Tim Balme's charisma and good looks have earned him more than his share of "baddies with a heart" roles. But Balme is also adept at comedy; and two of his most memorable roles involve playing the nice guy - in 1992 splatstick classic Braindead, and longrunning television show Mercy Peak.
Balme first got the acting bug as a teenager, playing an aging king at Otumoetai College. But in the world of hometown Tauranga, Balme's enthusiasm for acting did not meet universal acclaim: "People thought I needed counselling."
In 1987 Balme entered drama school Toi Whakaari, in the same intake as Cliff Curtis, Marton Csokas and future Shortland Street actor Michael Galvin. After graduation Balme began an extended period doing what actors dream of: paid acting. Balme and Galvin teamed up to play the Everly Brothers in the play Blue Sky Boys. Then Balme toured for seven months with Stephen Sinclair/ Anthony McCarten hit Ladies Night.
Balme would go on to appear in another four McCarten plays, plus Via Satellite (1998), McCarten's first movie. The latter involved a memorable entrance as exasperating husband Ken. Balme expressed surprise that some audience members actually liked the character.
With a stint in the cast of TV skit show Away Laughing behind him, Balme had actually made his movie debut much earlier, in Braindead (1992). The film saw him starring as the henpecked Lionel, caught between the affections of a Spanish woman and a disapproving mother, who is busy decaying into a zombie. The role required pratfalls, gallons of blood and an actor able to balance the nerdy and heroic. Balme was glad to have Peter Jackson behind the camera: "Peter never left me up in the air...the best thing is that he's completely approachable at any period of the day, very calm." Balme's performance as Lionel would win him the 1993 NZ Film best actor award.
His second feature was a fantasy about an inventor (Balme) whose brain is possessed by the spirit of a monk who knows the secret to flight. Jack Brown Genius proved a box office failure, but won awards for best actor (Balme) and director (Tony Hiles). Hiles described Balme as "one helluva good actor. He's intelligent and works bloody hard."
The remainder of the 90s saw Balme applying his work ethic to television, and the occasional short film. He had a recurring role as sleazy biker Greg Feeney in Shortland Street, and was invited to join his partner Katie Wolfe on the cast of Cover Story, after the series was retooled for a second season. This show about a current affairs show won rave reviews, and not nearly enough viewers. Disappointing ratings also met multi-million dollar serial Greenstone, which saw Balme donning a full moko, to portray an Irish monk who has exiled himself to eighteenth century New Zealand.
The shorts included two mood pieces in which he co-starred with Wolfe: the poetic La Vie En Rose (1994) and noirish fantasy Planet Man (1995). The year 2000 saw Balme launching touring group the New Zealand Actors Company, alongside Wolfe, actor Robyn Malcolm and director Simon Bennett.
The following year, Balme was surprised to be asked to play good guy for a change. So began one of his favourite television roles, that of the romantically-impaired policeman in popular small town drama Mercy Peak. The role won him a best supporting actor award at the 2002 NZ Television Awards.
In 2003 Balme returned to the big screen - as a convicted murderer who plays a game of psychological cat and mouse in Stuart McKenzie's ambitious For Good. NZ Herald critic Russell Baillie wrote that Balme was "frequently impressive in his chilling ability to show Wilson's evil streak, while talking about his rehabilitation."
Over the next eight years, aside from ambitious fantasy Maddigan's Quest and occasional cameo roles ('Te Whakaatua' episode on Mataku, The Tattooist), Balme's work was more likely to be off-screen. Early in his career, Balme had applied simultaneously to get into drama school and Victoria University's creative writing course. When drama school beckoned, he decided to return to writing at a later date.
In 2005 scriptwriter James Griffin read an unmade Balme movie script, based on his successful play The Ballad of Jimmy Costello. Balme was invited to write for police drama Interrogation. He went on to work as a storyliner and occasional scriptwriter over four seasons of South Pacific Pictures' Outrageous Fortune.
From December 2009 until the end of 2012 Balme was Head of Development at South Pacific Pictures. In this period he worked on the development of a slate of screen productions including Nothing Trivial, The Blue Rose and box office hit Sione's 2: Unfinished Business.
July 2010 saw the debut of Balme-scripted tele-movie Stolen: The Baby Kahu Story, based on an infamous 2002 kidnapping case. He co-wrote episodes of madcap SPP comedy series Diplomatic Immunity with Griffin, and also co-wrote troubled-teen short Redemption (which was selected for Berlin), with Katie Wolfe and Renae Maihi.
Aside from his writing and development work, Balme has narrated for a number of documentaries and reality shows, including Border Patrol and Tough Act. The latter show follows students during their first year at drama school Toi Whakaari - where Balme's career as an actor first began.
After a cameo role as a drugdealer in the final series of Outrageous Fortune, Balme has returned to the screen in SPP comedy/drama The Almighty Johnsons (which he has also contributed scripts for). Balme plays Mike Johnson, oldest brother and substitute parent to a Kiwi family that has inherited God-like powers.
'New Head of Development and Shortland Street Producer' South Pacific Pictures website. Loaded February 2013. Accessed 21 February 2013