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.
Though best known as a sports writer and radio DJ, Phil Gifford’s long career has also seen a number of noteworthy screen encounters — including top-selling rugby videos, an acclaimed feature film and sketch-writing for late legend Billy T James.
The versatile Laurie Dee has played straight, comical and musical, and sometimes comical and musical at the same time. Sideman to Billy T over the first four seasons of The Billy T James Show, Dee later reinvented himself ... as an inventor.
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.
Tony Holden's producing and directing career spans generations of classic Kiwi comedy, from A Week of It, Gliding On, The Billy T James Show, to Spin Doctors. CEO of production company Comedia Pictures since 1985, Holden has also spent four years as TVNZ's manager of commissioning and production.
Actor Ilona Rodgers made her name with a starring role as magazine editor Maxine Redfern in prime-time soap Gloss. But Rodgers' career began in her native England; her globetrotting career has seen her acting alongside Doctor Who, The Beverly Hillbillies, and the inhabitants of Marlin Bay.
Veteran theatre and comic talent Doug Aston made one of his earliest TV appearances on cooking show Hudson and Halls; in two minutes on screen he almost brought the house down. In 1981 the English-born Aston joined The Billy T James Show for the first of four seasons, as one of Billy T’s main sidekicks. Later he cameoed on Billy’s self-titled sitcom, and appeared in Niki Caro's Old Bastards and drama Homeward Bound. Aston passed away on 20 July 2011.
Kiwi-born Samoan Nathaniel Lees began acting on stage in 1975, and on screen in 1984. Since then he has become a leading force in the development of Pacific Island theatre in Aotearoa, and brought his distinctive baritone voice to everything from The Billy T James Show to The Matrix.
Quite aside from being a talented and prolific actor, Ian Mune has made behind the scenes contributions to many New Zealand screen landmarks. Mune's writing career ranges from some of New Zealand's earliest television series to Goodbye Pork Pie. His work as director includes classics Came a Hot Friday and The End of the Golden Weather, and the hit sequel to Once Were Warriors.
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.