Steven O’Meagher - Producer

Steven O’Meagher - Producer

Can you tell us about the premise of the show?

HARRY is a character-driven crime drama based on authenticNew Zealand cops, criminals and cases – something I felt hadn’t been portrayed in a New Zealand cop series before, so it was an opportunity that’s been waiting to happen for a long time.

Where did the initial spark for the show come from?

I created HARRY from a long-nurtured ambition to make a ‘must see’ crime drama series for New Zealand audiences featuring a charismatic but conflicted central character (in the vein of CRACKER and PRIME SUSPECT).

Between 2007-2008 I developed up the central character, Harry Angelsea, and the series’ core crime (a P-related importation story) but it wasn’t until watching the Naked Samoan’s live production of GO HOME at the AucklandTown Hall that I knew I had found “Harry” – in the person of celebrated comedian, broadcaster and writer Oscar Kightely.

From that moment, the decision to write the part of Harry Angelsea for a specific actor (rather than cast the role down the line) was made.

I then pitched Oscar on him becoming “Harry Anglesea”, in part, because of Oscar’s personal history of growing up as a Samoan-New Zealander in Auckland, the biggest Polynesian city in the world, and also because he is a very good actor and a highly intelligent man. Once Oscar accepted the role, HARRY was further developed over a series of discussions between the two of us throughout the summer of 2008-2009.

Award-winning commericals director Chris Dudman joined the team in 2010, but after we started storylining it became clear we were missing a vital link – that of a cop who REALLY knew about what it was like to fight crime.

Enter Neil Grimstone, aka Grim.

What kind of research did you do to make sure the show was grounded in fact?

Grim gave us an entrée to a world of police culture, personalities and on the writing team he provided the colour, the technical detail and procedural matters. Grim called on his contacts from Major Crime, Asian Crime, Clan Lab Team and the like to talk with us, and that was turned around into scripts by Chris and Oscar.

Because HARRY deals with the themes of suicide and loss, we also consulted with Dr Lyndy Matthews, an acclaimed clinical psychologist with extensive experience in Maori and PacificIsland communities.

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?

At its heart, HARRY is a simple story of a man who is trying to recover from grief… a man who happens to be a cop – the man comes first. In that respect, Harry Anglesea could be a plumber or a lawyer – what gives the series its edge is that Harry is recovering while deeply involved in trying to resolve a brutal double homicide, which unexpectedly leads to a much bigger case… and much greater pressures on an emotionally fragile widower, and father of a teenage daughter….

Where did the character Harry come from?

Part Oscar Kightley, part based on a true-life Samoan Detective – a former colleague of Grim’s.

What was it like working with Oscar, Grim and Chris?

Hilarious. Though I hadn’t realised it when bringing Grim on to the team, he and Oscar had met previously and their friendship only grew stronger over long nights at the Gypsy Tea Rooms where Grim held court to Oscar, Chris and myself while he explained to us how the New Zealand Police really function.

Is it hard relinquishing control over something you’ve created in order for it to be made into a TV programme?

As a producer in New Zealand, I find the biggest challenge is in trying to raise the bar in terms of story, writing and production values.

By international terms, we’re a tiny market and a comparable drama from the US would have a budget five or six times HARRY’s – yet audiences make no allowances for this, which is understable.

The only way we can compete on HARRY, therefore, is by assembling a cast and crew who truly belive in the series they’re making, and their input and buy-in helps to extend the series far beyond my initial premise.

Did you have a lot of input in terms of the overall aesthetic of the show?

I’m a creative producer with a massive love for story and high-end dramas, be they THE SOPRANOS, MAD MEN, THE WALKING DEAD. Those who worked on HARRY were told to do their best work – and those that couldn’t didn’t make the full journey.

So yes, absoluteluy!

Did you feel pressure to subscribe to a particular genre?

Only the genre of quality – because HARRY is inspired by CRACKER and PRIME SUSPECT, the genre was clear to all from the get-go.

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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.