Wesley Dowdell auditioned for his first play in an attempt to get out of a maths class at Onehunga High School. It was love. At 17 the “born Westie” began the first of many roles with Auckland’s Massive Theatre Company. In 2007, a guest turn playing a gormless tow truck driver on Outrageous Fortune blossomed into an ongoing role. In 2014 he got behind the drumkit — playing Knuckles in comedy series Coverband.
It's quite fun playing an egg. Wesley Dowdell on his role in Outrageous Fortune, on radio station The Rock, 17 June 2009
In this family-friendly feature, Santa (Finnish actor Kari Väänänen) does a runner to a beach in Aotearoa days before his big night of the year, fed up with bureaucracy and brats. It falls to two Kiwi kids to get him out of the southern sun, and back to global gift giving. Director Tony Simpson (Kiwi Flyer) pitches the North Pole native against Kiwi biosecurity and a bickering camping family (including Step Dave's Sia Trockenheim). Sunday Star Times critic James Croot praised the trio of writers for delivering "a rare 21st century effort that evokes the memory of the great kidult dramedies."
The second season of comedy web series The Māori Sidesteps sees the now established band (who still work at Pete’s Emporium) facing a plethora of absurd challenges. Hoani questions his heritage and joins another, much whiter, band, Jamie faces marriage trouble, and Lemmi’s Samoan roots leave him in very hot water. Meanwhile Riki faces delusions of living in the Old West, Kelly gets the band an uncomfortable booking at a “birthday”, and Dollar$ faces competition as the band’s manager from the enigmatic Maui (Te Kohe Tuhaka).
This 2016 miniseries dramatises the life of legendary Everest conquerer Edmund Hillary. Written by Hillary's friend Tom Scott (who also wrote Hillary documentary A View from the Top), the six-part drama covers Hillary's life from growing up poor with a disciplinarian father, to romance, Everest, Antarctic adventures, and tragedy and achievement in Nepal. It was directed by Danny Mulheron (The Kick). Hillary was nominated for six NZ Television Awards, including for Andrew Munro's portrayal of Sir Ed. Dean O'Gorman won Best Actor, as Hillary's friend and climbing companion George Lowe.
Director Paul Murphy follows Second Hand Wedding with a romance featuring comedian Rhys Darby, songs by Queen and ... a duck. Darby plays heartbroken nice guy Doug: after a close encounter with a native duck (a paradise shelduck) with emotional problems, he enlists expert help from a sassy animal specialist (played by Brit Sally Hawkins, a Golden Globe-winner for feature Happy-Go-Lucky). True to rom-com form, love ensues ... eventually. NZ Herald reviewer Russell Baillie called Love Birds “an endearingly funny, if sugar-coated local romantic comedy”.
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.
Created by superhero fan Stephen J Campbell, this light-hearted adventure series follows teen Ben Wilson (Carl Dixon) who discovers his father and grandad have done time as superheroes. Still getting to grips with the basics of being one himself, Ben enlists family and friends to help fight assorted villians. The show ran for three seasons, and spawned web series The Wired Chronicles and Origins. Nominated for awards in Rome and New Zealand, it picked up one in Korea. The eclectic cast included the tried (David McPhail) and the new (Hannah Marshall from Packed to the Rafters).
After her husband is jailed, matriarch Cheryl West (Robyn Malcolm) decides the time has come to set her family on the straight and narrow. But can the Wests change old habits? So begins the six-series long saga of the Westie dynasty. Hugely popular at home (beloved by public, critics and awards-nights alike), and imitated overseas, Outrageous Fortune has been a flag-bearer for TV3 and contemporary NZ telly drama; the series proved — in all its grow-your-own glory — that genre TV in NZ could be so much more than overseas stories pasted to a local setting.
A series of farming mishaps each provoke the laconic comment — “bugger”. That was the formula behind one of New Zealand’s most iconic advertisements. Made by Saatchi and Saatchi to follow up the beloved Barry Crump/Lloyd Scott Toyota ads, and directed by Tony Williams, it attracted 120 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (who ruled that “bugger” was unlikely to cause serious offence). The shock value of that word, the role of Hercules the dog, and the performance of the hapless farmer (in the tradition of Fred Dagg and Footrot), made for Kiwi pop culture magic.