Alongside five seasons of Beyond the Darklands, Nigel Latta has presented a number of shows about parenting and young people. There have also been many books on parenting, two of them spin-offs from his TV shows — plus two editions of Into the Darklands, whose chronicles of criminals first inspired Latta's move into television.
Born and raised in Oamaru, Nigel Latta later went to Otago University, where he studied zoology and marine science, and played in a skiffle band. Latta has said that he considered dozens of career options, including nursing and the police. At Auckland University he completed a Master of Philosophy with First Class Honours in Psychology, and a postgraduate diploma in Clinical Psychology. Since then Latta’s work, most of it in private practice, has reflected his interest in forensic psychology and working with young people.
After roughly a decade as a psychologist, often involving violent offenders, he wrote 2003 book Into the Darklands: Unveiling the Predators Among Us. Latta was motivated partly by a sense that "all the public ever get to see of the bad guy is a 10 second piece on the news walking from the police van to the Courthouse wearing a white boilersuit … The offender becomes a one dimensional cliché, a soundbite. Some people tell us it isn't his fault because he was a product of his childhood, and other people tell us he is subhuman."
Latta coined the term darklands to investigate the back story that precedes "indescribably horrific acts". He argues that in order to address the root causes of crime and violence, "we must first begin by understanding the people who commit these terrible acts”, and the forces that move them. Latta carried that desire to go “beneath all the hyperbole” when TV show Beyond the Darklands launched in 2008. Each episode was based around a particular criminal and their background. Episodes were only made if the families involved agreed. Four more seasons followed, plus an Australian series, hosted by actor Samuel Johnson.
Running alongside the success of Darklands were a series of advice shows, starting with 2009 hit The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show. Latta believes the shows were a hit because they were lighter and less earnest than others of a similiar nature. Politically incorrect guides to teenagers and grown-ups followed, with the guide to teens winning Aotearoa Television nominations for both best presenter, and best information programme. All three shows were made with Latta’s then partner in crime, producer/director Mark McNeill.
In 2010 Latta won a prime time slot in Australia, presenting an edition of the parenting show for Aussie audiences. A reviewer for The Sydney Morning Herald argued that Latta's presentation combined "common sense advice with empathy and a stand-up comedian’s delivery".
Latta's other television work includes a one-off documentary for young people dealing with natural disasters, and two-part special Surviving Teen Driving, which investigates the high fatality rate amongst teens. Self-titled series Nigel Latta debuted in mid 2014 (watch all six episodes here). The show was inspired by “particular issues which wound" him up: everything from inequality to the dangers of sugar. Says Latta: "I wanted to fight through all the numbers and the bollocks and everything else." The Hard Stuff with Nigel Latta followed in 2015, in a similar vein (the two shows were later sold under the title The Hard Stuff). Latta argued "it had been a long time" since there had been serious documentaries covering serious topics.
There were further shows in 2015: Nigel Latta Blows Stuff Up looked at popular science, while On Thin Ice, a two-part visit to Antarctica, provided the unforgettable moment of "standing outside at midnight watching whales swim past your front door".
In 2016 Latta formed production company Ruckus Media, with two key Nigel Latta/Hard Stuff collaborators, director Mitchell Hawkes and producer Arwen O'Connor. Ruckus have since made two seasons of Mind Over Matter with Nigel Latta, which looks at the psychology of money, and four-parter The Curious Mind.
In June 2017 Latta joined John Campbell to co-host the first of a series of live panel specials, What Next? Running across four or five nights, for three seasons, the interactive show set out to examine what New Zealand should look like in 20 years.
Latta has been a consultant for varied organisations including the Department of Corrections, sex offender treatment programmes, the police and Child, Youth and Family. In 2010 he was invited to become an associate of Otago University’s Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.
Profile updated on 20 May 2022
'Nigel Latta: The psychology behind good television' (Video Interview) NZ On Screen website. Director Andrew Whiteside. Loaded 21 December 2015. Accessed 21 December 2015
Goldfish Wisdom website. Accessed 19 May 2022
Razor Films website. Accessed 21 December 2015
Matthew Littlewood, ‘Extra-hot Latta but no sugar, thanks’ (Interview) - TV Guide, 28 July 2014
Catherine Masters, 'Nigel Latta: Why should we listen to him?' (Interview) - Herald on Sunday, 20 July 2014
‘Guide to good kids’ (Interview) - The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 May 2010
‘Nigel Latta: Clinical Psychologist’ Beyond the Darklands website. Accessed 31 July 2014