Claire Chitham’s eight years playing Shortland Street receptionist Waverley Wilson made her one of the show’s longest-serving castmembers to date, as well as one of the most popular. She went on to a memorable role as gang girl Aurora Bay in Outrageous Fortune and won an NZ Screen Award for her work in Interrogation.
Makerita Urale grew up in her father's village in Samoa, before the family emigrated down under. She has gone on to bring a Pasifika voice to plays (the acclaimed Frangipani Perfume), museum exhibits, and documentaries. In 1995 Urale wrote Samoans-down under drama 'The Hibiscus' for TV's Tala Pasifika. Since then, the one time RNZ journalist has directed documentaries on Samoan tattooing (Savage Symbols), gangs (Gang Girls), and Kiwi activists (Qantas award-winner Children of the Revolution). In 2010 she joined Creative New Zealand, as an arts advisor on Pacific Arts.
One of NZ’s most experienced and prolific TV producers, Ross Jennings cut his teeth at Avalon in the late 1970s on dramas like Close to Home and Moynihan. After stints as Head of Drama at TVNZ and at Crawfords in Melbourne, he began a long association with Screentime Communicado where he created early reality TV series Middlemore, and Police 10-7. Jennings passed away on 25 March 2016.
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.
Ian Watkin's long acting career saw him playing mad doctors, priests, axe-wielding stepfathers, and American presidents. Part of the legendary Blerta troupe which toured Australasia in the 1970s, Watkin went on to appearances in everything from Beyond Reasonable Doubt and an iconic Crunchie bar commercial, to presenting Miss Universe New Zealand. He passed away in May 2016.
John Bates is a documentary director whose low profile and natural modesty belies his talent. His award-winning documentaries range across many iconic New Zealand people and events, including the 1951 waterfront dispute, the 1975 Māori Land March, late photographer Robin Morrison, and the history of television itself.
Miriama Smith began acting on screen as a teen. Over a dozen roles and a decade later, she joined the cast for three seasons of TV series Mercy Peak. She went on to star as feisty corporate boss Brady Truebridge in Filthy Rich. The versatile Smith has done screen time as a gang leader (The Tribe), mother (Stolen, Kaitangata Twitch), competitive dancer (Dancing with the Stars) and presenter (Finding Aroha).
Producer Rhonda Kite founded company Kiwa Media Group, which developed a successful programme to aid dubbing and dialogue recording, and made long-running Māori Television arts series Kete Aronui. Kite's award-winning slate of documentaries includes films on the Ōtara community, gangs, whāngai, and squeegee bandits. Kiwa Digital went on to focus on creating interactive books for mobile devices.
Julian Arahanga shot into the public eye in 1994's Once Were Warriors, playing the son who becomes a gang-member. He followed it with a starring role in cross-cultural romance Broken English. Since then Arahanga has continued a prolific career working in front of, and increasingly behind the camera - including as producer and director on Māori Television series Songs from the Inside.
Keith Slater started his journalism career at South Pacific Television before becoming a director, then taking the helm as Auckland Bureau Chief in TV3's newsroom. Along the way he produced shows like Fair Go and Country Calendar, but his heart belonged to current affairs, where his list of credits included TV3's primetime news, 60 Minutes, 20/20, Nightline and Campbell Live. Slater passed away in June 2017.