NZ actors make international break

NZ actors make international break

1 November 2015

Two Old Collegians. A 10 year age gap. Same award-winning Australian television series. Seems like a one in a million chance but two of New Zealand’s most talented actors both made the cut as male leads for Offspring, a hit Australian TV show.

The show ended in 2014, after five successful seasons on air and a final episode that attracted 1.5 million heartbroken viewers. In mid-2015 the show’s network, Channel 10, announced plans to bring back the quirky comedy-drama, giving viewers another chance at seeing inside Nina and Billy Proudman’s lives.

Ido Drent (Fitchett 2000-04) and Ben Barrington (Hall 1990-94) both starred as love interests of the Proudman sisters in the fifth and ‘final’ season of the show. Both have now moved on to other projects with Drent based in LA, chasing the American market, and Barrington starring on Shortland Street as Dr Drew McCaskill.

Drent was the first to land a role on Offspring. He was new to Australia and had just secured an agent to represent him when he was called into an audition that he didn’t quite understand the significance of.

“I knew it was Offspring but I had no idea what it was or how big it was. Once I found out that I had the role I started reading about it and realised it was a big deal. Then I discovered who Asha Keddy was and it was next level,” Drent explained.

He was cast in the role of Lawrence Pethbridge, the dreamy therapist of Nina Proudman (Asha Keddy) in season four. He was the invited back for season five as the love flame of Billy Proudman (Kat Stewart), Nina’s neurotic sister.

Barrington joined the cast for the fifth season with Drent as Thomas Buchdahl, a character who steals Nina Proudman’s heart after the death of her husband Dr Patrick Reid (played by Australian heartthrob Matthew Le Nevez).

A complete turn in events in the final episode left viewers reeling with anger and their jaw’s embedded on the ground when Barrington’s character was exposed as a cheating narcissist with a wife and second child on the way (which Nina, an obstetrician, delivers).

“I didn’t know that was going to happen at the beginning but I was glad that it did. He had been this white knight kind of guy, all that vanilla kind of stuff, and then all of a sudden you read that he has a double life,” Barrington said.

“It all of a sudden became a lot more interesting. There was a layer of depth to the character.” The bright lights and big name of the show didn’t intimidate Barrington who had the experience of acting on a few TV shows under his belt.

“All of the branding, marketing and popularity of the show is a real abstract thing. Once you’re doing the job it’s just you and the other actor, all the other stuff is irrelevant to what you are doing.” “They skip their lines too. They’re much on the same level.”

For Drent, working on Offspring with big Australian names was “like a five year old going to school for the first time.” Going from a soap to something like Offspring was a nerve-racking experience.

“I was so nervous, sitting opposite Asha Keddy and trying to be professional. It was my first job outside of Shortland Street and it showed me that the real world of acting is actually like.”

Both actors started their careers on hit New Zealand TV shows before hitting the big time in Australia. Drent on Shortland Street and Barrington on Outrageous Fortune and the Almighty Johnsons.

Drent played bad boy character Daniel Potts on Shortland Street for three years. He says the show helped build his credibility as an actor.

“Spending three years on one of the highest rating shows in New Zealand helped build my profile. Even though overseas producers might not know the show, they know that you have been part of something significant,” Drent explained.

Shortland Street has been on the air for 23 years and still upholds the status as one of New Zealand’s most popular shows. The soap has maintained viewers while free-to-air TV has been on a steady decline with the increasing popularity of online streaming and companies like Netflix.

This year Barrington stars on show as Dr Drew, a high-flying plastic surgeon who loves women, booze and drugs. At the end of this season viewers can expect the usual “big drama like a fire of explosion” after which Dr Drew’s fate will hang in the balance.

While shooting Shortland Street, Barrington has also been involved in Dancing with the Stars which was “absolute mayhem from start to finish.”

Barrington and fellow contestant Shane Cameron were eliminated in the middle of the competition, something that didn’t come as a shock.

“The main thing for me was that I didn’t want to be the first to go. By the time I was eliminated I had become aware that there was much stronger competitors.”

Barrington spent about 30 hours each week rehearsing for the show.

“It was really demanding. We rehearsed almost every day. There were times that I was doing 10 hours on Shortland and a few hours at night in the dance studio. There was about two or three weeks where it was just frantic.”

As for Drent, he starred on a mini-series at the start of 2015 that commemorated the 100 year anniversary of Gallipoli, When We Go To War. His character Charles Smith was far removed from the other characters that Drent has played in the past, adding to his diverse portfolio of acting roles.

Now, Drent is based in LA with wife Mandy and new born son Bastion who hasn’t given the star much sleep over the past three months. He is looking to make a break in the American marketing either in film or TV.

“I think ultimately I want to play at the top of my field. I want to be one of the go-to men internationally,” Drent said.

The young actor is swaying towards film but he wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to work on another TV series with the quality of shows lifting over the past few years.

(Source: Karen Pickering)