Close to Home first screened on TV One in May 1975 and ran for eight years. The popular and ground-breaking series was New Zealand television's first soap opera. It was based in Wellington and centred around the trials and tribulations of the Hearte family. At its peak in 1977, Close to Home attracted a twice weekly audience of one million viewers.
Actor Jeffrey Thomas has had a long and varied career in both TV and theatre. His best-known television role was as Inspector Brian Finn in the police series Shark in the Park. Thomas has also appeared in Mercy Peak, Shortland Street, Spartacus and Outrageous Fortune.
Ilona Rodgers has starred in a huge array of theatre, film and TV roles in New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. As well as appearing in many British and Australian TV shows screened in New Zealand, Rodgers has been a stalwart of locally made programmes such as Close to Home and Hunter's Gold. Probably best known for playing Maxine Redfern in Gloss, some of Rodgers' other screen credits include The Billy T James Show, Marlin Bay and the film Utu.
Janice Finn is a television writer/producer who has also spent time in front of the camera. Her acting roles have included parts in Close to Home and The Strip. Finn produced the high camp 80s soap Gloss and 90s drama Marlin Bay, and has written extensively for Shortland Street. She has also produced reality series such as Changing Rooms for Touchdown Productions. Lately Finn has been producing documentaries for Natural History New Zealand.
Simone Kessell first appeared on screen playing Hannah Tumai on short-lived soap Homeward Bound. She acted in both Hercules and Xena before being cast as a TV journalist on Cover Story, and as the lead in period drama Greenstone. Kessell has worked in both America and Australia, and appeared in Aussie dramas Underbelly and Wonderland.
Lisa Harrow left New Zealand in the 1960s to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in England – it was this move that cemented her love of theatre and later enabled her to build an international screen career. She has visited New Zealand periodically and starred in locally-shot movies Other Halves and Shaker Run. Nowadays Harrow lives in the US and is involved in environmental campaigning. Her most recent Kiwi project was a role as the grandmother in TV2’s Step Dave.
Craig Parker made his television debut in 1980s soap Gloss, before starting a four year stint on Shortland Street as womanising social worker Guy Warner. After checking out of the long-running soap, Parker played a doctor on Mercy Peak, a villain in Legend of the Seeker and starred as the hapless diplomat in Diplomatic Immunity. His other screen credits include Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Spartacus.
Steve La Hood began directing on soap opera Close to Home, and went on to direct tele-play Swimming Lessons, Bruno Lawrence documentary Numero Bruno and episodes of Shark in the Park and Shortland Street. He also produced ground-breaking series The Marching Girls. These days he creates multimedia attractions around the globe with company Story Inc, alongside James McLean.
Fiona Samuel has found success as an actor, writer and director. Her first acting job was in long-running soap Close to Home, and she followed that with appearances in a number of film and TV shows. Samuel’s greatest passion, however, is for writing and directing. She was the creative force behind pioneering female-centric series The Marching Girls, and has written scripts for Outrageous Fortune, The Almighty Johnsons and Interrogation. Samuel also wrote and directed award-winning dramas Piece of My Heart, and Bliss: The Beginning of Katherine Mansfield.
David Harry Baldock’s long TV career includes submarines, sea rescues, ailing prime ministers and psychics. The onetime editor began making his mark as a director and producer on current affairs and a run of documentaries. In 1988 he left state television to launch production company Ninox, whose prolific output would grow to include Sensing Murder, Mitre 10 Dream Home, award-winner Pacific Rescue and ambitious documentary series Our People Our Century.