Veteran producer Tom Parkinson has worked with some of New Zealand television's most popular comedians, including David McPhail, Jon Gadsby, and the late Billy T James (who he discovered in an Avondale Rugby League club). He also directed adventure series Hunter's Gold — whose international success helped launch a run of Kiwi-made children's dramas — and produced many international co-productions.
Ruth Harley has been a leader and change agent across 30 years in the screen industry. She was commissioning editor at TVNZ, then the first Executive Director of NZ On Air. From 1997 she spent a decade as CEO of the NZ Film Commission, then crossed the Tasman to head the newly created Screen Australia for five years. In 1997 Harley was awarded an OBE, and in 2006 was named a CNZM.
At high school Craig Parker was "the world's most uncoordinated kid". After discovering that taking drama would mean less time in PE, he picked acting. The decision launched a 30+ year career around the globe. His screen roles include Shortland Street, Mercy Peak, and TV movie Shackleton's Captain. Since winning a keen fan base for a bit part in Lord of the Rings, he has also acted in Spartacus and Reign.
Billy T James ranks as a key figure in the development of Kiwi comedy. Billy honed his talents as a singer and comedian on stages worldwide, then brought them to a local TV audience on throwback show Radio Times. His self-titled comedy show was a major ratings hit. His turn as the Tainuia kid in Came a Hot Friday is still fondly remembered — as is Billy T's infectious chuckle, black singlet and yellow towel.
From an early role as a teen bully in Children of Fire Mountain, Mark Hadlow, ONZM, has gone on to work beside Billy T James, Peter Jackson, talking hedgehogs and mutant huhu grubs. The veteran actor/comedian is fondly remembered for playing a wide-eyed farmer on hit TV series Willy Nilly; in Jackson’s three-part adaptation of The Hobbit, he was grey-bearded Dori the dwarf.
Donna Malane, who runs company Lippy Pictures with writer Paula Boock, is an award-winning producer and screenwriter. She has written a wide variety of television including drama, fantasy, children’s drama, sketch comedy and documentary. Malane is also the author of a number of books, including acclaimed crime novel Surrender.
New Zealand born and raised, but better known for his work in Australia and the US, Alan Dale began his screen career with Kiwi soap Radio Waves. After eight years as patriarch Jim Robinson on Australia's Neighbours he was later cast in hit US show The OC and he established himself as the man to call for business magnates and authority figures: his CV includes 24, Ugly Betty, Lost, and Once Upon a Time.
Les Andrews, QSM, began singing with the Kiwi Concert Party during World War II. After the war he studied at London’s Royal College of Music, and sang on BBC television. Back home he was one of the first faces on air when local television began transmitting, and later spent four years hosting quiz show Personality Squares. With his wife Sonia, he was a busy patron of the arts. Andrews died on 28 February 2014.
Since first winning fame as lead singer of 60s blues band The Underdogs, Murray Grindlay has gone on to apply his musical talents as a composer for feature films (Sleeping Dogs, Once Were Warriors), veteran jingle-writer (including the classic Crunchie train robbery commercial), and producer (hit single 'Sailing Away', Goldenhorse's Out of the Moon).
As a head of drama in New Zealand television, John McRae spearheaded a run of shows that were both local and export successes. McRae's four-decade television career saw him working in three countries, and winning two Emmy awards.