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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.