Kiwi-Samoan Robbie Magasiva was performing in a primary school talent quest when he fell in love with acting. At age 16 he made his first screen appearance, playing a police cadet in a TV commercial. Since then Magasiva has honed his skills in television (Aussie series Wentworth, Shortland Street, The Semisis), film (Stickmen and Sione's Wedding) and stage (comedy group The Naked Samoans).
His name was synonymous with entertainment in New Zealand. Dubbed Ol' Brown Eyes — Māoridom's version of Frank Sinatra — Howard Morrison's voice and charisma carried him through decades of success both here and abroad. From the Howard Morrison Quartet to time as a solo performer, Morrison's take on songs like 'How Great Thou Art' ensured his waiata an enduring place at the top of local playlists.
Mātai Smith began his screen career reporting on Marae. He was a long-running host of pioneering te reo children's show Pūkana and later co-hosted breakfast TV staple Good Morning (where he introduced te reo, and was hypnotised). Smith fronted popular Māori TV talent quest Homai Te Pakipaki, winning Best Presenter at the 2012 NZ TV Awards. He is currently Native Affairs’ Australian correspondent.
From the mid 60s and into the 1980s, Christopher Bourn’s name was synonymous with entertainment on New Zealand television. But the man behind talent shows Studio One and New Faces also played a role in ground-breaking sports broadcasts including the first All Black test screened on television. Bourn also held senior management roles in both the old NZBC and TVNZ.
Alan Smythe is the impresario behind long-running family concert Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park. His diverse CV includes being founding editor of the London Review of Books, playing cello for the Paris Opera, and hosting TV talent quest The Big Time. Behind the scenes, he adapted short stories for pioneering drama series Winners & Losers and About Face, and worked with director Roger Donaldson on some of his earliest films — including co-directing a film with him about motorcycle racer Geoff Perry. In 2001 Smythe became the founding head of Auckland University’s School of Creative and Performing Arts.
Kimo Houltham was raised in Rotorua, and grew up speaking Māori. He performed kapa haka for tourists as his first job, and got his screen break as a 16-year-old at a speech competition, when a TV producer suggested he audition for Māori Television’s flagship youth show HAA. Hosting gigs on music series LIPS, rangatahi shows I AM TV and talent quest The Stage - Haka Fusion followed. Alongside work as a high school teacher, Houltham has also acted: he was one of the warriors in te reo action feature The Dead Lands, and the heroine’s gay best friend in Rotorua-set TV drama This is Piki.
Dunedin-born actor Colin Tapley found character parts gave his movie career longevity. Tapley argued that the average time for a leading man in 1930s Hollywood was seven years. He played supporting roles in pre-World War II Hollywood films, and after the war extended his career into the late 60s with performances in British movies and TV. His best remembered film is 1955 classic The Dam Busters.
Antonia Prebble played the manipulative Loretta West on Outrageous Fortune over six seasons, before starring in prequel Westside. Prebble began her screen career aged 12 on TV series Mirror, Mirror, and did five seasons on sci-fi hit The Tribe during her school holidays. From 2013 her career got even busier, with starring roles in legal thriller The Blue Rose, Witi Ihimaera film White Lies and bio-thriller The Cure.
Janine Morrell-Gunn is one of New Zealand's leading children's television producers. She began her TV career in 1985 as a trainee director and producer at TVNZ, working on programmes such as Spot On and Fast Forward. Morrell-Gunn spent seven years as executive producer of TVNZ's Children's Unit. In the late 1990s she formed Whitebait Productions (now Whitebait Media) with her husband Jason Gunn.
Being a big man with a “face like the map of Ireland” made him an unlikely starter, but in the mid-70s Glyn Tucker was one of New Zealand’s best known screen personalities. The larger-than-life character was a racing guru, and also a popular radio then TV presenter: his television roles ranged across sports commentator, punting pundit, crooner and light entertainment show host.