Christchurch-raised Matt Whelan made his screen debut playing himself — as an acting student on 2005 reality series Tough Act. His big screen break was 2008‘s Show of Hands. But it was three seasons as a lovesick finance man on Go Girls that brought him a wider audience. Three award-nominated roles saw him in starring roles at the movies: cross-cultural romance My Wedding and Other Secrets, travel drama Most Fun You Can Have Dying, and Radio Hauraki tale 3 Mile Limit. In 2017 he was Hugh Hefner in Amazon series American Playboy — before flying to Columbia to chase drug cartels, for Netflix hit Narcos.

I got it through my agent. I saw it and thought, perfect, this guy is tall and skinny and he has to speak a bit of Mandarin. Matt Whelan, on hearing about the male lead's requirements for My Wedding and Other Secrets

The Luminaries

2019, As: Cowell Devlin - Television

American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story

2017, As: Hugh Hefner - Television

Pork Pie

2017, As: Noah - Film

Pork Pie is a rare local remake — the source material is the 1981 movie which first got Kiwis lined up in blockbuster numbers, to see themselves on screen. This time round, the mini-driving rebels are played by James Rolleston (Boy), Dean O'Gorman (who also hit the road in Snakeskin) and Australian Ashleigh Cummings (TV's Puberty Blues). Writer/ director Matt Murphy is the son of Kiwi film legend Geoff Murphy, who directed the original Goodbye Pork Pie. The "reimagining" became the fourth highest grossing film in local release, during its first five days in New Zealand cinemas.

Gary of the Pacific

2017, As: Nelson - Film

In the first feature film from high-flying creative collective The Downlow Concept (7 Days, Hounds), the company's longtime 'muse' Joss Thomson plays a struggling real estate agent who becomes the chief of his family's sinking Pacific Island — while simultaneously striving to offer his girlfriend Chloe (American actor Megan Stevenson) her dream wedding. Shot largely in Raratonga, the film also features Dave Fane and Matt Whelan (Go Girls). The trailer promises male corsets and fat jokes, plus plenty of deadpan downlowconcept mayhem. 

Narcos

2017, As: Daniel Van Ness - Television

Stake Out

2017, As: Salesman - Web

25 April

2015, As: John Persson - Film

The first animated feature made and originated in New Zealand, 25 April tells the story of the country's involvement in an ill-fated mission to take a piece of Turkish coastline during World War I. 2700 Kiwis died and ‘ANZAC’ became a symbol of national identity. Director Leanne Pooley mines archive war diaries, and uses graphic novel style recreations from Flux Animation to evoke the the perspective of six participants. 25 April debuted at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival. Alongside the excerpt, a short making of video shows how facial motion capture fed into the film's distinctive look. 

3 Mile Limit

2014, As: Richard - Film

On 4 December 1966 pirate radio hit Kiwi airwaves when Radio Hauraki broadcast from the Colville Channel aboard the vessel Tiri. In this feature, rookie director Craig Newland and writer Andrew Gunn fictionalise the true life story of the station’s battle to get to air — overcoming courtroom rulings and a conservative state broadcasting monopoly, as well as storms at sea. Go Girls actor Matt Whelan (who was Moa-nominated for the role) plays young rebel journo Richard Davis, fighting for free speech, the freedom to choose, the woman he loves … and rock’n’roll!

Coverband

2014, As: Alex - Television

The Most Fun You Can Have Dying

2012, As: Michael - Film

Young, confident and good-looking, Michael (Matt Whelan from Go Girls) discovers he has only a short time to live. Rather than undergo pricey experimental cancer treatment, he steals the cash and absconds to Hong Kong and Europe, determined to enjoy the life that remains. But heedless OE hedonism is complicated when he meets Sylvie (Roxane Mesquida, star of A Ma Soeur) and goes cross-continental with her. Based on Steven Gannaway novel Seraphim Blues, Kirstin Marcon’s first feature combines down under filming with a guerilla-style winter shoot across Europe.

My Wedding and Other Secrets

2011, As: James - Film

Emily Chu (award-winner Michelle Ang) is a young ‘banana’ (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) hoping to conceal a cross-cultural romance from her prudish Chinese parents in this romantic dramedy. Director Roseanne Liang’s feature debut draws on her autobiographical ‘video diary’ Banana in a Nutshell, which screened at the 2005 NZ International Film Festival. In the audience was producer John Barnett, who immediately offered to fund an adaptation. On its March 2010 release My Wedding gained several five star reviews, and strong box office.

Go Girls

2009 - 2013, As: Brad Caulfield - Television

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.

Go Girls - First Episode

2009, As: Brad - Television

Go Girls starts from a twist, a beach and a promise. The twist is that this femme-dominated tale is narrated by a male (Jay Ryan). The promise involves four friends having a drink on the beach, and agreeing to make a major life-change within a year. Amy (Anna Hutchison) wants to be rich; whacky bartender Britta (Alix Bushnell) seeks fame; straight-talking Cody (Bronwyn Turei) wants a hubbie. The intentionally "optimistic, kind" hit show stretched to five seasons. In the backgrounder, co-creator Rachel Lang writes about the show's origins and difficult, rain-sodden birth.

Show of Hands

2008, As: Matt - Film

The second feature film directed by writer Anthony McCarten (Ladies' Night) is a small tale with some big themes. Set in a New Plymouth car yard, the film chronicles an endurance contest in which a car will be awarded to the person who manages to keep their hands on it the longest. As night falls, solo mother Jess (Melanie Lynskey) finds herself fending off the attentions of an obstinate competitor (Craig Hall), with a much harsher vision of the world than hers. Inspired by similar real-life contests, McCarten based the film on his novel Endurance.

MyStory

2007, As: Regan - Web

MyStory was the first “mobisode” funded by NZ On Air. It tracks a group of young people in their ‘gap year’ between high school and university as they discover one of their friends has gone missing. The 40 x two-minute episodes screened on C4, and was able to be downloaded daily to 3G phones on the Vodafone network, or watched (as a weekly collection) on the C4 website on Sundays. Created by Gibson Group producer Bevin Linkhorn, the series was directed by Peter Salmon.

Wrapped

2006, As: Bob - Short Film

Tough Act - Episode Five

2005, Subject - Television

Tough Act follows the 2005 intake of first-year acting students at Toi Whakaari, New Zealand's most famous drama school. This episode concentrates on two group assignments: a performance describing the students' journey after being accepted into the school, and a performance in te reo, using song and movement. The pressure involved in creating, rehearsing and performing to deadlines reveals striking personality differences within the class. This episode was one of two nominated for Best Children's Programme at the 2007 Air New Zealand Screen Awards.

Tough Act

2005, Subject - Television

In 2005 director Stuart McKenzie brought a camera crew into the studios and rehearsal spaces of Toi Whakaari, New Zealand's top drama school, to follow the progress of its first-year acting students. The class included future names like Dan Musgrove and Sophie Hambleton (Westside) and Matt Whelan (Go Girls). Tough Act was nominated for Best Reality Show at the 2007 Qantas Television Awards and the 2007 NZ Screen Awards. The concept was custom-made for reality TV: tough auditions to find 22 diverse young people, who chased the same dream and faced a multitude of challenges. 

Tough Act - Episode Nine

2005, Subject - Television

Reality series Tough Act follows first-year students at New Zealand's most famous drama school. In this episode personal lives clash with professional aspirations. The students' first professional production looms. As they rehearse scenes from Shakespeare, distractions are everywhere. Hollie is grieving after news of an accident and class romances are put to the test when partners perform intimate scenes with colleagues. When Sophie sleeps in and misses a rehearsal, she faces serious consequences. The series was nominated for two local awards for Best Reality Series.