Out of 195 countries in the world, 67 have English as their official language. This means 1.5 billion people speak English – that’s 20% of the world’s population.

English speaking New Zealand, at the bottom of the world, has a modest population of just 5 million people. Taking these facts into consideration, it’s amazing how many kiwi actors have made a name for themselves in American movies. Although Wellington born Russell Crowe (Gladiator, Robin Hood, Noah etc) and Sam Neil who moved to NZ when he was 7 and is a Kiwi citizen, (Jurassic Park, Jurassic World etc) are the best known New Zealand actors working in Hollywood, there are a surprising number of other Kiwi actors appearing in American (and British) movies and TV shows. We must also remember, Kiwi directors such as Andrew Adamson (Chronicles of Narnia, Shrek) Roger Donaldson (Cocktail, The Bounty) Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife, Mulan) and the current hot property, Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, JoJo Rabbit, Thor: Love and Thunder 2022 release) have all helmed Hollywood movies. It is quite extraordinary that a small country isolated near the bottom of the Pacific Ocean can produce such a relatively high number of successful actors and directors in the cutthroat world of Hollywood entertainment.


Like so many New Zealand actors, 34 year old Aucklander Anna Hutchinson started her acting career on the long running Kiwi TV soap, Shortland Street. She has since appeared in 17 various TV productions in both the USA, NZ and Australia. Since 2006, she has acted in 14 films with 11 of them being feature movies. In 2012 she landed a role as Jules Louden in the comedy/horror flick The Cabin in the Woods. She has appeared on American screens in shows such as Power Rangers and Anger Management. In 2017, she acted alongside Nicholas Cage in the Hollywood drama, Vengeance: A Love Story. The following year, she appeared with Luke Hemsworth in the Hollywood Si Fi movie Encounter. Last year she starred in the British historic drama Robert The Bruce with Angus Macfadyen.


Martin Henderson began his acting career at the age of 13, and, like Anna Hutchinson, he honed his acting skills on Shortland Street. Since moving to the USA, the 45 year old Kiwi has appeared in numerous Hollywood films and American TV shows including ABC medical dramas Off the Map and Grey’s Anatomy. His most recent American movies have been the thriller Everest. Produced by Kiwi producer Tim Bevan, this 3D IMAX film was chosen to open the 72nd Venice International Film Festival in 2015. The following year, he starred in Miracles from Heaven followed in 2018 with the horror flick The Strangers: Prey at Night. Last year, he starred in the Netflix drama Virgin River. Eleven of the 21 movies he has starred in have been American.


Lucy is best known for her lead role in the television series Xena: Warrior Princess. This role made her an international gay icon. Lesbians around the world still celebrate the exploits of Xena. After her ‘warrior princess’ days, Lucy had prime roles in the television shows Battlestar Galactica, Parks and Rec and Spartacus. Her movie career includes a part in Spiderman (2002)and Hollywood horror The Darkroom (2006). Two years later, she appeared in the Adam Sandler family film Bedtime Stories. Lucy has appeared in 48 various TV productions, many of them American. She is currently appearing in a crime TV series called My Life is Murder.


New Plymouth born Melanie Lynskey had success in Hollywood thanks to her role as Rose on the internationally popular CBS show Two and a Half Men. Her first feature film was a starring role at the age of 17 in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures (my all-time favourite Kiwi film) Since this feature debut, Melanie has gone onto star in popular Hollywood films such as Coyote Ugly (2000) Sweet Home Alabama. (2002) Up in the Air, (2009) In 2012, Melanie received great reviews for her performance in Hello I Must be Going which propelled her Hollywood career. 2014 was a productive year with lead roles in Happy Christmas, We’ll never Have Paris, Goodbye to all That. In 2016, she also had main roles in 3 more Hollywood films, The Intervention, Rainbow Time and Little Boxes. Her career continued to flourish in 2017 when she starred in I Don’t feel at Home in This World Anymore and the school drama And Then I Go. She consolidated her success in American independent film with family drama Sadie in 2018. Other American drama films she has starred in are Digging the Fire (2015) The Great and the Small, Folk Hero and Funny Guy (all 2016) She is currently starring alongside Cate Blanchette in the American TV drama series Mrs America. Melanie Lynskey has received a number of accolades, including a New Zealand Film Award, a Hollywood Film Award, and a Sundance Special Jury Award. She has also been given a Critics’ Choice Award, Gotham Award and Golden Nymph Award nominations.


Also beginning his acting career on Shortland Street, Kiwi-Samoan actor Beulah Kaole was hired for the cast for the 8th season of the popular US television show Hawaii Five-0. Being in the internationally popular Five-0 in 2017 was the culmination of a successful year that saw the release of his first Hollywood feature film, Thank You for Your Service. Beulah played the principal role of an emotionless American Samoan soldier who suffers debilitating memory loss after fighting in the Iraq war and struggles to cope with life back at home. This year he appears in an episode of Magnum PI. The muscular young actor dreams of becoming an action hero following in the footsteps of ‘The Rock’ Dwayne Johnson.


Shortland Street also gave this Auckland born Kiwi actor his start in the entertainment industry. After a four month world-wide talent search in 2016 the young Kiwi was chosen to play Archie Andrews on the hit American television show Riverdale. Since then, he has become a successful Hollywood actor appearing first in 2017’s comedy-drama, A Dog’s Purpose. This was followed the following year by a role in the drama The Hate You Give. 2019 saw him in the starring role of the Hollywood romantic comedy, The Last Summer. This year, the 22 year old actor has appeared in another Hollywood romance flick, I Still Believe. His latest film Altar Rock is due for release soon.


At the age of 45, Simone has appeared in 41 various TV productions but she is best known to Kiwi audiences thanks to her role as Jodi on McLeod’s Daughters and Isabelle Wilson in Underbelly. The star has found big-screen success too. Her 12 feature films include 3 Hollywood movies including the recent Hollywood blockbuster San Andreas.


Morgan has come a long way from milking cows and driving tractors on her parent’s farm near Hokitika on the South Island’s West Coast. She has a lead role in the 2020 Hollywood movie, The Aerialist. At the age of 15 Morgan was discovered by modelling agency NZ Models & Talent and quickly became a successful model for Kiwi fashion designer Karen Walker and Merino. At 20 she auditioned for a children’s TV show and quickly became a success on Kidzone with Morgan. The series ran for 5 seasons and made her a household name. She has also appeared on the long-running series Power Rangers and had a lead in the award-winning short film Titiro. In 2015 she was nominated ‘Best Actress’ for her stage role as Mimi Marquez in the Tony Award Winning musical Rent.  In 2017 Morgan relocated to the United States and has already had roles in two US miniseries – AMC’s Al Capone-themed, Making of the Mob: Chicago and Amazon’s American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story. Morgan has now appeared in her first Hollywood feature film, The Aerialist (2020)

Other Kiwi actors of note as far as Hollywood appearances are concerned include Rhys Darby (Jumanji: The Next level) Cliff Curtis (The Meg, Risen etc) Temuera Morrison (Star Wars, Aquaman etc) Karl Urban (Thor: Ragnarok, Star Trek Beyond etc) Keisha Castle-Hughes (Thank You for Your Service, Star wars: Revenge of the Sith)  and Thomasin McKenzie (JoJo Rabbit, Leave No Trace).

NB:A number of these actors have featured in my previous blogs.

Ceidrik Heward

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