Can you tell us about the premise of the show?
Harry is a
character-based crime drama.
exceptional Samoan detective who returns to work at ‘Major Crime’ at ‘The Hub’
(New Zealand’s biggest Police station in Manukau City) prematurely to work on a
robbery homicide case.His life unravels
as the case grows and develops, leading him into unexpected territory.
Where did the initial spark for the show come from?
wanted to do a New Zealand
‘Cracker’ and when he saw Oscar acting in a play with the Naked Samoans the
idea was born.Fortuitously, Oscar was
keen to stretch himself with a serious dramatic role.
They sold me on that basic concept for a six part series and Oscar and I
sketched out Harry, his life and family and the kind of cases he’d work on. We
also found and set the tone of the show. We wanted it to be as real as
possible, in look and feel.
What kind of research did you do to make sure the show was
grounded in fact?
Neil Grimstone (Grim), a retired Detective Sergeant, onto the writing team to
help us with technical detail and procedural matters… And we mined his twenty
years experience for material. Grim would bring in various specialists from
Major Crime, Asian Crime, Clan Lab Team and the like to talk with us. We tested
our stories on them and if they didn’t buy it we’d go back to the drawing
board.It was often frustrating to have
a great dramatic idea fail the credibility test, but we were determined to make
a show that would ring true to New Zealand Police.
to see a psychiatrist throughout the series so we consulted extensively with
psychiatrist Lindy Matthews who was also invaluable in helping us understand
the psychology and behaviour of a grieving man.
was paramount in both the Police story and Harry’s personal journey.
The storyline of Harry centres on a man trying to piece his
life back together after a personal tragedy . How did you chart this journey?
felt Harry should be deeply troubled and emotionally blocked at the beginning. His
desire to get back to work was his way of coping, doing something he was
comfortable with, ignoring the past. Unfortunately for Harry, his personal life
is always impinging on his present and his work. He’s never had to be a parent
and he struggles throughout the show to be a good one.
him to change a little over the series, to be true to life.In the end Harry realizes a few things about
himself and the past that sets him on the road to recovery. We leave him a
better person but one with several major challenges still to face.
Where did the character ‘Harry’ come from?
Angelsea is part Oscar Kightley, part ‘Detective X’, who is a well-respected
Samoan Detective colleague of Grim’s. He has had an immigrant experience and
upbringing that Oscar knows and is familiar with.Their experience of being Samoan in New Zealand is
very similar. A case in point is his surname.Kightley was the name Oscar’s dad took from the headmaster of his school
and Angelsea was the name Harry’s parents took from the street they lived on in
attitude and approach to his work is informed both by Grim and Fa’a. He’s what
we refer to as ‘Old School’ because he comes from a time when Policing was
about catching crooks, when Police had their own bars.These days the Police’s focus is on crime
father of a teenage girl, is entirely ficitional, borrowed from all of our own
What was it like working with your partners Oscar and Grim?
can’t help but be witty and comic so it was a lot of fun writing dark serious
stuff. And Grim’s a natural raconteur full of fascinating true-life stories
that we never tired of listening to. He’s also more politically conservative
than Oscar and I so very easy to wind up with socialist ideas of fairness and
comedian, a Detective Sergeant and myself and Steven made for an interesting
development team.The diversity of our
backgrounds and lives should make Harry a unique viewing experience.
Is it hard relinquishing control over something you’ve
written in order for it to be interpreted by others and made into a TV
Not in my
case because I’ve directed most of the show and I’ve been there almost from day
one.It goes without saying that the way
Pete Burger and second unit realized scenes was sometimes different from the
way I would have. I had started wanting to direct all six episodes and early on
we envisaged shooting it as a single film but the delivery schedule put that
idea to rest. I’m philosophical about the realities of such a large undertaking
and in the end was grateful to have others to help get it made.
Did you have a lot of input in terms of the overall
aesthetic of the show?
the outset of the writing I was referencing shows that had the kind of
documentary realism I wanted Harry to achieve. The handheld camera style was
appropriate for the realism of the show and the kind of energy we wanted to
We knew we
had a much bigger cast and more locations than one would typically have but we
wanted the show to have scale.
Did you feel pressure to subscribe to a particular genre?
question.Harry is a character driven
story. It’s not a whodunit or a thriller but it has elements of both. The
police story drives our plot but it’s the personal story that we care
about.Striking the right balance
between both and weaving the case Harry was working on with his personal life
was a constant challenge.A
straightforward genre piece would probably have been easier to write but
ultimately less unique and interesting.