The Cult

At which point do you decide that you’ve seen too much of an actor?  Is it when they’ve played the same character for 20 odd years on a soap?  Is it when they’ve played two different characters on two different shows on two different networks in the space of two weeks?  Where is that line?

While drama schools appear to be full of aspiring actors and actresses there only seems to be an elite few who manage to land the lead roles in our locally-produced TV dramas.  While one could argue that the talent pool is vast with those seeking a career in acting, for those that actually do have a career, the options in New Zealand aren’t.

With season runs seemingly getting shorter, landing a role on The Almighty Johnsons is really only a 10 week gig in broadcast time which leaves a lot of space for the other 42 weeks of the year. Other than asking if you’d like some fries with that, what other options are there but to audition for every other show going into production?

Next month, TV One will start screening their new drama Nothing Trivial. Its lineup of stars includes Shane Cortese (Burying Brian, Outrageous Fortune, Shortland Street, The Almighty Johnsons), Tandi Wright (This is Not My Life, Out of the Blue), Nicole Whippy (Outrageous Fortune, Jacksons Wharf), Blair Strang (Go Girls, Shortland Street, Kaitangata Twitch) and Debbie Newby-Ward (Legend of the Seeker, The Pretender).  

Particularly for Shane, this is his fourth new character since his villain days on Shortland Street – the third in the space of twelve months.  Shane is a much loved actor but does it get a little too much when we see him in so many different roles in such a short space of time?

We had similar questions here when Booke Williams, who played the love of Van West in Outrageous Fortune suddenly looked to be Axel’s long-lost love Frigg on The Almighty Johnsons.  (Thankfully, the casting folk for Go Girls managed to do a fantastic job in finding some great new talent for their show.)

So where is the line?  How many characters should an actor play in any given time?  Or should we not worry about this and just celebrate talented actors staying in work on our screens?

TVNZ shows dominated the Qantas Film and Television Awards 2010 winning 14 out of 24 possible accolades in the General Television categories. Among the big winners was TV2’s drama series The Cult and TV ONE’s South. 

A finalist in nine categories, Great Southern Television production The Cult won six awards, including Cinematography, Best Original Music and Best Editing as well as Best Actress for Danielle Cormack, Best Supporting Actress for Lisa Chappell, and Best Contribution to Design.

TV ONE’s local content also triumphed with Jam TV winning four of awards including Best Information/Lifestyle Programme for Radar’s Patch, Best Director for South, and Best Observational Reality Series for Intrepid Journeys and Marcus Lush winning Best Presenter for South.

KHF Media’s Emmy Award-winning online drama, Reservoir Hill, won the Qantas Cure Kids Best Children’s Programme award and is a tribute to the shows success on global scale. Reservoir Hill returned to TVNZ Ondemand for a second series this week and continues to break new ground online.

Andrew Shaw, Head of Commissioning, is thrilled with the outcome. He says, “to have won an Emmy Award and now be recognised locally is an all round great achievement.

“The success of TVNZ’s first online drama series demonstrates the strength of programming across all platforms and our ability to inspire New Zealanders on every screen,” he continues.

“It is the knowledge base and strength of the TVNZ drama commissioning and programming teams, who worked closely with New Zealand’s leading production companies to create these shows, which continues to see us win awards year on year.

TVNZ News and Current Affairs shows also won eight out of the possible 11 Qantas Awards available, including Best News, Journalist of the Year, and Best Current Affairs. Paul Henry also won the inaugural New Idea People’s Choice Award.



General Television


Best Information/Lifestyle Programme Radar’s Patch, Jane Andrews, Jam TV Ltd

Best Observational Reality Series Intrepid Journeys, Dean Cornish, Jam TV Ltd

Best Constructed Reality Series One Land, Greg Heathcote and Bailey Mackey, Eyeworks New Zealand

Best Presenter – Entertainment/Factual Programme Marcus Lush, South, Jam TV Ltd

Best Director – Entertainment/Factual Programme Melanie Rakena, South, Jam TV Ltd

Kordia Group Ltd Best Multi Camera Direction Steve Jamieson, Heineken Open Tennis Final 2010



Best Performance by an Actress in General Television Danielle Cormack, The Cult, Great Southern Television Ltd

Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in General Television Lisa Chappell, The Cult, Great Southern Television Ltd

Best Performance by a Supporting Actor in General Television Matt Whelan, Go Girls, South Pacific Pictures

Best Current Affairs Camera Martin Anderson, ‘Lost And Found’, 20/20

Best Cinematography – Drama/Comedy Programme Simon Reira, The Cult, Great Southern Television Ltd

Images and Best Sound Editing – Drama/Comedy Programme Eric de Beus, The Cult, Great Southern Television Ltd

Best Original Music in General Television Rhian Sheehan, The Cult, Great Southern Television Ltd

Best Contribution To Design in General Television David Cooke, The Cult, Great Southern Television Ltd



Qantas Best Children’s/Youth Programme Reservoir Hill, KHF Media Ltd

Is it just me or do these promotional photos from Lost and The Cult look like they could be mixed together and come from the same show?

It promised so much and yet delivered so little.  Cinematically gorgeous but just not appealing enough to viewers as the ratings declined, ending with season finale matching its worst ever rating and ultimately being beaten by repeats of Outrageous Fortune over on TV3.  And that’s in the 5+ ratings.  In the 18-39 demographic, TV3’s repeats had close to twice as many viewers.

45% of the audience that saw the pilot were gone by the time it came to the finale.

So what went wrong? The premise seemed fine.  The show was incredibly well shot.  Was it the characters?  Were they just not like-able enough? Was it the storyline?  Was it just not compelling?

There have been two other suggestions which I think deserve comment.  Firstly, the lead in to the show was hardly a brain stimulant.  The fact that TV2 shed up to half of its audience the minute the show started suggests that those already tuned in were not in the mood to sit through something that required them to think.

The other suggestion is that perhaps it should have been on TV One.  The older demographic who haven’t discovered the channel buttons on their remote controls would probably have been better suited to a show where the characters don’t have the “cool/young” factor that TV2 tends to ooze.

It’s really unfortunate because the pilot held out so much hope and promise of being one of the best TV series New Zealand has produced.  Such a shame that its ended like this.

When I first discovered The Cult’s Twitter account by hunting around online, it was creepy, intriguing and written in the world of the show.

The first fifteen tweets were all along the lines of the following:

Do you ever wonder why you’re being told so many lies? Momentum can guide you to the truth.”

The world is becoming a dangerous place. Momentum are your only refugee. We are your family. Come and find us.”

We know what makes a family.”

The next 13 tweets are all completely different in writing style and are clearly not in the world of The Cult any more:

Don’t forget The Cult is on tonight at 8.30pm!! Michael goes into Two Gardens to meet Edward face-to-face.”

New writers’ blog for The Cult now up

new episode of @TheCult now online

I’m really disappointed that the initial tone wasn’t carried through as a parallel to the story on the show and the Twitter account turned into just promoting the show in such a  normal way. 

Tonight’s season finale (or possibly the final episode ever) of The Cult didn’t generate as much hype on Twitter and elsewhere online as did the highly anticipated premiere.

Viewers most commonly said they were utterly confused watching the show, some saying even more so than even watching Lost.

The ratings started with a 6.3 (averaged at 5.2 for the first hour) and ended the second hour with a 4.6.

KiwiBede: “what a shit and tame finale … no apocalypse, no shooting, no hitting. CCTV of small claims court more interesting!.  the only ‘cult’ was the duped viewers who hung on in the vain hope of a decent ending to a crap series (including my brainwashed self)”

mossnz “awesome and confusing. glad i taped it cause i’m going to need to draw diagrams to understand it.”

sammaHOOD “2 hours of this bullshit ‘Cult’ crap”

kiwitech1: “Only about 5% of ‘eligble’ TV viewers are watching the program! It only had around 9% for the first episode, and crashed in ratings virtually straight after that! The series cost more than any before (apparently), so it’s an expensive turkey!”

5hameless “the ending… was… lacklustre.”

8:30pm Thursday, December 10 on TV2

With the Liberators trying to get out of Two Gardens, and another group trying to get in, Edward (Latham Gaines, Law & Order) accelerates his day of Commencement, in the thrilling feature length finale of The Cult.

When Michael (Renato Bartolomei, Shortland Street) returns to the bush to find the Liberators taken by Two Gardens, Sophie (Lisa Chappell, McLeod’s Daughters) manages to cover her tracks, but her lies are about to be blown when Michael is suddenly contacted by an unexpected source, who claims to know about Edward’s true motivation.

Always a believer in the good in life and ‘bountiful love’, nothing has changed for Edward, as actor Latham Gaines explains of his character.

“Edward is simply willing to do whatever it takes to realise his vision, and knows that even though his methods may seem extreme to some, all will become clear soon. He is fearless in his pursuit of the possibility of an enlightened human race, and this is inspiring to many. He also believes that true visionaries are often persecuted before they are followed.”

While he has all the Liberators trapped in Two Gardens, Gaines says Edward’s primary concern is Michael. “Michael is extremely important to Edward and he thought that by transforming Ryan (Gareth Reeves, Go Girls), Michael would join him and he would be able to fulfil his larger ambition.”

“Edward fundamentally believes in Two Gardens, and he believes that after the Commencement, all will be clear and not only will Two Gardens continue, but more places like it will be formed.”

It is Edward’s ambition, which has the Liberators worried, having seen and heard some of the dreadful things that the Commencement will bring. But they’re not the only ones. The members of Two Gardens are becoming increasingly unnerved by Edward’s words and actions, and when he reveals his plans for the Commencement to the group, their fears are not quelled. When Michael returns to Two Gardens to rescue his people, he and Daniel (Simon London, Legend Of The Seeker) plot to bring Edward down, but all doors are secured and the guards are armed. The only answer is to start a revolution in the compound, but with some powerful members still loyal to their leader it’s not going to be easy, and not everyone will get out alive.

The quest to leave Two Gardens ensues, but there are also people trying to get in. It seems Sophie’s group, The Observers, aren’t just interested in taking down Two Gardens; they want some of the people inside.

If you have missed an episode, full episodes of The Cult will be available free online 12 hours after the show has aired on TV2. Go to and click the ‘ondemand’ button.

8:30pm Thursday, December 3 on TV2

Following the attempt on his life, Edward (Latham Gaines) takes action to start The Commencement, and Michael’s son Ryan (Gareth Reeves) is first in his sights, this week on The Cult.

Edward has become a dangerous man – paranoid and determined to see his plan out at any cost. He orders Cynthia (Danielle Cormack) to begin the process with Ryan, but when called to the Healing Centre Ryan is suspicious, knowing Hannah (Chelsie Preston-Crayford) disappeared after Cynthia came for her. He escapes, but injures Cynthia in the process and underestimates the wrath of Edward.

Always the loyal follower, Gareth Reeves says his character Ryan now suspects something sinister is going on.

“The discovery of Jenni really changes everything for Ryan. He’s still reeling from Hannah’s miscarriage, blaming his father, and now this. Seeing what happens to Andy in The White Room is further proof everything isn’t quite what it seems. Ryan is a smart guy, he’s been in Two Gardens since the beginning, and loved and trusted Edward. But the latest events are enough to want to get away and to take Hannah with him.”

Feeling lost after the death of his mother, Ryan left what was a promising legal career to move to Two Gardens, a place that he saw as his future, but he sees things differently now explains Reeves.

“Hannah’s pregnancy is the idea of his new life realised, his own family. The miscarriage is devastating, for both of them, but solidifies in Ryan that he will do anything to protect her. And as he gradually realises that Two Gardens is not what he thought it was, his love for Hannah is now the only thing he can count on.”

Learning that Edward has lied to him, Ryan realises his father was right to warn him, and he may have the wrong idea about him too.

“Ryan is starting to look at things in a new light. Edward has been like the father he wanted Michael to be. Michael really let Ryan down after his mother’s death and Nathan went away. He needed his father, badly. Edward has been able to help Ryan heal some of those wounds, and that can’t be forgotten. But now something is going on, and Ryan begins to understand that Edward has other plans for him. And for Michael. Edward seems to be willing to do anything to keep them apart.”

At The Glen, the arrival of Momentum leader Morgan Peterson (Laura Interval, Law & Order) from the High Assembly gives the Liberators some hope. Despite their initial suspicions, Morgan seems like she’s here to help. But their hope is short lived as Sophie (Lisa Chappell) works to build paranoia among them. When they think they’re under attack from Two Gardens, the Liberators agree to Sophie’s plan to move from The Glen to another, “safer” location. But Sophie has made a deal with a new friend, which will put the Liberators in grave danger.

If you have missed an episode, full episodes of The Cult will be available free online 12 hours after the show has aired on TV2. Go to and click the ‘ondemand’ button.

8:30pm Thursday, November 26 on TV2

Sophie (Lisa Chappell) has always been an unknown quantity to the Liberators, and this week on The Cult, her back story reveals she is not alone on her mysterious mission.

With suspicions raised about the Liberators in relation to the disappearance of Rick Weever, going to the police with Hugo’s death is not an option. The stakes have been raised, and the Liberators are forced to consider other, more extreme options. So when Sophie raises the idea of shooting Edward North (Latham Gaines), Michael (Renato Bartolomei) thinks it might just be their best bet of recovering their people.

As Sophie’s story reveals, it was a traumatic event in her past which triggered her mission to Two Gardens, and Lisa Chappell is quick to argue that her character is not all bad.

“It is Sophie’s desire to defend the weak. Her focus and determination are her strengths. These positives have been corroded though, by great personal tragedy that she has not dealt with, and for which she seeks revenge. She is at war. And in war there are casualties, but I think the cost is far greater than what she was prepared for.”

Though Hugo is one such casualty, Chappell says it is not Sophie’s intention to kill the Liberators, who she views as a convenient addition to her master plan.

“They provide a cover, man-power, they have passion, determination and are easily manipulated. All useful things for Sophie, but if they prove to be an inconvenience – watch out.”

Musing on Sophie’s pending plan to kill Edward North, Chappell is not so sure if Sophie sees this action as the ultimate problem solver that the Liberators are hoping for.

“Killing Edward North looks like a possible short term solution, but it doesn’t solve the big picture which is Sophie’s overall objective. Does she intend to kill Edward? Or is she incriminating Michael so he is more in league with her? Who knows?”

Sensing unrest among the inhabitants of Two Gardens, Edward has announced to the compound that their day is coming, in the form of The Commencement, an event which none of them had previously heard of. But they have accepted what Edward is telling them, not realising the horror that awaits them.

“Sophie’s been helping create the need for Edward to show his true colours, so the announcement of The Commencement is not a surprise, but what it is – that’s a mystery to her,” says Chappell. “But Sophie knows it can’t be good, which serves her mission well.”

If you have missed an episode, full episodes of The Cult will be available free online 12 hours after the show has aired on TV2. Go to and click the ‘ondemand’ button.

8:30pm Thursday, November 19 on TV2

Trapped in Two Gardens but desperate to see Andy (Kip Chapman), Gina (Kate Elliott) is given an initiation of fire by Edward (Latham Gaines), this week on The Cult.

Gina and the Liberators are falsely blamed for poisoning the water and she is forced to make amends with a distraught Hannah (Chelsie Preston-Crayford), who is still reeling from her miscarriage.

Stuck in unfamiliar territory, Gina is becoming increasingly nervous, as Kate Elliott explains. “Gina is totally freaked out inside Two Gardens. She realises it’s almost as nutty as she predicted.”

But her main focus is to stay with Andy, and look after him. “She is very worried about his health. Gina is willing to risk her life for him. She feels like she is responsible for pushing him away and into this possibly destructive environment of the cult. Gina also feels like she needs redemption from the bad choices she has made in the past, and feels that this will come from getting Andy back.”

Now inside Two Gardens, Gina sees her opportunity to warn the Liberators’ people of the danger they are in, and tells Hannah about Jenni (Bodelle de Ronde).

“Gina is a very pragmatic and open person,” explains Elliott. “She is logical and straight-up so by telling Hannah about Jenni, Gina defiantly believes that the truth will come out.”

Hannah is suspicious, but decides to investigate some of Gina’s claims and makes a shocking discovery.

Meanwhile, Gina desperately tries to convince a very sick but still loyal Andy to leave with her before it’s too late, and Elliott says Gina has no doubt this will happen.

“Gina has immense faith in what she is doing and never doubts for a second that she will leave the cult alive and well with Andy.”

Back at The Glen, Nathan’s (Dwayne Cameron) condition is deteriorating and Michael (Renato Bartolomei) is worried. His concerns are justified, as Nathan soon becomes a problem for all of the Liberators.

For further cast interviews go to

If you have missed an episode, full episodes of The Cult will be available free online 12 hours after the show has aired on TV2. Go to and click the ‘ondemand’ button.