Joanna Hunkin is the Head of Entertainment for the New Zealand Herald.

Former Seven Sharp presenter Jesse Mulligan eyes up The Project

Guy Williams, Kanoa Lloyd and Jesse Mulligan are among those who have been screen tested for The Project.
Guy Williams, Kanoa Lloyd and Jesse Mulligan are among those who have been screen tested for The Project.

Screen testing and auditions for TV3's new 7pm series are underway, with several well-known faces in the running for The Project hosting panel.

Contenders include various MediaWorks personalities, including Guy Williams, Kanoa Lloyd and Melissa Davies, as well as former Seven Sharp host Jesse Mulligan and 7 Days regular Josh Thomson.

Hayley Holt is understood to be in the running for The Project.
Hayley Holt is understood to be in the running for The Project.

ZM host Vaughan Smith, TVNZ's Melissa Stokes and The Spinoff founder Duncan Greive are also understood to be in the running, as are Hayley Holt and Jeremy Corbett.

The programme, due to launch early next year, will follow the same format as its Australian namesake.

In Australia, The Project is hosted by a panel of three presenters, including a former lawyer, a newsreader and a comedian, alongside a rotating line-up of guest hosts.

Mulligan, who hosts Radio New Zealand afternoons, is understood to be a frontrunner for the show, which would see him take on former Seven Sharp co-hosts Mike Hosking and Toni Street.

Jesse Mulligan with his former Seven Sharp colleagues Mike Hosking and Toni Street.
Jesse Mulligan with his former Seven Sharp colleagues Mike Hosking and Toni Street.

Mulligan left TVNZ in April 2014, just 14 months after the launch of Seven Sharp.

He was the last of the original hosting trio to leave, following Greg Boyed and Ali Mau's departures.

Speaking about his final days to Canvas writer Greg Bruce, Mulligan admitted it was painful to watch.

Read more: Jesse Mulligan opens up about dark days of Seven Sharp

"Wandering into an office of people - nice people- who regarded me with a mixture of awkwardness and pity, then having to front up on a show where, I suspect, the audience felt largely the same thing. When I left I felt a bit humiliated and a little bitter."

The original Seven Sharp launched in February 2013 and was also modelled on The Project but failed to fire with both critics and viewers.

Jesse Mulligan with his original Seven Sharp co-hosts Greg Boyed and Ali Mau.
Jesse Mulligan with his original Seven Sharp co-hosts Greg Boyed and Ali Mau.

In February 2014, it relaunched with new hosts Toni Street and Mike Hosking, adopting a more traditional format that quickly found favour with TVNZ1 viewers.

Earlier this month, TV3 confirmed it will replace Story with The Project, calling it a "reinvention of weeknights".

Mediaworks declined to comment.

- NZ Herald

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