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.
The varied CV of John Charles includes composing music for classic movies Goodbye Pork Pie, Utu and The Quiet Earth. Charles has worked in television on both sides of the Tasman, including time as head of entertainment for Television One, and directing duties on landmark drama series Pukemanu and comedy Buck House.
Douglas Drury was one of a group of producers who lead an expansion of local television drama at a time — the mid 60s — where New Zealanders rarely saw their own stories on screen. Later, as second in command of state television’s drama department, he helped launch landmark series Pukemanu and initiated NZ's first situation comedy, Buck House. Drury passed away in Australia on 5 February 2016.
Paul Holmes, KCNZM, helped change the face of New Zealand broadcasting. In 1989 the actor turned radio host began presenting primetime news and magazine show Holmes in spectacular style, when guest Dennis Conner walked out of his interview. Holmes balanced the TV show and a popular radio slot for 15 years, followed by a stint with Prime TV and current affairs show Q+A. He passed away on 1 February 2013.
Lynda Topp is half of the Topp Twins, the singing sisters who have plucked their way across the country and the globe with their unique brand of comedy and country music. 2009 Topp Twins documentary Untouchable Girls is the most successful local doco released to date in local cinemas. In 2014 the twins presented TV series Topp Country, which became the third most watched local programme of the year.
Jim Hopkins's screen career has ranged from science reporting to shed anthropology. The long-time public speaker has been an NZ Herald columnist, talkback radio host, “thoroughly boring” Waitaki district councillor, and author (Blokes & Sheds). Though his television encounters have often been quirky or comedic, Hopkins has also multiple stints as a reporter (including 1980s science show Fast Forward).
Jools Topp is half of performing duo The Topp Twins. The sisters have taken their songs and comic characters to stages across the world, plus successful television shows The Topp Twins and Topp Country. The duo's story was told in 2009's Untouchable Girls, the most successful local documentary released in New Zealand cinemas to date.
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.
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.
Intrepid cinematographer Jacob Bryant has shot everywhere from Iraq and Afghanistan to the mean streets of Auckland (Super City). His work with leading documentary makers has been nominated for multiple screen awards. An episode of TV show Ends of the Earth shot in Afghanistan won Bryant a 2007 Qantas Award; he also shared a Documentary Edge gong for filming Finding Mercy in Zimbabwe.