Actor Grant Tilly, who died in April 2012, displayed his gifts for understated comedy in movies Middle Age Spread and Carry Me Back. The versatile Tilly had done it all — from acclaimed theatre performances (often in Roger Hall plays) to screen roles that took in everything from adventure movies and landmark historical dramas (The Governor), to children's TV, sitcoms (Gliding On), and many voice-overs.
Russell Smith still gets recognised for his portrayal of milk-obsessed vampire Count Homogenized. Smith first played the affro-haired vamp on late 1970s series A Haunting We Will Go, then starred in spin-off show It is I, Count Homongenized. Smith's screen career is a study in adaptability. After early work in children's television — including co-hosting Play School — he joined the cast of pioneering show A Week of It, one of many comedy roles. In the late 80s he played a hard-bitten detective in Wellington cop show Shark in the Park. Smith has also directed on childrens shows Bumble and Mel's Amazing Movies.
Ray Woolf’s career as a performer spans from rock’n’roll to jazz, including touring shows of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Sound of Music. Born in England, but New Zealand-based since the early 60s, Woolf’s television work includes singing, acting, and hosting his own talk show. He was New Zealand Entertainer of the Year in 1975.
Raised in Taranaki with seven siblings and roughly as many books, Anthony McCarten went on to co-write global stage hit Ladies Night. In 1998 he made his directorial debut with a movie of his play Via Satellite, followed later by Show of Hands. In 2015 he won two BAFTA awards after writing Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything. Winston Churchill drama Darkest Hour and Bohemian Rhapsody followed.
Cliff Curtis alternates a busy diet of acting in the United States (where he's forged a reputation as the actor to call on, for roles of varied ethnicity) with smaller scale New Zealand projects — including co-producing Taika Waititi smash Boy. His CV of Kiwi classics includes playing Pai's father in Whale Rider, Uncle Bully on Once Were Warriors, and bipolar chess champion Genesis Potini in The Dark Horse.
Oscar Kightley, MNZM, is a man of many talents. After launching The Naked Samoans, he worked with the comedy troupe over five seasons of hit series bro’Town, NZ's first animated show to play in prime time. The group also featured in movie Sione’s Wedding and its 2012 sequel, both of which Kightley co-wrote. In 2013 he took on a serious role: starring as a Samoan-Kiwi detective in TV series Harry.
Since scoring Billy T and Chapman Tripp awards while he was half of madcap comedy duo Sugar & Spice (alongside Jonathan Brugh), Jason Hoyte has applied his ample talents to comedy, drama, radio and voiceover work. Often cast as the smooth-talking but dodgy man in a suit (Shortland Street, taxman tale We're Here to Help), Hoyte has also regularly played comical co-host with Leigh Hart. He stole the screen in school satire Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby, as dodgy guidance counsellor Steve Mudgeway.
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.
Jacob Rajan’s play Krishnan’s Diary was a breakout success, named 1997 Chapman Tripp production of the year. Through company Indian Ink, the Malaysian-born, Kiwi-raised Rajan has since co-created and starred in a series of plays, winning sellout performances, awards in Edinburgh and a renowned American agent. He has also acted on screen in Outrageous Fortune, Shortland Street, and starred in award-winning Fish Skin Suit.
Greg McGee's first play Foreskin's Lament (1980) is seen as a watershed moment in the maturing of a distinctly Kiwi theatre. Since then McGee has demonstrated (with tele-movie Old Scores) that rugby can be the stuff of comedy as well as critique. He has also created or co-created a run of television dramas - including long-running law show Street Legal - many of them awardwinners.