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An escaped convict, a brush with the Armed Offenders Squad and a harmless bet with his girlfriend all add up to a monumental headache for young Steve and his somewhat reluctant sidekick, George MacClean, played by Roy Billing.

So far locations in and around Wellington have included Scorching Bay, Point Halswell Road, Willis Street, Taranaki Street, the Railway Station, the Shelley Bay R.N.Z.A.F. Base, Nairn Street, Queen's Wharf, the Overseas. Terminal and Island Bay.

The taxi used in filming the series has been confusing many. people on the streets of Wellington.

"When we did the pilot programme I had quite a few instances of people trying to wave me down," says Roy Billing, who portrays the taxi- driver.

"Or I'd pull up at the front of a rank and cause a few puzzled looks from the other cab drivers. There's a quite definite sort of ruling that when the driver at the front of the rank pulls out, all the others move up one, but if we were doing a quick shot, I'd just pull right in to the front."

On another occasion Billing was sitting at the front of the rank waiting for the producer, Peter Muxlow, to give him a signal when the lights turned green, so that he could drive into view of the camera, when a woman jumped into the car - wanting to go somewhere.

"I tried to explain that we were filming a television programme, but she looked round and couldn't see the camera, so I tried explaining that it wasn't a real taxi, so she looked at the meter and everything and then started berating me."

Before filming got under way on the series, Billing. spent some time with a Lower Hutt taxi-driver to get the feel of the job, and also visited the operations room of a taxi company. "Also, the fact" that Keith Aberdein has done quite a bit of taxi-driving in his time has meant that he's managed to strike a very realistic note in the scripts," he says.

But taxi-driving is not the only thing George MacClean is involved with-he is also, a part of the local underworld and often finds himself wheeling and dealing with unsavoury characters. He is a good crook: though, says Billing, a like- I: able sort of chap, but very I dangerous with it.

"Taxi Hijack," also stars Joanne Simpson, Sylvio Famularo, Jim Moriarty, Heather Bolton, Ellie Smith, John Bach, Peter McCauley, Don Kjestrup and Don Langridge.

nztvisgroup01.jpg

  An escaped convict (Jim Moriarty) gets ugly with Steve Keenan (Phillip Gordon) and Sylvia (Joanne Simpson) in an. episode of "Inside Straigbt." Obscured by the gun is Heather Bolton.

Film the show

  A cameraman, Wayne Vinten, is strapped in and ready for action during the filming of the new drama series.

-----The Press 30 Mar 1983

Actor hopes to make film in Africa .

Martyn Sanderson (right) and Ray Billing in 'Inside Straight'.jpg

 
Martyn Sanderson (right) and Ray Billing in "Inside Straight"

The Auckland-based actor. writer and director, Martyn Sanderson, hopes to make a feature film in Africa.

Sanderson, aged 46, has co-written and acted in feature films, but he is yet to direct one. He is planning to write and direct his first feature, and he wants to film it on location in Africa "within the next year or so."

Sanderson has worked as a theatre director and directed short films, one of his most significant being "Keskidee Aroha." He co-wrote the feature films, "Solo" and "Pallet on the Floor." Features he bas acted in include "Wildman," "Solo," "Beyond Reasonable Doubt," "Bad Blood." "Utu," "The Lost Tribe, "Wild Horses," "Trial Run" and "Sylvia." The last two films are still to be released.

During five years working in Australia in the late 19608, One of Sanderson's acting jobs was a role in the Ned Kelly movie.

On television, he has . appeared in "The Governor," "Pukemanu," "Epidemic," "Rachel," "Sea' Urchins," "Gather Your Dreams," "Children of Fire Mountain," "Kingi's Story" and the old "Blerta" shows.

In "Inside Straight" tonight, he plays. Jack Keenan, Steve's father, who arrives in the city with lots of charm, but little money. His schemes for improving his lot keep Steve, Sylvia and George on their toes.

"A likeable rogue" is how Sanderson describes the character. He said he had enjoyed doing the part, specially because the series was filmed in the city.

"I really enjoyed working in the city. You feel closer to the life that's going on around you than you do working in a studio or making something that's set way back in time."

Sanderson has just finished filming a small part in two episodes of "Roche," the new TVNZ series being made by the "Inside Straight" producer, Peter Muxlow.

He is working on scripts for another new series, "The Seekers" as well as preparing his second annual directory of the film and television industry.

Sanderson began acting when he was at school and most of his work since has been in some way involved with drama, though he has also been a farm labourer and a furniture maker.

He is married and has five children.

-------The Press 18 Aug 1984

Series set on, fringe of underworld

Joanne Simpson in the role of a stripper in Inside Straight, starting on One tomorrow night. A small-town lad, Steve Keenan, arrives in Wellington to track down the shady financier who has repossessed the fishing boat he was working on, in the first episode of TVNZ's new drama series, "Inside Straight," beginning on One at 8.30 tomorrow night.

Totally unused to the ways of city life, Steve befriends George McLean, a taxi-driver, and a streetwise stripper, Sylvia Davies.

"Inside Straight" concerns Steve's survival in the urban underworld he falls into. "Inside Straight" is a gambling term, and for the central character, Steve Keenan, life is a series of gambles as the 10 hour-long episodes unfold.

The. producer, Peter Muxlow, said that the original aim behind "Inside Straight" was to produce a commercial, urban-based series.

The series was different from anything Television New Zealand had made before.

"I think the series will polarise people. It is aimed at a specific audience and they should love it, but other. people might hate it," he said

"lnside Straight" was intentionally filmed much faster than TVNZ drama productions usually are and Muxlow said this fast filming schedule brought a tight and gritty reality to each episode that looked good on screen.

Wellington locations seen in the series include Scorching Bay, Point Raiswell Road, Taranaki Street, the Railway Station, the Shelley Bay R.N.Z.A.F. base, Nairn Street, Queen's Wharf, the Overseas Terminal, Island Bay, the James Cook Hotel, the Terrace Regency Hotel and Cuba and Vivian Streets.

It was in Cuba and Vivian Streets, Wellington's redlight area, that the "Inside Straight" team encountered the most difficulties in its location work.

"The people were good initially,' said Muxlow, "but then I think we wore out our welcome a bit. We might have lights all set up outside a strip club say, and they thought we were scaring away their customers, so they got a bit stroppy.

"In the end we made sure , we didn't do any filming on their best business nights."

Muxlow's previous. TVNZ production and direction credits include "The Governor," "Close To Home," "Moynihan," "Jocko," "You Stand Indicted," "The Protesters," and "Tough at the Bottom."

He is now working on a new drama series, "Roche," about a family with two members involved in trucking.

------The Press, 27 Aug 1984

Actor returns to old haunts

Phillip Gordon.jpg

 
Phillip Gordon

For Phillip Gordon, acting in "Inside Straight" was a bit like revisiting his past.

Gordon, aged 25, grew up in Wellington and as a teenager spent time on the fringe of the underworld scene that is portrayed in the series.

Playing the lead role of Steve Keenan, he had. to return to many of his old haunts in the city.

"It was an odd experience. I kept bumping into people from my past. My ambitions had been so different than theirs and I'd left it all behind, but they were still there. It was really hard to talk to them. I'd changed so much, we didn't have anything in common any more."

Phillip Gordon's first acting experience was when he was eight, appearing as a member of Fagan's gang in an Australian touring production of "Oliver."

When he was 16 he spent a year on "Close to Home," as the wayward teenager, Hugh Clifford.

He moved to Auckland six years ago to study at Theatre Corporate's drama
school.

In 1982, after three years with Theatre Corporate, he went freelance, spending last year back in Wellington working on' "Inside Straight."

The Auckland-based actor, Roy Billing, says that he is a bit like George McLean, the taxi-driver he plays in the series.

"I was trying to make the character as real as possible, you know, the archetypal Kiwi male."

Experience. useful

It was not hard for Keith Aberdein to write about the Wellington taxi-driving scene that plays a big part in "Inside Straight."

Four years ago. Aberdein, who wrote six episodes of "Inside Straight," spent almost a year driving a taxi

"Just going on the things I had to deal with every night as a cab driver," he said, 'Inside Straight' is perfectly accurate.

"Just about everything that happens in the programme is based on real events. "

Inside Straight - Card Game (Episode Seven)

-------The Press 27 Aug 1984

Silvio Famularo [pictured with Donna Akersten]

 
Wellington actor Silvio Famularo [pictured with Donna Akersten] says he has played a lot of enjoyable parts, but shady entrepreneur Leo Xirogiannis In "Inside Straight" Is one of the most enjoyable parts he has ever played.

"l just love the character. He looks Like me. He smiles like me, but he Is absolutely nothing like me.

"I mean, I'm about the softest character around. Somebody could borrow something from me and have It for a month, then come back to me with some sob story and I'd give them something else.

"But you don't play around with Leo Xirogiannis." Famularo, 48, bad been acting and singing for 23 years, but he has never been a full-time entertainer. For the last three years. he has been working as a real estate agent, which, he says, gives him a lot of freedom for his dramatic pursuits.

"If all roles were like Leo Xirogiannis, it would be nice to be a full-time actor. But even If you are lucky and get enough work to make a living, you have to do a lot of roles you don't like."

Though his Jolly personality gives him a natural bent for comedy, Famularo is also a keen opera singer. He has performed with the old New. Zealand Opera Company and he still practises singing every day. He has appeared In around 40 musical productions, both amateur and professional, many of them musical comedy, including taking the lead role In "Student Prince" staged by the Blenheim Operatic Society In 1969.

Till the end of last year, he ran a former Masonic Hall in Wellington as an entertainment and community centre. His last production, In which he also appeared, was the musical "Guys and Dolls".

As a member. of the Lamplighters barber shop quartet, he once came third In television's "New Faces" competition and also won the top group award.

Famularo is a New Zealander of Italian heritage.

In "Inside Straight" tonight, villain Johnny Winter aims to settle an old score with Leo. It can only mean trouble for Steve. And among the scrapes, there's an amorous hotel guest

------Marlbrough Express? 4 Sep 1984

'Tough' Sergeant was only acting

Eddie Campbell, Bill le Marquand and Phillip Gordon

 
Eddie Campbell (left) as Hooks, Bill le Marquand (centre) and Sledge, and Phillip Gordon as Steve Keenan, in "Inside Straight" on One at 8:30 tonight.

Eddie Campbell says that a nine-year stint with the Royal Marines gave him valuable experience for his new career as an actor.

"When I was a sergeant I bad to put on an act, you know, play the standard tough Marine sergeant I had to pretend to be terribly butch and tough, when really I wasn't like that at all.

"Being in the Marines also gives you vast experience of life, people and places."

Originally from Scotland, Campbell joined the Marines when he was in his early 20s. He had been bored working in a bar, had seen lots of adventure films and wanted excitement.

Stationed in Malta in 1974, he joined the amateur dramatic group, the first time in his life he had even thought about acting.

"Drink is really cheap in Malta and after sitting in the bar every night for two months I just thought,. 'Sod tbis, I'm going to broaden my horizons.'

"I got the expected abuse about being a 'poor and all. You're not allowed to be artistic and sensitive in the Marines. But I got hooked on acting. It was funny. It bad just never occurred to me that it was something I could do before."

In 1982 - his engagement with the Marines over and now romantically involved with a New Zealand woman - Campbell came to New Zealand, liked what he saw and decided to stay.

He took the first job he could, "digging ditches," and began doing some amateur acting in Christchurch.

After "a lot of encouragement from various people" he did an audition at the Court Theatre and, by the beginning of 1983, his career as a professional actor had begun.

He appeared in two plays at the Court, and then two at Fortune Theatre in Dunedin, before going to Wellington looking for work and deciding to settle there. He appeared in . Triple Treat at Downstage Theatre and played an escaped convict, Alan Watkins, in an episode of "Country G.P." and a nasty thug, Hooks, in tonight's "Inside Straight." Most recently, he was the psychotic, John, in Gilly Fraser's "I Can Give You A Good Time" at Circa Theatre.

Campbell's roles in New Zealand so far have tended to be as baddies. "I don't know exactly
why, perhaps baldness equates with evil, or maybe Its the Scottishness."

He says that he does Dot really mind the typecasting - "I'd rather be doing something than nothing."

However, he is currently appearing in Downstage's production of "The Pohutakawa Tree" as "a very sweet 72-year-old Scottish doctor."

Campbell says that New Zealand is full of opportunities for him as an actor. If be had stayed in Britain he would not have been able to become' a professional actor.

"It's very hard there. You have to have been to a proper drama school and everything. You couldn't just turn around at 35, like I've done, and say, 'I'm going to be a professional actor."

In "Inside Straight" tonight, Steve tries to win $5000 in a high-stakes card game. But trouble strikes, especially for Sylvia, when a con-man, Nick Wilde, hits the city.

Written by Keith Aberdein, directed by Tony Wilson and produced by Peter Muxlow, "Inside Straight" will be screened on One at 8.30 tonight

------The Press, 9 Oct 1984

Actor also writer

Simon O'Connor appears in tonight's episode of "Inside Straight' as a guest actor. but he is now busy' working on the new TVNZ drama series "Roche" - as a writer.

Produced by the "Inside Straight" producer, Peter Muxlow, "Roche" is about the stresses and strains on a modem-day city ~ family. There are three writers involved, each responsible for three episodes.

Before be began work on "Roche" at the beginning of the year, O'Connor had written one full-length stage play - "The Song of Johnny Muscle" - a few shorter pieces in collaboration with others, and also spent eight months writing for the Television New Zealand serial, "Close To Home."

He now has an idea for another full-length play and: with the aid of the $2000 Bruce Mason Award for Playwrights that he recently collected, he plans to work on this next year when he has finished his work for "Roche. "

O'Connor, aged 35, has worked in theatre since the age of 18, initially as an actor, but later moving into writing and directing as well. He says he drifted into acting, more by default than anything else, because nothing else "grabbed" him His portrayal of a former Japanese prisoner of war in an episode. of "Country G.P." was highly praised.

He says that writing is likely to be the dominant thing in his life from now on, but this does not mean be will not be doing any more acting or directing. '

O'Connor has lived in the Wairarapa country town of Featherston for the last two years. He says he likes to spend his spare time going. for long walks. on country roads.

"Inside Straight" will be replaced next week by a new British series called "Give Us A Break."

-----The Press 30 Oct 1984