Stage and screen veteran Rima Te Wiata has showcased her talents as an actor (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), impersonator (More Issues), and singer (Little Shop of Horrors) — often all at the same time. In 2017 Te Wiata was awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit, for her work on film and television.
Writer and comedian Jon Gadsby, QSM, likely spent more time being funny on NZ television screens than almost anyone — aside perhaps from his longtime partner in crime, David McPhail. After appearing together on breakthrough comedy show A Week of It, the two helped form the comic backbone of the long-running McPhail and Gadsby, satirical show Issues, and the outdoor escapades of Letter to Blanchy.
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.
Immortalised as the big Texan tourist who wanders into a nest of Dunedin hipsters in classic Clean video ‘Beatnik’, the screen career of character actor David Telford spanned three decades. Along the way the Cantabrian starred in TV series Rabbiter's Rest, and brought his dramatic and comedic skills to McPhail and Gadsby and classic Otago goldmining tale Illustrious Energy. Telford passed away on 7 September 2010.
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.
Veteran actor Bruce Allpress has played true-blue Kiwis in everything from Ronald Hugh Morrieson classic The Scarecrow to 2011 feature Rest for the Wicked. Alongside a long run of supporting roles, he scored two Feltex awards as swagman star of 80s TV series Jocko.
Michael Haigh gave up teaching to become a professional actor. A founding member of Wellington’s Circa Theatre, his TV legacy is the gruff office worker Jim in Roger Hall’s Gliding On — one of NZ television’s great comic characters and a role that won him a Feltex Award. He played Jim for five years and appeared in a number of other TV series and films (almost inevitably playing a policeman). Michael Haigh died in 1993.
Lawyer turned satirist AK Grant was writing partner to comedians David McPhail and Jon Gadsby. Together the three created breakthrough comedy hit A Week of It; Grant went on to write for McPhail and Gadsby, Letter to Blanchy and the sitcom version of The Billy T James Show. He passed away on 29 June 2000, at the age of 59.
Although Ginette McDonald's career is most associated with the gormless, vowel-mangling girl-from-the-suburbs: Lynn of Tawa, she is a woman of many parts. Alongside an extensive acting and presenting career, her work as producer and director spans three decades, and includes Shark in the Park, Peppermint Twist, and kidult series The Fire-Raiser.
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.