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.
German-raised Alexander Behse has produced a run of documentaries exploring Māori subjects, from ta moko to te reo Shakespeare, to acclaimed Tūhoe HQ story Ever the Land. Behse got an MA in production from UTS Sydney, and has many TV credits as an editor. He made his directing debut with 2012 TV documentary Nazi Hunter, and was at the helm of award-winning TV series Radar Across the Pacific.
Don Selwyn, ONZM, was an actor, casting director and mentor to a host of talented Māori who went on to work in film and television. Selwyn’s long acting resume includes 1970s historical epic The Governor and police show Mortimer’s Patch. He also directed The Māori Merchant of Venice, the first feature film in te reo Māori.
Ray Waru has been a prolific television producer and director since the 1970s, specialising in Māori, heritage and historical programming. He established the first Māori production unit and has been involved in a range of ground-breaking, award-winning shows, while operating his own media company for over 20 years. In 2006 Waru was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit for services to broadcasting.
Anzac Wallace made one of the most memorable debuts in New Zealand cinema when he starred as avenging guerilla leader Te Wheke in classic Māori Western Utu. The former trade union delegate followed it with movies The Silent One (1984) and Mauri (1988) and pioneering Māori TV series E Tipu E Rea. He passed away on 8 April 2019.
His name was synonymous with entertainment in New Zealand. Dubbed Ol' Brown Eyes — Māoridom's version of Frank Sinatra — Howard Morrison's voice and charisma carried him through decades of success both here and abroad. From the Howard Morrison Quartet to time as a solo performer, Morrison's take on songs like 'How Great Thou Art' ensured his waiata an enduring place at the top of local playlists.
Tama Poata's wide-ranging contributions to our culture can be glimpsed through his appearances on-screen: from campaigns for Māori land rights (in 1975 doco Te Matakite O Aotearoa) and against the Springbok tour (Patu!), to his many acting roles. He also directed documentaries and wrote landmark 1987 movie Ngati, the first feature written (and directed) by Māori.
Chas Toogood has been part of New Zealand television since 1971, when he began as an NZBC reporter in Hamilton. Highlights of his career include award-winning documentaries No Mean Feat (about double amputee Mark Inglis and his attempt to climb Mt Cook), and Triumph of the Human Spirit (following Kiwis competing at the Atlanta Paralympic Games). Toogood has directed many current affairs and lifestyle shows.
Helen Clark once described Derek Fox as the pre-eminent Māori broadcaster of his generation. He is a journalist and publisher whose work in Māori media spans print, radio and television. Fox's name is synonymous with TVNZ's daily Māori news programme Te Karere; Marae, which he fronted for many years; and Māori Television, which he was instrumental in setting up.
Although he may not be keen to do so, Bill Toepfer can claim a place in global television history as the man behind the Popstars reality TV juggernaut. Toepfer has enjoyed a long and accomplished career in New Zealand television, editing and producing hundreds of hours of documentaries and TV specials.