Whoosh! Issue 61 - October 2001

By Bret Ryan Rudnick
Content © 2001 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2001 held by Whoosh!
3007 words

Author's Note:

Geoff Dolan is a man of many talents. Sharp-eyed Xena and Hercules fans will recognise him from the Xena episode LYRE, LYRE HEARTS ON FIRE as a warlord henchman, and you can spot him in the Hercules episodes THE LADY AND THE DRAGON, …AND FANCY FREE, and GREECE IS BURNING. He has been on Jack Of All Trades, too.

Yet, these are only a tiny fragment of his acting history. More recently, Kiwi television viewers could easily spot him the major role of D.S. Bruford of the Lawless telefilm series. He has also done a boatload of theatre and commercials, occasionally getting to use his singing strengths. Off screen Geoff is and always has been very physically active in a number of sports from rugby to golf to swimming, tennis, b-ball, you name it.

A true Renaissance man, Geoff is also the Chairman and Past President of a local soccer Club, and the bulk of this interview was conducted during a premier league match that he announced. A follow up was done several weeks later while Geoff was emceeing a conference for New Zealand's largest food product distributor, and while playing the part of Commander G.D. Nova, he helped move things along and kept the energy level of the conference up.

It was truly a privilege to see Geoff in action during this event -- his quick wit providing several amusing moments. As we all know, cell phones during meetings can be very annoying, and Geoff would spot an offender when a cell phone went off and say "hand it over" and take the call. During one such incident earlier in the conference, he actually made a sale for the company who sponsored him!

The rest of Geoff's team was very talented as well, coordinating all the sights and sounds for the participants. I witnessed them put the final touches on a terrific music video at the last moment that captured all the highlights of the multi-day event.

Sport or Acting: The Eternal Question (01-05)
Television vs. Stage (06-10)
New Zealand Films (11-14)
Theatresports (15-17)
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Jack of All Trades (18-22)
Lawless and Mercy Peak (23-30)
Fantasy Role (31-32)


But what I really want to do is direct
Geoffrey Dolan, Renaissance Man (even when he's not working for Renaissance). Special thanks to Lori Joyce for the photos.

Sport or Acting: The Eternal Question

[01] Tell me how you began your acting career. Was it something you always wanted to do?

[02] It's something I always did. Even when I was at school I was in plays and things. Kiwis are very sports-based and I was always into rugby and active in that through High School, but I was always doing musicals and things like that at school as well. I'd do rehearsals for a musical or a Shakespeare play and then go off to rugby practise. I always did acting but it was a hobby at that time.

[03] Most New Zealander lads dream of becoming All-Blacks to represent the country on the rugby team. Even after school when I was still determined to be an All-Black I was in the local operatic society doing musicals. Singing is my passion. Then I played against a couple of All-Blacks and realised "Gee, I'm never going to be on that team! They're pretty good!" Not that I was all that horrible, but I suppose you'd say it was the difference between college ball and pro ball.

[04] Then a friend told me about a theatre company in Wellington who were doing a show about rugby. I thought "What better way to see if I like the job than to try for something like that and use my rugby knowledge." So I worked at it and it turned out all right.

[05] I had worked as a bank clerk and I'd worked for Cadbury chocolate company, but after giving acting a try I decided this was the life and went for it.

Television vs. Stage

[06] I notice from your history you have a number of television credits and a number of stage credits. Do you prefer one medium to the other?

[07] I prefer the stage. And on stage, I prefer musicals, because I love singing. In New Zealand, however, you have to have your finger in many pies, many strings to the bow, because there's no way you can maintain a career here being very specific in one of the genres. You have to be part of everything or else you wouldn't make a living. Musical theatre is not that consistent in New Zealand and very few people make a living at singing and they're all overseas.

[08] New Zealand is also a bit of a funny audience as well, because Kiwis will go in droves to see a foreign production but not necessarily a local one. I recall there was a production of The Importance Of Being Earnest from England, with Patricia Routledge who is popular there and here. The show was packed. People came by the thousands to see it. If you did exactly the same show with only a New Zealand cast, it wouldn't have the same kudos, the same credit to it. The feeling is that if there are no international actors in it, it can't be real theatre, and that can be a little annoying. We had local success recently with The Blue Room, starring local actors Kevin Smith and Danielle Cormack, but that started in quite a small theatre and only moved to a larger one after people gave it a try and word got out it was worth seeing. I don't think it had anything at all to do with Kevin and Danielle being naked, that was just an aside.

[09] (rolls eyes) Oh, absolutely. (Both laugh)

Now if only I could get him to cut the grass as well!
Geoff is good friends (and a neighbour of) Kevin Smith.

[10] We can put on some very good shows but there's that perception that if it's local, it's automatically not as good, and that can be a little disheartening.

New Zealand Films

[11] I've noticed with several Kiwi films I've been fortunate to see recently that they did not get picked up for distribution in the USA. The reasons most often cited are that the actors in the films are not well known to American audiences, and/or the films are not "traditional" or don't have a "happy ending."

[12] I think many people expected that with big film hits like Once Were Warriors and The Piano that there would be a huge interest in New Zealand products. In fact, New Zealand film production dropped following both of those movies. Instead of investing money into the film industry I think there was an expectation that it would just start coming in on its own and it didn't. That's a shame because those two films would have been a great springboard for more.

[13] I think there will probably be some renewed interest when Lord Of The Rings comes out. People have been waiting for that to come out for a long time. I suspect it will be a huge hit simply by definition.

[14] It's huge. I think I was the only actor in New Zealand not to get any work on it.


[15] Going back to your live theatre roots for a moment, tell me how you got started in Theatresports (Note: Theatresports is a theatrical company that puts on planned and spontaneous skits for an audience and is a tremendous show if you're fortunate to see them).

[16] My introduction to Theatresports is a tale of accident, bribery, and force. I was doing a show called Ladies Night which became world famous when it was allegedly plagiarised as The Full Monty and made into a film. We had a night off from the show and went along to see Theatresports locally. We were encouraged to participate, but at first we just wanted to watch. There was no script or anything. By half time, several Steinlagers had been consumed. The director asked us again to participate and by that time we said "Oh, all right" and we ended up doing pretty well with it. As we worked with it on a regular basis over time some corporate people took an interest and wanted us to do some "game shows" and things for them at corporate sponsored events, and it just exploded. Now I'll go along to events to emcee things, tell jokes, keep things moving along and facilitate the event. That's about 60 to 70 percent of what I do now as a performer. It lets me stay in the industry.

[17] If you try to be more specific in the industry here you just won't survive. There was a time, not too far back, when there were about 1,200 people in the union here nationwide, counting everybody from main actors to extras to helpers. Our industry just isn't large enough to support most actors full time.

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Jack of All Trades

Is that a tuning fork in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Geoff's character Luciani gets the girl... or does he... in JACK OF ALL TRADES. Many thanks to HBKid for the scan.

[18] Tell me about your Hercules, Xena, and Jack Of All Trades experiences.

[19] Those were great. I started off with a couple of small parts on HERC. The main ones I did on HERC were the takeoffs on Strictly Ballroom and Fashion Parade (...AND FANCY FREE and GREECE IS BURNING). Michael Hurst played his "Widow Twanky" character and directed as well. We had a lot of fun with those. There was a lot of freedom there to try things that we thought might work at the read-through.

[20] With shows like Xena and Herc the costume does a lot of the work for you. You put on the armour, the hair, the boots, and you grow another six feet. You drop the sword in the scabbard and now you're "Big Dangerous Guy". Except I don't think I ever survived more than one punch from the hero, which was a bit disheartening. I got punched once by Kevin (Sorbo) and went down. I got hit over the head with a bottle by Michael (Hurst) and went down.

[21] The character I played in Jack Of All Trades was Lucianni. That was great fun and where we really got to play up. Some of the singing was mine, the high and good sounding stuff, and I was a little disappointed that, despite Eric Gruendemann's promises, I wasn't given the opportunity to voice the entire singing sections.

It's a well known fact that theatrical wigs inspire singing
Luciani on stage in JACK OF ALL TRADES. Many thanks to HBKid for the scan.

[22] The character was supposed to be a world-class tenor, but the playback track that was recorded in Los Angeles prior to filming, that we had to work to, used a slightly flat bass to baritone character voice which they used in the final edit. When I saw the episode I think there were a couple of strong expletives used to express my displeasure at this voice of not my creation being associated with me when I have a reputation as a singer and was made to look a little ridiculous.

Lawless and Mercy Peak

Geoff is amused by Angela's luncheon order of 'fush and chups'
Geoff is pictured with Angela Dotchin, another Pacific Renaissance alum and co-star of JACK OF ALL TRADES. Here they both appear in the New Zealand produced drama LAWLESS.

[23] Another thing I've seen you in recently that most in the States haven't is your work with Pacific Renaissance alumni Kevin Smith and Angela Dotchin, which was Lawless. I sort of looked at it as a cross between Miami Vice and Shortland Street.

[24] (laughs) Well it had a lot of the same actors in it that did Shortland Street. Everyone does that show at one time or another. Lawless was great fun to do. We particularly enjoyed the first one. It was darker. The first one had English money behind it. In that show the mood was definitely darker. Kevin's (Smith) character had a drug problem, people died. The next ones were financed by America, and I think there might have been some of that "happy ending" thing there because it was not as dark. In the later ones our foibles were softened considerably. Not to fault the writers, because the stories were great, but when the characters are softened so much it doesn't give you as much to play with. Although the first one rated well, the second one did even better, but the third one was sacrificed because it was broadcast at the same time the Olympics were on.

[25] Do you expect there to be more in the series?

[26] We haven't heard yet. I think we'll have to wait to see how well overseas sales do. I think we'd really love to do more. We had good scripts and good stories.

We'd stand a better chance of not being hit by that car if we got out of the middle of the street
Geoff, Angela, and Kevin were all in LAWLESS.

[27] It got to be quite fun to play "spot the location in Auckland" where the exteriors were shot.

[28] (laughs) We may have to get another town to shoot in. You can recognise things pretty easily, and you know that "Hey, that street is over here, not over there!" (both laugh) But there's a lot of wonderful locations around Auckland. You've got the Western Beaches, major bush, the Waitakeres, urban areas, all within a short drive of the city. I'm doing a new series now called Mercy Peak which is being made by South Pacific Pictures. It's a more rural show set in a small mountain town. I play a local helicopter pilot, which is a nice change from the 400 policemen I've played in the last ten years. We've just finished an episode that takes place a lot in the bush, we rescue a hunter who shot himself, but we're only 20 minutes away from the studios.

[29] Is that in the middle of production, that show?

[30] We've only just started, actually. We're doing blocks of episodes, two or three at a time. That helps give us some time to think about and settle into our characters. There's going to be 20 or so episodes. It's being done for our main channel over here, TV1.

Fantasy Role

[31] If you had the opportunity to choose a role that you haven't done yet, what would you like to do?

[32] It would have to be a guy who packs a gun and has a lot of girlfriends. (both laugh) It's been kind of a running joke with me in the trade that even though I've usually played a cop, I never get to drive my car, shoot my gun, or kiss my wife. I think I finally had my first really snoggy, passionate kissing scene just last Tuesday. Not like in Lawless where I was Kevin's (Smith) buddy/partner and every time I went to shoot my gun or drive the car after the criminal Kev would say "No, I've got him!" and he'd be off. At the big armoured car holdup scene, every single character in that scene got to shoot their gun except for me. But I enjoy the character parts I play. I'm not young enough to be the leading good guy and I'm not old enough to play the gnarly old bad guy. But I'm working on it! (both laugh)

Someone call the police!  Wait a minute, I am the police!
Geoff has played many cop roles over the years.

Afterword by Bret Ryan Rudnick

Geoff was extremely hospitable during my stay in Auckland this month and especially since my inadvertent stay-over after 11 September terrorist attack on America. It's difficult to convey just how nice and talented Geoff is, in addition to being a real stand-up sort of guy. I asked if he'd like to add anything to this interview by way of statement. Geoff rose to the occasion, and here's what he had to say:

"I feel I have been very fortunate to have the opportunities I have had with my career, and my life. We sometimes feel a little secluded down here, and as recent events have transpired it would be a seclusion that is possibly a little envied. But it can also have it's problems.To fully appreciate what you have, you try to have as full an awareness of your sphere as possible. This was made to seem very small of late. I cannot fully appreciate what has happened. I can only support and console from afar and realise that what I do, not just as an Actor, but as a person, has a very minor consequence in the bigger picture. But I will keep doing it. I truly love what I do and love the enjoyment I am able to bring people in my own small way. I thank you for your support and I wish you and your families all that you and they hope for.It sounds cliched but Dare to dream, Reach for the highest and never stop believing in yourself.

I look forward to hopefully, not only, meeting some more of you in the future, but also to entertaining you again.

God bless you, your families and your fine Nation."


Too numerous to list


bret Bret Ryan Rudnick
WHOOSH! staff
IAXS Executive Committee
"You can never have too much money or too many Amazons" When he's not working for a big Science/Engineering company that (amongst other things) designs, builds, launches, and operates exploratory spacecraft, Bret writes fantasy novels and short stories. Bret is a man of many skills, having also previously been an Olympic-qualified archer, a drummer in the Butch Grinder Band, a news reader for Public Television Station KVCR, and a Deputy Sheriff for the County of San Bernardino, California. He also collects Japanese swords, armor, and art. He and his dog hunt down stray Bacchae in New England.

Favorite episode: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206), and THE QUEST (37/213)
Favorite lines: Xena: "What's this?" Gabrielle: "I'm... an Amazon princess?" Xena (rolls eyes): "Great." HOOVES AND HARLOTS, 10/110; Xena after being goosed by Joxer: "Are you suicidal?" WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206); Joxer: "Ha. Ha." A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222); Autolycus: "I'm not just leering at scantily clad women, you know, I'm working!" THE QUEST (37/213)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: FRIEND IN NEED



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