I met Rhys Darby in 2007. I was interviewing him about the success of a small show called Flight of the Conchords. His wife Rosie was in the room, giggling away. Their first child was in a pram, sleeping.
My questions were pretty good, before my brain went to that bad place journalists have, full of terrible default questions like "How did it make you feel?"
The question I pulled out was, "Where do you get your ideas?" Rhys looked me directly in the eyes, paused, and guffawed. "That's a hack question!" He'd never been more right.
Years later and we'd become friends, mainly bonding over our low-fi radio show/podcast about Bigfoot called The Cryptid Factor. I'd usually do the interviews on the show, and at some point Rhys hit me with the concept of a TV show he was writing, in which he wanted to cast me ... as me.
I thought it was a joke at the time, then Short Poppies happened. The pitch to me was that Rhys was going to be playing a bunch of people in this small, New Zealand town. I would then just turn up on set and interview them like they were real people. It was exactly the same as what I'd do in my usual job as a journalist: except my interview subjects weren't real. It sounded wonderful.
It was probably in my favour that a lot of people I've talked to in my time as quirky-story-light-fluff-journo are quite ridiculous. Westboro Baptist church members protesting outside Michael Jackson's funeral on the streets of LA. The deranged man in Hamilton who ate his pet frog in front of me. It's like those interview subjects were all practice that would allow me to keep a straight face in front of Rhys' various personas.
All in all, I managed. At times, it was hard. There's a scene in which sex-starved artist Louise [Rhys] is making an advance on me. All I had to do was keep a straight face - but slowly members of the crew started giggling. I could hear more and more sniggers. I held out as long as I could, then let out a massive snort. I followed up my laughter by being really angry. "Stop laughing, I can't do this when you're laughing because then I'm laughing, stop it!" Being angry at everyone in the room being happy. How ridiculous.
Short Poppies felt like a wonderful family affair: the production company that made it [Augusto] consisted of Leon Kirkbeck and Michelle Walshe. Leon produces The Cryptid Factor. Michelle directed Poppies. Each day at work on set seemed like hanging out with mates. I made new friends. Jemaine Clement turned up to direct an episode. Comedians I'd always admired had scenes.
The only time I felt ridiculously uncomfortable was the morning we shot a scene with Sam Neill. It had nothing to do with Sam - he was great. You see, it's hard to describe how much I love Jurassic Park. It was the first film I ever saw in a cinema, and suddenly I got to act next to Dr Alan Grant. I wanted to have a normal conversation with him, but it was impossible. My admiration was too high. The scene with Neill is one of my favourites. Rhys wrote a great script, Sam was a great actor. And there I am in the scene, sitting, trying to take it all in. Sam doesn't know this, but I snuck his Jurassic Park action figure into the back of shot. I got it at Deka in 1993.
There were moments of peril. At one point we were shooting in the water in a tiny little dinghy. It had sentimental value for the Darby family, and we'd crammed four grown men in. And not small ones. Me, Rhys, Josh Thomson and Dave Fane. The trembling vessel was sitting in the water to the point where there was just 2cm of it above water.
Josh actually provided the best moment for me on set. A robust man, he was reclining in a deck chair waiting for a scene to start, involving a sexy legs competition. Another cast member was lubing him up with oil. Unscripted, the chair snapped, folding him up inside before tipping over, trapping him inside. The whole show felt a bit like that - an unpredictable, ridiculous ride.
I'm really proud of what we made. I'm happy Rhys wanted me to do it. And I still think it was just his little personal joke, casting a reporter as a reporter.
Who: David Farrier, TV3 journalist turned TVNZ comedy star
What: Short Poppies starring Rhys Darby
Where and when: TV One Thursday September 25, 10pm and on TVNZ ondemand