Christopher Dudman - Director

Christopher Dudman - Director

Can you tell us about the premise of the show?

Harry is a character-based crime drama.

He’s an 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?

Steven 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?

We brought 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.

Harry has 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.

Authenticity 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?

We always 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.

We wanted 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?

Harry 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 Ponsonby.

Harry’s 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 prevention.

Harry, the father of a teenage girl, is entirely ficitional, borrowed from all of our own experiences.

What was it like working with your partners Oscar and Grim?

Fun. Oscar 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 justice.

A Samoan 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 programme?

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?

Right at 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 give it.

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?

Interesting 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.

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Christopher Dudman - Director

Christopher Dudman - Director

Read our Q&A on Harry with the series acclaimed New Zealand Director and Co-Writer of the series, Christopher Dudman.

Steven O’Meagher - Producer

Steven O’Meagher - Producer

Read our Q&A on Harry with the series Producer and the Founder and Managing Director of Desert Road Productions, Steven O’Meagher.