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.
As cantankerous plumber Max Ramsey, Kiwi Francis Bell was the original patriarch in iconic soap Neighbours. A popular and sought after actor in Australia, Bell had roles in numerous TV staples; he played ‘Pompey’ Elliot in the Anzacs mini-series. In the mid-80s Bell returned home, and in TV3 soap Homeward Bound played Dad to a young Karl Urban. In May 1994, aged 50, he fell from an Auckland building to his death.
At age 17, Melbourne-raised Lisa Crittenden was playing daughter to Ilona Rodgers on Australian soap The Sullivans. In 1992 she shot into Kiwi TV history as hardbitten chief nurse Carrie Burton on Shortland Street, after a memorable line about Guatemala in the soap's first 10 minutes. She sang in spin-off single 'Keeping Up the Love Thing' and acted in Cover Story and short Black Bitch, before returning to Australia.
Veteran actor Elizabeth McRae, NZOM, is probably best-known for her long-running role as Shortland Street receptionist Marjorie Brasch. Alongside her work as a theatre actor and voice coach, her screen work includes leading roles in the Return Journey episode of anthology series About Face, and Nancy Brunning short Journey to Ihipa.
Australian-raised Melanie Rodriga (née Read) moved to New Zealand in 1977, and worked as an editor. After adapting Keri Hulme story Hooks and Feelers, she wrote and directed feminist thriller Trial Run in 1983. In 1988 Rodriga was a best director finalist for pioneering TV drama The Marching Girls. Rodriga now lectures in film at Perth’s Murdoch University and continues to make and develop films.
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.