. In the 70s, during a stint in Australia, she began writing for television; Holloway's scriptwriting CV would grow to include episodes of Prisoner, Shortland Street, Jackson’s Wharf and City Life.

Elizabeth Brenda Holloway was born in Wellington in 1947, the daughter of future Labour cabinet minister Phil Holloway. In her teens she traveled to England with her mother, and trained in dance and drama at a nursery school for the Royal Festival Ballet.

Later she worked as a journalist. After the birth of Holloway’s third child, she began acting on stage. In the early 70s she spent time in Australia. It was there her double-pronged career as a screen actor and scriptwriter began. Her Australian work includes scripts for police show Cop Shop, and acting roles in long-running soaps The Sullivans and Prisoner (which she also wrote for). She joined the ensemble of Kiwi talents for play-within-a-play Eros and Psyche, and was earmarked for a key role alongside Sam Neill in a TV adaptation of mining novel Coal Flat, but the project was cancelled close to production.

By the mid 80s Holloway was based back in New Zealand, juggling a multitude of television jobs. Between 1983 and 1987 she wrote episodes of drama Seekers, 40s-era show Country GP, and successfully proposed the concept for Open House, set in an urban community house. The bicultural innovations of this short-lived television series predated those of Shortland Street by five years.

On screen, Holloway also found time to appear as the cheerful marching coach in groundbreaking femme-led series The Marching Girls, act in Hanlon and play mother to real-life pop singer Kim Willoughby in movie Queen City Rocker.

In 1992 Holloway found herself acting on two shows that had both begun life as proposals for a five-night-a-week soap: TVNZ’s Shortland Street and TV3’s Homeward Bound.

Shortland Street first went to air in May 1992, a month before Homeward Bound. Holloway would spend many years on the former show, playing Alex McKenna — mother to Angela Bloomfield’s character, and wife to the boss of the A and E clinic. Her on-screen husband Paul Gittins later joked that Holloway made sure to write herself the best lines during their on-screen arguments.

After losing the initial funding battle with Shortland Street, Homeward Bound had meanwhile been redeveloped as a once-a-week drama. Based around a family living on rural land close to Auckland, Holloway played one of the primary roles: that of Janine Johnstone, a stifled, occasionally impatient mother of four who lives in a small rural community. She also found time to write dialogue for three episodes.

Though Holloway worked on a number of American productions shot partly down under — including big-screen comedy Without a Paddle and TV’s Murder in Greenwich — she is probably most recognized internationally for another role: Alcmene, mother of the hero in the long-running Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

In 2001 she was nominated for a NZ Film best supporting actress award: for her portrayal of busybody Virginia Hobson in 50s era passion project Her Majesty. Two years later, Holloway played mother to the central character in Skin and BoneGreg McGee’s TV reboot of Foreskin’s Lament.

Holloway was one of the first to have spotted the cinematic potential of 1987 novel Whale Rider, working with author Witi Ihimaera on two early drafts of the film. In January 2004 she began legal proceedings against the NZ Film Commission, after claims that the Film Commission had failed to fulfill Holloway’s contractual obligations when they were assigned the rights to the film.

Holloway died in the last few days of 2004 — a year after her father — following a fight with liver cancer. Two of her three children have followed her into the business: actor Joel Tobeck and assistant director Mark Harlen. Grandson Geordie Holibar joined the cast of Shortland Street in 2010.


Sources include
Joel Tobeck
Renee Kiriona, ‘Whale Rider dispute goes to court’- NZ Herald, 29 January 2004
Trisha Dunleavy, Ourselves in Primetime: A History of New Zealand Television Drama (Auckland University Press, 2005)
Homeward Bound Press Kit 
'Geordie Holibar' TVNZ website. Accessed 31 May 2013