Actor/musician Madeleine Sami won international acclaim starring in two Toa Fraser plays: 1998's Bare and solo show No 2. Aged 18, she debuted on screen on Shortland Street and Pio. Following Insiders Guide to Happiness, she played Oscar Kightley's romantic interest in Sione's Wedding. Sami went on to win an NZ acting award for Super City, in which she played multiple characters, from a gym instructor to an Iranian immigrant. She co-wrote and created the show with Thomas Sainsbury. In 2018 comedy The Breaker Upperers hit cinemas, which she co-wrote, co-directed and co-starred in with Jackie van Beek.
I had lines like ‘They've got catapults!’ or ‘There's a shark!' or ‘We're all gonna die!' I'm barely in it. But I don't die. I'm one of the only Amazonians that doesn't die. Madeleine Sami on acting in Xena: Warrior Princess
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.
Packed with Kiwi comedy talent, The Breaker Upperers is the tale of two women whose business is ending other people's relationships. Leading both the cast and the filmmakers are Madeleine Sami (Super City) and Jackie van Beek (who played a wannabe vampire in What We Do in the Shadows). Sami's character finds herself falling for a teen (James Rolleston) who needs to dump his girlfriend. The film won its first rave review when it debuted at US festival South by Southwest, in March 2018. New Zealand release followed in May. The cast includes Rima Te Wiata and Rose Matafeo.
"I like uncovering people and getting them to fess up to **** and to be more real with themselves." So said Anika Moa to TV Guide of her late night Māori TV talk show. In the first episode, the forthright Moa has two Real Housewives of Auckland on the couch. Moa trades laughs with champagne fan Anna Batley Burton, while Gilda Fitzpatrick shows actor Madeleine Sami the high life, and Sami shows her the thug life. There’s giant knitting needles and innuendo; hip hop artist Kings performs hit 'Don’t Worry Bout It', and The Spinoff’s Alex Casey previews Sensing Murder.
Comedians Rose Matafeo and Laura Daniel created and starred in this part sketch comedy, part sitcom. Funny Girls sees Daniels and Matafeo producing sketches for a fictional comedy series, and dealing with incompetent male bosses and a clueless producer (Breaker Upperer Jackie van Beek). In 2016 the TV3 series won attention when Comedy Central was accused of copying a season two skit about a board game for girls. The mainly female cast includes Kimberley Crossman, Brynley Stent and Alice Snedden. Madeleine Sami made her TV directorial debut in season two.
Actor/director Taika Waititi teamed up with his Eagle vs Shark star Jemaine Clement for this mockumentary about life for a flat of vampires. Cameras follow the vamps as they struggle to get into Wellington pubs, squabble over chores and face off against werewolves. A roster of Kiwi comedic talent (including Jackie van Beek and lazy vampire Jonathan Brugh) feature. After winning fangtastic reviews at America's Sundance and SXSW festivals, Shadows won a run of global sales and four Moa awards, including Best Self-Funded Feature. It also spawned two TV series, and a live show.
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.
Musician Coco Solid aka Jessica Hansell’s 10-part satirical web series follows a band in the ’burbs dreaming of stardom. In Aroha Bridge, control freak Kowhai and her stoner twin brother Monty (Hansell and Rizvan Tu’itahi) play their debut gig but are upstaged by the precocious Angeline. Madeleine Sami and Frankie Stevens voice the twins’ spacey mum and macho dad. Wellington animators Skyranch include music video director Simon Ward and Luke 'Disasteradio' Rowell. Funded by NZ On Air under the title Hook Ups, Aroha Bridge launched on the NZ Herald website in May 2013.
Budding musos Kowhai and Monty face the hard facts of economic reality in episode two of Jessica Hansell’s animated satire set in Aroha Bridge, based on her former neighbourhood Mangere Bridge. Though they’re pretty sure working for their wigged out ex-army dad (Frankie Stevens) might involve something illegal, their new jobs as “televisionaries” flogging creepy teddy bears proves just as dubious. Funded by NZ On Air, Aroha Bridge started life as a comic strip in NZ Herald’s Volume magazine before it appeared on the Herald’s website in animated form.
Selling out is the theme of the third part of Jessica Hansell’s 10-part animated web series. Cousin Ira offers the twins a gig playing at the grand reopening of the Aroha Bridge dairy on the condition they play a song about the dairy. Kowhai leaps at the chance to play a “festival” crowd, while Monty is dubious about promoting “big business”. Each episode of Aroha Bridge features a track created by a fan on an app accompanying the series. Production company Fumes also makes Super City starring Madeleine Sami, voice of the Hook twins’ spaced out mum.
Kowhai and Monty Hook run into some chic city girls at the dairy who invite them to play at an art opening. Under the influence of his mum’s “alternative medicine”, Monty pens an ode to spaghetti which Kowhai tries to reframe as a feminist thinkpiece. Crooner Frankie Stevens voices the twins’ slightly scary dad in this 10-part animated series created by Jessica Hansell. Wellington animators Skyranch is a collective of artist/musicians including Luke Rowell aka Disasteradio, responsible for the background sight gags.
Monty’s crappy administration skills prompt the Hook twins (Jessica Hansell aka musician Coco Solid and Rizvan Tu’itahi) to look for a manager in Hansell’s 10-part animated web comedy about a band dreaming of stardom. At the Aroha Bridge dairy they run into intriguing Scotsman Dougie (Frankie Stevens, also the voice of the twins’ macho dad) who just happens to be carrying all the right management literature under his arm – but Monty is suspicious of his motives. Aroha Bridge is based on Hansell’s comic strip Hook Ups, for music magazine Volume.
Frankie Stevens impersonates himself as a judge on the televised musical talent show Aroha Bridge Factor in this sixth episode of Jessica Hansell’s animated web series. Kowhai and Monty (Hansell and Rizvan Tu’itahi) audition with a track from Kowhai’s musical meisterwerk The Phantom of the Hiphopera. But in front of the judges, the twins’ effort to “street up” their story comes back to bite them. The twins’ costumes by Wellington animators Skyranch and Scotty Cotter’s goofy cousin Ira are highlights of the episode.
Inspired by her idol, the all-dancing, singing and acting Alaze Rhetoric, Kowhai forces Monty to attend dance lessons so they too can bring a triple threat. But hot Euro dance teacher Francine (voiced by Madeleine Sami) is blind to Kowhai’s self-proclaimed talent and only has eyes for Monty. The voices for Jessica Hansell’s 10-part web series about the music biz were recorded in a single afternoon, with crooner Frankie Stevens onboard as the twins’ ex-army dad. Comic use of a dairy doorbell merits special mention in this Aroha Bridge episode.
The Hooks’ blissed out mum (Madeleine Sami) has a vision of a Reiki studio in her basement, displacing the twins’ practice room in this eighth episode of animated series Aroha Bridge, based on Jessica Hansell’s comic strip Hook Ups. After answering an ad, the twins end up sharing rehearsal space with pretentious synth outfit the Rugged Sharks, but their music is not quite as crap as it first seemed, leading Kowhai to consider ripping them off. Hansell aka musician Coco Solid and Rizvan Tu’itahi star as a band from the ‘burbs dreaming of the big time.
The Hook twins (Jessica Hansell aka rapper Coco Solid, and Rizvan Tu’itahi) pimp their social media profile in the penultimate episode of Hansell’s animated comedy series about a suburban band with stars in their eyes. They go the cheap route by posting a sensationalist clip of their ex-army dad (Frankie Stevens) freaking out over a kitten (he is kittenphobic), however Kowhai recovers her morals and apologises in a lyrical highpoint of the series: “Oh dad, I’m so sorry/ I threw a baby cat in your face/ Oh dad, I’m so sorry/ I was panderin’ to my fanbase.”
Mum is cornrowing Dad’s hair for a costume party in this final episode inspired by the lyrics of a track sent in by a series' fan (“Halloween party, Halloween!/ Halloween party, Halloween!”). Cousin Ira lures the twins into the lair of enemy band the Rugged Sharks, where they realise they are the wait staff. No one gets Kowhai’s Riddler costume and Monty drinks to ease the pain. This 10-part animated music biz satire stars Jessica Hansell and Rizvan Tu’itahi as Kowhai and Monty Hook; Madeleine Sami as mum; Frankie Stevens as dad and Scotty Cotter as cousin Ira.
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.
This long-running factual series aims to celebrate "what diversity really means for all New Zealanders", by exploring the people and culture of Kiwi neighbourhoods. Four stories per episode are presented by a personality with links to the 'hood. The hosts include actors Madeleine Sami, Shimpal Lelisi and Yoson An, musicians King Kapisi and Tami Neilson, tennis player Marina Erakovic and designer Sean Kelly. Made by Satellite Media for TVNZ, six seasons had been made up to 2018. Neighbourhood was nominated for Best Information Series at the 2012 NZ Television Awards.
In the five years since Sione's Wedding, the Duckrocker quartet have experienced marriage, children, Australians and the good lord. Then their minister reunites them on a quest to find Bolo (Dave Fane) — once their driver and conscience, now MIA. The sequel to the break-through PI-Kiwi hit reunites the original cast, and adds in a dodgy minister (Kirk Torrance) and a new director (Outrageous Fortune's Simon Bennett). On the burden of following Wedding, Stuff reviewer Steve Kilgallon adjudged: "seen on its own merits, it [Sione's 2] proves worth the wait".
Actor Madeleine Sami transforms into five very different Aucklanders in this Taika Waititi directed comedy series. Cheerleader Pasha is desperate to hang on to her youth; Linda tries too hard with her middle-aged clique; Azeem the Iranian taxi driver is obsessed with Māori culture; homeless Georgie makes a shock discovery, and gym instructor Jo secretly loves a female colleague. Rachel House, Rose McIver and Antonia Prebble appear in this series opener. Super City creator Sami (The Breaker Upperers) co-wrote the scripts, and won an Aotearoa award for Best Actress.
Creating and playing all of the main characters in Super City made for a "physically exhausting" experience for Madeleine Sami. But the hard yakka paid off, with the first season winning Sami a best actress gong and rave reviews. The show weaved the storylines of very different Aucklanders (five in season one, and four new characters in season two): including a ditzy Indian cheerleader, an Iranian male taxi driver obsessed with Māori culture, and a homeless woman. Taika Waititi (Boy) directed the first series; Oscar Kightley (Sione's Wedding) took over for season two.
An all-star team of Kiwi talent contributed to this sketch comedy — including Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, the bro'Town team, and 'special guest stars' Jemaine Clement and John Clarke. In-between one-off and ongoing sketches, there were regular appearances by Taika Waititi as an oddball alien character with plans for planet Earth. There were also animated inserts like laconic sheep tale The Pen, FOT (Funny Orange Thing) and the Kiwi accents of Beached Az. Eight episodes screened on TV3. Bro'Town creator Elizabeth Mitchell was producer and lead director.
Eclectic comedy show Radiradirah featured Taika Waititi, Rhys Darby, Madeleine Sami and the talent behind animated hit bro'Town. The fast-paced sketch show included Monty Python-style animated inserts, the laconic talking sheep of The Pen, and bro'Town-ers Oscar Kightley and Dave Fane as elderly women who've done it all. This first episode introduces a number of ongoing characters, including an oddball alien with a beard, and crusading space captain Hemi T Cook (both played by Waititi). Radiradirah was created by bro'Town's Elizabeth Mitchell and Oscar Kightley.
Since debuting in 2009, award-winning panel series 7 Days has introduced a range of Kiwi comedy talents to television audiences. Three's show takes an irreverent look at the past week in the news, with regular segments like “my kid could draw that” and “what’s the taxi driver talking about”. Jeremy Corbett hosts; the two teams of regular and guest comedians have included Paul Ego, Dai Henwood, Ben Hurley and Urzila Carlson. The show echoes the format of Britain's long-running Mock the Week. Corbett has described 7 Days as the comedy show he's always wanted to make.
TV personality Jaquie Brown plays (and plays up) herself for further delightful comic effect in the second series of The Jaquie Brown Diaries (renamed The Jaquie Brown Odyssey for DVD release). In the Qantas Award-winning TV3 satire Brown is an egomaniacal reporter looking to climb the media ladder any which way she can. This episode sees Brown googling herself, and a late-night forum post sends her spiralling towards celebrity booze binge self-destruction on K Road. In her wake Auckland’s Metro social pages set are skewered with self-referential glee.
Maurice Gee's classic novel about aliens running amok under Auckland has rarely gone out of print, since its debut in 1979. First adapted as a memorable 80s TV series, this movie retooling sees teenage twins Theo and Rachel stumbling across shape-shifting creatures that are hiding beneath Auckland's extinct volcanoes. American showbiz magazine Variety praised Black Sheep director Jonathan King's "solid helming", and the excellent acting of Sam Neill as the mysterious Mr Jones. Oliver Driver plays lead villain Mr Wilberforce, under four hours of make-up.
TV personality Jaquie Brown plays (and plays up) herself for delightful comic effect in this hit TV3 satire. Former Campbell Live reporter Brown plays an egomaniacal journalist looking to climb the media ladder any which way she can. Auckland's aspirational set: a cast of Metro social page alumni and wannabes, are skewered with self-referential glee. The second series was retitled for DVD release as The Jaquie Brown Odyssey; both series won acclaim and Best Comedy gongs at the Qantas Film and TV Awards. The Listener gushed: "A local sitcom that doesn't suck."
TV personality Jaquie Brown plays (and plays up) herself for delightful comic effect in this hit TV3 satire. Brown plays an egomaniacal reporter looking to climb the media ladder any which way she can. Auckland's aspirational set: a cast of Metro social page alumni and wannabes, are skewered with self-referential glee. The show won Best Comedy at the 2009 Qantas Film and TV Awards. This episode sees Jaquie striving to exit Woman's Day's 'Plump it Hottie' section, appropriating a tampon, and performing in a celeb singalong.
Qantas-nominated 'dramedy' Rude Awakenings revolved around the conflict between two neighbouring families, living in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby. Rush family matriarch Dimity (Danielle Cormack) has her eyes on climbing the property ladder, by acquiring the house next door (occupied by solo Dad Arthur and his teenage daughters). Created by Garth Maxwell (movie Jack Be Nimble), the 2007 series was produced by Michele Fantl for TV One. The Listener’s Diana Wichtel welcomed it as a rare contemporary satire on New Zealand television, but it only ran for a single season.
Sione's Wedding is a feel-good feature comedy about four 30-something guys who must each find a girlfriend before their best friend Sione's wedding — or be left out in the cold. Through the efforts of these bumbling blokes to get the girl(s), the film brought to life the colour and humour of the urban Samoan community in Auckland, the world's largest Polynesian city. A breakthrough PI-Kiwi film, Sione's broke box office records when it opened in cinemas throughout New Zealand in March 2006. Actor Oscar Kightley co-wrote the script with James Griffin.
This animated TV comedy series is a modern day fairytale following the adventures of five kids growing up in one of Auckland's grungier suburbs. With a fearless, un-PC wit and Simpsons-esque celebrity cameos, it managed to be primetime and family-friendly. The popular show was made by Firehorse Films, and developed from the brazen and poly-saturated comedy of theatre group Naked Samoans. Screening on TV3 for five series it won Best Comedy at the NZ Screen Awards three years running and a Qantas Award for Ant Sang's production design. "Morningside for life!"
This lighthearted road movie follows three bogans on a mission to join the world of movies. After hearing that Peter Jackson is putting Lord of the Rings on film, they set off from West Auckland for Wellywood, hoping against the odds to score acting roles as hobbits. Written by actor Peter Tait — with help from his bogan co-stars and director Grant Lahood — the film also features a memorable cameo by Madeline Sami, plus a blink-and-you-ll miss it appearance by Mr Jackson himself. And some of the cast really did appear in The Lord of the Rings....
The Insiders Guide to Happiness follows the interconnecting lives of eight 20-something characters — one of them dead — as they search for happiness. Dramatic, comic, sexy, surreal, the drama won critical acclaim and was a ratings success. An ambitious chaos theory-derived 'meta' concept is underpinned by strong performances from the ensemble of burgeoning acting talent, and stylishly-shot Wellington city locations. The Gibson Group production won seven awards at the 2005 NZ Screen Awards, including Best Drama and Best Director (Mark Beesley)
This series follows the interconnecting lives of eight 20-something characters — one of them dead — as they search for happiness. An ambitious 'meta' concept, strong performances from the ensemble cast and stylishly-shot Wellington locations won the Gibson Group drama awards and acclaim, particularly from its targeted youth demographic. In this excerpt from Chapter Eleven, Lindy accepts a job in Toronto but fails to tell boyfriend William; Barry and James discuss Chaos Theory and relationships; and Sam uses flowers in an attempt to fix things with Tina.
One night in a West Coast pub, Melanie (Australian actor Rachel Blake) meets a handsome stranger (Sam Neill) and accepts his invitation to go back to his place. When they board his boat she discovers it is further than she thought (a shack on a deserted island). Once they arrive he treats her like a princess. However it slowly dawns on her that she's been kidnapped. Terrified, she also knows that he's her only way off the island. As events play out in Gaylene Preston's twisted thriller, Melanie's feelings change from anger and fear — to desire.
While playing at the beach with their grandmother, two children witness an Elvis impersonator walk out of the sea. They believe he's the "fishman" lover of a female taniwha, Hine Tai. Magic realist mayhem — and tragedy — ensues as the stranger stirs up the life of their whanau in the quiet fishing village. The fable, written by Briar Grace-Smith and directed by Peter Burger, received six nominations at 2002 NZ TV Awards, winning Best Drama, and Camera. It screened on TV3 and features the Bic Runga song 'All Fall Down'.
This film is an account of a 13-year-old boy's shoplifting escapade. It is narrated by a teen voice (Madeleine Sami) while adult actors act out the drama as kids. What starts out as teen shenanigans (a porn stash is accrued with the five-finger discount) turns unsettling as a beating is doled out by Dad as punishment. The contrast between the naive voice and what is seen on screen - shot in hand-held close ups - is grimly memorable. An early short from Gregory King, this disquieting tale of domestic abuse was selected for NZ and Melbourne Film Festivals.
Shortland Street is a fast-paced serial drama set in an eponymous inner city Auckland hospital. A South Pacific Pictures production, the iconic show is based around the births, deaths and marriages of the staff, family and patients. Screening five days a week on TV2 it is New Zealand’s longest running drama. Characters and lines from the show have entered the culture, most famously, "you're not in Guatemala now, Dr Ropata!". This 2007 promo, set to the theme song, collects together highlights from the first 15 years of the show.