Celebrated actor Jennifer Ward-Lealand began her career as a child and made her screen debut on Paul Maunder-directed Gone Up North for a While aged nine. In her teens she played rebellious Jan in soap opera Close to Home, attended drama school, and on venturing into the professional world, started winning roles, including TV series Seekers, with Temuera Morrision. Her film roles include the colonial glamour drama Desperate Remedies.
Michael Hurst is an acclaimed theatre actor and director, who has also featured in a broad range of television and film roles, including his long-running gig as sidekick Iolaus in the American TV series Hercules. In the mid-90s Hurst also began directing for the screen, initially on episodes of Hercules and Xena, but also helming the feature film comedy Jubilee, and TV mockumentary drama Love Mussel.
Ray Henwood, ONZM — father of comedian Dai — arrived in New Zealand from Wales, just in time for the birth of professional theatre downunder. Best known to TV viewers for five seasons playing Hugh on hit office comedy Gliding On, Henwood’s screen roles include villains (The Legend of William Tell) surgeons (Shortland Street), and experts in hypothermia (Such a Stupid Way to Die). Which is not to mention an epic theatre career which has seen him play Stalin, Einstein and Richard Burton, and star in early plays at Wellington theatres Downstage and Circa.
Oscar Kightley is a celebrated writer, actor, director and television presenter. He is a key part of comedy theatre troupe The Naked Samoans, whose members are behind the hit TV animation series bro’Town and the feature film Sione’s Wedding.
Veteran actress Kate Harcourt has had a long and distinguished career in theatre, television and film. Her first television role was as a presenter on the Wellington version of children’s show Junior Magazine. She would later appear in TV dramas such as Country GP, Plain Tastes, and the TV play Loose Enz - Free Enterprise. Harcourt has also acted in a number of feature films including Mr Wrong, Apron Strings and Savage Islands.
Dunedin-born Alan Dale always had his sights set on brighter lights: first Auckland, then Sydney, then Los Angeles, where he now lives. He started out performing in amateur theatre, but came to professional acting late, taking a DJ slot on Radio Hauraki in his late 20s, followed by a role on the Hauraki-inspired series Radio Waves. Moving to Australia, Dale appeared on The Young Doctors, before playing the fondly remembered solo father, Jim Robinson, for almost a decade on Neighbours. Since moving to Los Angeles, he has often played bad guys, authority figures and moguls on series including ER, Lost, NCIS, 24, The X Files and Entourage, plus high profile roles on The OC and Ugly Betty, and parts in feature films including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Dale has returned to New Zealand for only two series: Plainclothes and Auckland Daze. He also appeared in Flight of the Conchords on HBO, playing the Australian Ambassador.
Simon Prast made his television debut in cop drama Mortimer’s Patch. Best known for playing spoilt rich kid Alistair Redfern in Gloss, Prast’s biggest film role was playing a gay man in 1998 movie When Love Comes. He also has a strong background in theatre, and for 11 years ran the Auckland Theatre Company.
John Leigh is one of NZ's most versatile and experienced actors, with over 40 NZ TV and film credits to his name, including roles in Outrageous Fortune, Serial Killers, Stickmen, Shortland Street and Mercy Peak, plus numerous theatre and voice-over appearances. From early beginnings in the Wellington theatre scene through his first major TV role as Lionel Skeggins on Shortland Street, he is a familiar face on NZ stage and screen. His talents also extend to voice-over with several character appearances on Power Rangers, along with numerous advertising campaigns.
George Henare is acting royalty in New Zealand with a huge body of work in theatre, television and movies. His first screen performance was as a suspected killer in the 1976 TV play The Park Terrace Murder. From there Henare starred as Hone Heke in the epic TV drama The Governor. Moving to the big screen, Henare portrayed the evil tohunga in The Silent One. Henare's other film and television credits include Mercy Peak, Shortland Street, Hercules and Xena, Rapa Nui, Once Were Warriors, and The Legend of Johnny Lingo.
Even as a schoolboy, Oliver Driver knew he wanted to be an actor. Since leaving school he has had a varied career in theatre, television and film. Playing the role of male nurse Mike Galloway in Shortland Street made Driver a famous face in New Zealand, but he has also appeared in other homemade TV shows such as The Strip, Serial Killers, and Letter to Blanchy, and the films Topless Women Talk about Their Lives, Magik and Rose, Black Sheep, and A Death in the Family. Driver appeared as the villainous ‘Mr Wilberforce’ in the feature film Under the Mountain.