Louise Wallace followed an education at Auckland’s St Cuthbert's College with an advertising and marketing diploma at Auckland Technical Institute (now AUT). She then pursued her dreams of becoming an actor with studies at London's well-regarded Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. She went on to Sydney University, to complete a BA in history and Australian Literature.
While Wallace was gaining small roles on Australian TV dramas, she put a presentation course at Australian Film and Television School to good use; she scored gigs as presenter for ABC Sport and Channel 9’s Wide World of Sport, and gaining a profile as the host of Network 10's Just for the Record (an Aussie take on That’s Incredible).
After six years in Australia she returned home to New Zealand in 1989, to join tyro channel TV3, taking on the incumbent TVNZ. Her versatility saw Wallace touted as a “lady for all seasons” when TV3 pitched its launch line-up. Wallace told The Dominion she was determined to challenge what she saw as the “very stiff” presenting style in NZ.
For several years Wallace was an anchor on 3 News, and filled in on Nightline. In 1990 her sports reporting experience saw her win a hosting slot (alongside Clint Brown) on the channel’s Monday night show Mobil Sport, where the baseball-cap wearing Wallace gained a following — plus a 1992 Qantas Media Award for sports presenting.
A move into current affairs followed in 1991 when she began filing reports for 60 Minutes. When the show was snatched by TVNZ two years later, she became the face of TV3’s response: 20/20. With the candour that she would become known for, Wallace told Truth that 20/20 was “classier” than 60 Minutes. 20/20 soon established itself as a current affairs contender, and at the 1996 NZ Film and Television Awards, Wallace was nominated for Best Presenter.
In 1998 Wallace left 20/20 over a contract disagreement, and went freelance. She reflected to NZ Herald’s Greg Dixon in 2003: “I wasn’t really a hard reporter. I left the hard stuff to the others who enjoyed it more. I enjoyed getting to the heart and soul of people more then really ripping the bejesus out of them.”
Despite these objections, in 2001 Wallace unleashed a screen persona that firmly delivered the latter, as host of gameshow The Weakest Link. In the UK and US, host Anne Robinson had become an international celebrity after delivering the show's withering put-downs. Wallace was the person chosen to dismiss losing contestants in New Zealand: “You are the weakest link. Goodbye.”
Meanwhile Wallace continued acting (in kids shows Secret Agent Men and Amazing Extraordinary Friends, and NZ-shot US productions Power Rangers, Legend of the Seeker, and Boogeyman). But having such a high profile screen presence made gaining local lead parts problematic. She mused to Michele Hewitson in 2010: “Yeah, but I was never going to be hired as an actor after having done news and current affairs. I mean, would you hire Judy Bailey?”
Her far from weak reputation proved an advantage on one role: as judge Adie Saunders on hit Jay Laga'aia series Street Legal. She was able to play off her staunch presenter persona on the legal drama, and display a more human side after her screen husband was killed in a tragic shooting. “I relish the opportunity to become a gibbering, emotional, vulnerable mess because it actually shows I can act, that I've got range," she told Greg Dixon, before the show’s fourth season in 2003. Wallace first debuted in Street Legal on this 1998 pilot.
Over the next decade she continued to mix things up, presenting sports quiz show Game of Two Halves and becoming a key participant in the swelling wave of reality TV shows. In 2003 she was in the waves as a contestant in the second series of Celebrity Treasure Island. She went on to host subsequent series.
The Dominion Post felt that Wallace was one of the show's main contenders for camp leader status. In 2016 she made NZ Herald’s roster of ‘New Zealand’s best reality TV villains’. Their writer referenced her ability “to paralyse contestants with her death stare” in Weakest Link, and argued that in survivor mode on Treasure Island she was “terrifying.”
In 2006 she gained headlines for wrangles over the Wallace family estate. She told Hewitson that the perception she'd been born with a silver spoon meant “the phone didn't ring in three years”. In 2008 she was dispatched to front Farm Gate for the Country Channel; in 2010 she directed episodes of the Kiwi version of The Apprentice. The same year she cameoed as a “dipso cougar” on Shortland Street, and in 2013 she guested in real estate dramedy Agent Anna.
In 2012, Wallace was one of those behind the launch of Auckland theatre company Tadpole Productions.
Over her career Wallace has sung in Christmas in the Park, compered Benson and Hedges Fashion Awards and NZ Film and TV Award ceremonies, and appeared in celebrity reality shows So You Wanna be a Popstar and Top of the Class.
Back when Wallace began hosting 20/20, she spoke about her lack of pretence. "I like to achieve certain milestones. I call a spade a spade. I’m very down to earth, I don’t like people making out what they’re not.” When Michele Hewitson interviewed Wallace in 2010, she reflected that her subject, “is the only person I've ever met who admits that she wanted to be on TV so she would become famous and have people look at her.”
After a career whose milestones have ranged unpredictably from Mobil Sport to 20/20 to Street Legal to Weakest Link, in 2016 the longtime Remuera resident joined the personalities on Real Housewives of Auckland.
'Louise Wallace' Auckland Actors website. Accessed 8 August 2016
Tadpole Productions website. Accessed 8 August 2016
Jill Beasley, ‘Swapping Sides’ (Interview) - New Idea, 20 February 1993, page 19
Dwight Cox, ‘20/20 Is ‘Classier Than 60 Minutes’ (Interview) - New Truth, 11 June 1993
Greg Dixon, ‘Louise Wallace shows her softer side on Street Legal’ (Interview) - The NZ Herald (Canvas pullout), 22 May 2003
Michele Hewitson, ‘Michele Hewiston Interview: Louise Wallace’ - The NZ Herald, 3 July 2010
Jo McCarroll, ‘Wallace wields whip in cruel quiz show’ (Interview) - The Sunday Star-Times, 27 May 2001
Bevan Rapson, ‘One more goes from TV3 show’ - The NZ Herald, 24 January 1998
Barry Shaw, ‘Top-notch presenter joins TV3 line-up’ - The NZ Herald, 28 September 1989
Unknown writer, 'Louise Wallace plays Adie Saunders' Screenworks website. Accessed 8 August 2016