In a case of art imitating life, Three’s new drama series, Head High plays on the concept of last year’s real-life saga, when St Kentigern College was accused of poaching rugby talent from rival schools.
The show has been in development since 2015, shaped by co-head writer and director Tim Worrall and TV writer Kate McDermott. Worrall says it was fascinating to see elements of the scripts play out last year in a real arena.
“Making a rugby drama series in New Zealand is overdue. For better or worse, rugby has played a particularly influential role in the identity of our country and has been the arena in which many of our nation’s central conflicts play out,” says Worrall.
“It also continues to inspire the hopes, dreams (and disappointments) of many New Zealand boys and girls who aspire to rugby success. As coach of my sons’ rugby teams, I have seen first-hand how early the pressures of potential professional careers influence young lives. Ultimately, however, Head High is a celebration of normal, working-class New Zealand families.”
Filming started last week in Auckland with ex-Shortland Street actors Jayden Daniels and Lionel Wellington in the lead roles of Mana and Tai Roberts. They are supported by a strong Kiwi cast including Game of Thrones‘ star Joe Naufahu, A Place to Call Home‘s Craig Hall, along with Miriama McDowell, Theresa Healey and Mike Edwards.
The drama-packed story is told through the eyes of one whanau; rugby mum and local cop Renee, her husband Vince, who coaches her sons’ team, and daughter Aria.
Their talented rugby-playing boys are ready to compete together in the fiercely contested Auckland 1A Rugby Competition, until one brother is poached by a rival school.
Daniels, who played hugely popular character Curtis Hannah on Shortland Street for several years, is looking forward to his new role.
“The scripts are so compelling, I honestly could not put them down,” he says.
“I really think people will love it because the characters are all so relatable. We all know families like this one, working hard and trying to do their best. I’m stoked to be working on this show with all the talented actors who have been cast.”