Had been in local theatre for six years, comprised of three years travelling in children’s theatre, and three years in adult theatre before he went to Christchurch to work in children’s television programmes
Actor’s face familiar to many viewers
Press, 19 April 1989, Page 19
"My God — it’s Count Homogenised!” Christchurch actor Russell Smith still encounters that reaction from time to time — an instant flash of recognition for a part he played years ago. “Count Homogenised” was a children’s series, a spoof of Dracula, one which lingers in the memories of many of the children of the time — some of whom are now in their twenties.
The part Smith plays in TVNZ’s 10-part drama series “Shark in the Park” is far removed from that of Count Homogenised. Smith’s Detective Bernie Gregory is a tough, streetwise cop without an ounce of humour in his wiry frame. He has seen it all — murder, bashings, gang violence, drug deaths, and rape.
It has left him a bitter and intolerant man with no time for people who don’t do their jobs properly. Not surprisingly he’s often the cause of tension around the station.
The five months Smith spent in Wellington making the series marked his first prolonged stay in the capital for 10 years. In Christchurch he has been involved with theatre work, mostly with the Court Theatre, and children’s television, notably with producer Kim Gabara.
For a period he gave up theatre work to concentrate on bringing up his five-year-old son, but was delighted to be able to work on “Play School.” “Having a child in the same age group was a great help but as an actor it was a big decision. The majority of people put ‘Play School’ and other children’s programmes at the bottom of the heap so I was worried about the effect it might have on my career. It was really great to get offered ‘Shark in the Park’ after that.
“In some small way it might help to break down this silly preconception people have about children’s television — it’s a sort of implication that you’re not really fit for any other sort of role. It doesn’t happen in Australia or Britain where actors have much greater respect — it just seems to be something peculiar to this country.”