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.
The part-Samoan and fairly talented Mario Gaoa has been a writer, director and the voice of God. Part of the team behind comedy troupe the Naked Samoans and animated show bro’ Town, Gaoa supplied a number of voices for the hit series. These days he runs production company Tikilounge, with his partner Lisa Taouma.
John Anderson got busy directing a run of television dramas in the 1980s, including award-winning Polynesian road movie Mark ll, and two of the final works by playwright Bruce Mason. The onetime actor reinvented himself as a documentary filmmaker in the 90s, then relocated to Kiribati, where he worked on more than 400 films covering everything from climate change to dance. Anderson died in Kiribati on 19 August 2016.
Bill Sheat has applied his legal and organisational skills across the arts in Aotearoa, to influential effect. He was pivotal in the setting up the NZ Film Commission, and was its inaugural chair from 1978 to 1985. Sheat also spent time as chair of the Queen Elizabeth ll Arts Council, helped fund John O’Shea's 1960s musical Don't Let it Get You, and played a role in ushering Geoff Murphy’s Goodbye Pork Pie to the screen.
PI Kiwi Oscar Kightley is a writer, actor, presenter and director. After co-creating The Naked Samoans, he worked with the comedy troupe on five seasons of hit series bro’Town, NZ's first animated show to play in prime-time. Kightley has also worked with the Samoans as an actor and writer in hit feature Sione’s Wedding and its 2012 sequel. In 2013 he took on a serious role, starring as the detective in TV series Harry.
The first Niuean to graduate from drama school Toi Whakaari, Vela Manusuate scored a 1997 Chapman Tripp award for comedy, as part of duo The Brownies (alongside Canada Alofa). Facing limited roles for Pacific Island actors, Manusuate helped found theatre and music group Kila Kokonut Krew in 2002. The team's biggest hit to date has been The Factory, based partly on his father's move to NZ; in 2014 it was reborn as a web series.
Simon Bennett's extensive CV includes producing and directing episodes of long-running successes Shortland Street and Outrageous Fortune — including helming Fortune's keenly-watched final episode — and producing fantasy series Maddigan's Quest. Bennett began in theatre, and has gone on to spend time as head of drama at South Pacific Pictures, the production house behind all three shows.
Director Anna Marbrook came to the screen from an extensive theatre background (she co-founded Auckland company Theatre at Large). More than 150 episodes directing on Shortland Street laid the groundwork for a run of factual work, focused on Pacific themes: including food series Real Pasifik, award-winning waka documentary Te Mana o te Moana – The Pacific Voyagers, and reality series Waka Warriors.
Alma Woods, MBE, founded Howick Little Theatre in 1954, soon after sailing from London. Occasional screen roles punctuated a long love affair with theatre. In the 60s she acted in two Pacific Films productions, then won a legion of fans voicing puppet mouse Willie McNab for TV's Chicaboom and Chic Chat. Her dramatic chops came to the fore in tele-films Hanlon: In Search of Minnie Deans and Mother Tongue. She died on 24 October 2005.
An iconoclast with a bent for experimentation, director Paul Maunder brought the mixed flavours of social realism and the arthouse to New Zealand screens in the 1960s and 70s, before shifting stages and leaving the government's National Film Unit, to concentrate on theatre. His second feature Sons for the Return Home (1979) as the first film to dramatise the experience of Pacific Islanders living in contemporary New Zealand.