Actor Rena Owen found fame through her role as matriarch Beth Heke in hard-hitting feature film Once Were Warriors. She went on to spend two decades years in Los Angeles, though she returned to New Zealand to act in Vincent Ward's Rain of the Children and Fiona Samuel's TV movie Piece of My Heart.
Producer Larry Parr has had a hand in producing a number of classic New Zealand films, including Sleeping Dogs, Came a Hot Friday and Smash Palace. He has also made forays into directing with Fracture and A Soldier's Tale. After three years as Head of Programming at Māori Television, Parr became Television Manager at Te Māngai Pāho, which funds Māori radio and TV programmes.
Rawiri Paratene (Ngā Puhi) was the first Māori student to graduate from the New Zealand Drama School, and he has since made an indelible mark on the NZ screenscape. Paratene’s small screen career began with a small part on The Governor, and playing Koro in 70s sitcom Joe and Koro. Paratene then hosted daily pre-school show Play School. Paratene is also an acclaimed writer whose credits include the TV dramas Erua and Dead Certs. On the big screen, Paratene has played the role of reformed gang member Mulla in What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?; but it was his role as Koro in Whale Rider that garnered him international recognition.
Amanda Billing played the "neurotic, belligerent but deeply sensitive" Doctor Sarah Potts on Shortland Street for 10 years. Billing felt devastated when the beloved character died on the soap, but it gave her the impetus to pursue other work. She has gone on to act in acclaimed comedy Find Me a Māori Bride and sci-fi children’s drama The Cul de Sac.
Hori Ahipene could perhaps be described as New Zealand’s most 'diverse' actor, having played both male and female characters in TV comedies and dramas. In the 90s Ahipene gained a loyal fan base by appearing in the TV sketch shows Away Laughing, Skitz and Telly Laughs. Two of Ahipene’s popular gender-swapping roles were Mrs Semisi in Skitz and The Semisis, and Beverley Best in Māori Television sitcom/chat show B&B. Ahipene has also appeared in TV dramas Maddigan’s Quest, Mataku, and Shortland Street.
Cohen Holloway is a singer, actor and comedian who first made an impact on comedy shows Pulp Comedy and Facelift. Holloway went on to act in movies After the Waterfall, and Taika Waititi hits Boy and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. In 2009 he won a Qantas Best Actor Award after starring as David Dougherty in TV drama Until Proven Innocent. In 2015 he starred in Māori Television’s acclaimed comedy series Find Me a Māori Bride.
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.
Producer and director Colin McRae has a television career spanning 40 years. In that time he has worked in news and current affairs for both TVNZ and TV3, and was the private channel’s Head of Sport to boot. His ground-breaking historical series The New Zealand Wars won Best Documentary Series at the 2006 Qantas Media Awards. In recent years, McRae has produced Native Affairs and Anzac Day coverage for Māori Television.
Pana Hema-Taylor plays one of the petty criminals in hit TV show Westside. His other roles include based on a true story TV movie Resolve, The Brokenwood Mysteries, hit movie Boy, and road drama The Most Fun You Can Have Dying.
Bailey Mackey is a former reporter on Te Karere and 3 News, who is now producing commercial Māori series through his company Pango Productions. He was the main creative force behind high profile show The GC, and reality series The Life and Times of Temuera Morrison.