What a year! First, we had entertainment thrust back into our lives. There were breathtaking movies, there was music at Eden Park and there was even Jason Kerrison in a tuatara costume.
Then August came along and as NZ was plunged back into lockdown the entertainment industry momentarily went cold. R&V was postponed, production was pulled and even Shortland St nearly ran out of episodes.
But through the entire year that was, entertainment heroes still rose to the top. They made us smile, they warmed our hearts, their catchy tunes and Oscar-worthy performances stole our hearts.
So let's take a moment to salute our entertainment heroes - from the Kiwi director taking over Hollywood, to the 24-strong choir of local rangatahi.
Here are our 5 entertainment heroes for 2021.
By Karl Puschmann - culture editor and Jenni Mortimer – entertainment editor
Roseanne Liang: Entertainment Hero of the Year 2021
2021 has been a huge year for director/writer Roseanne Liang. She brought Hollywood to Auckland for her first major studio movie, rid the world (mostly) of men for TVNZ and is currently bending the four elements to her will in a major upcoming series for Netflix.
All of this is why we've named her New Zealand Herald's Entertainment Hero of the Year 2021.
"What?!? That's crazy. Oh my God." she says over the phone when we reveal the news. "I'm gobsmacked and so appreciative. Thank you. I'm so chuffed."
Liang came flying right out of the gate at the very start of the year when Shadow in the Cloud landed in American cinemas and to streaming on New Year's Day. A rollicking mash-up of WW2 action and sci-fi horror, Liang filmed the movie in her hometown of Auckland and cast Hollywood star Chloe Grace-Moretz in the lead.
We'd have to wait until May for it to fly on to cinemas here. It was a delay that proved worth it. In the Herald's four-star review we called it, "a focused firecracker of an action movie with a novel local angle". But we weren't the only ones impressed. The movie took home People's Choice award at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival and saw Liang winning the Director to Watch award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
A month later TVNZ released Creamerie, the dystopian black dramedy series Liang co-created with her regular collaborators Ally Xue, JJ Fong and Perlina Lau. We were once again left Impressed, with our review saying that the show, "draws you into its world, enticing you with intrigue, mystery and a few laughs".
The series was released in Australia and was recently been picked up by the American streaming giant Hulu. While a second season isn't yet locked in Liang says she's hopeful they'll get the green light.
"Thank you, Aotearoa, for supporting it. People want a Season 2 and we want a Season 2. If you like it, tell your friends. Make some noise."
A Hollywood movie and an acclaimed, award-nominated TV series would make for a massive year for anyone. But Liang wasn't done with 2021. In late August the industry bible Variety carried the news that she'd joined the team working on the live-action adaptation of pop culture favourite, Avatar: The Last Airbender as director and a co-executive producer. Netflix is investing heavily in the show, setting up a mammoth-sized, cutting edge studio which Variety says will give Liang access to "the most advanced techniques available to filmmakers anywhere in the world".
"No one can deny that it's been an amazing year for me. I do feel incredibly appreciative, really lucky and really grateful. That's the overwhelming feeling," Liang says, looking back. "I have to acknowledge that it's been a tough year for everyone, especially the creative community. I've been hearing from friends who are really struggling with themselves, wellness, self-care and mental health on top of just making a buck and surviving financially."
In characteristic fashion she's quick to point out that her success this year required the efforts of, "a huge army".
"That's what I love about it. It's impossible to do it without your team," she says. "Getting kudos comes with a bit of awkwardness for me because I feel like my husband deserves an award for looking after my children while I was away, the people that worked so hard on Creamerie deserve an award for slogging away for probably a fraction of what they would have got on an international job. I really truly share the appreciation with everyone and I want to acknowledge everyone that's helped me live my dreams."
Kiwi actress Thomasin McKenzie hasn't missed a beat in 2021 with a scheduled packed full of hit films like Last Night in Soho and The Power of the Dog already making waves.
Currently based in New York, the 21-year-old is working on a new movie called Perfect, directed by Olivia Wilde, where McKenzie plays American gymnast Kerri Strug, who famously competed injured in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and secured America's first-ever gymnastics team gold.
Wilde approached the highly talented Kiwi to play the role, after an extensive search for the right person.
And McKenzie's schedule isn't slowing down anytime soon, with the actress also filming a new BBC drama called Life After Life.
She's already been nominated and won a bevy of awards for her past performance in JoJo Rabbit, and with this much on the cards, 2022 might bring many more nominations her way.
Comedian Melanie Bracewell is killing it both in Oz and back home in NZ.
At just 26, the multi-talented comedian, host and writer is currently hosting The Cheap Seats in Aussie, which has quickly become must-watch TV.
As well as a sell-out comedy tour – The Rumours Are True - and writing for Wellington Paranormal, Bracewell is showcasing her talent across Australasia, and this time it's for more than just her Jacinda Arden impression that broke the internet.
The comedian only started stand-up in 2014 and won the Billy T Award in 2018. She also became a regular on 7-Days and Have you Been Paying Attention, as well as writing for both shows.
Bracewell's new Aussie current affairs style show has already been confirmed for a 2022 season, and it seems Aussies can't get enough of the Bracewell's banter and Kiwi charm.
Ka Hao and Rob Ruha
East Coast's Rob Ruha and Ka Hao, a choir of 24 local rangatahi, went viral in 2021 with their song 35 topping the charts and sweeping the globe on social media platform TikTok.
Having a song go viral on TikTok gives artists massive reach on the global scale and the success of the song put Māori culture in front of millions worldwide, spawning a trend that saw people from around the world interact respectfully with waiata and kapa haka.
35 – a reference to the road less travelled from Ōpotiki to Tūranganui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne) - was the fastest-rising local release on the charts in streams and radio play.
The song is both joyful and unbelievably catchy, with iconic scenery boasting throughout the must-watch music video - which has over 2 million views on YouTube.
From the United States to Europe and Asia, content creators on TikTok made dances, duets, and reviews of 35, boosting its popularity and proudly platforming Māori song and dance.
If you sat and cried to a strikingly soulful song on the radio this year, chances are Teeks was the man behind the melody.
The impeccable talent that is Teeks stunned Kiwis at the Civic in 2021, celebrating his debut album Something To Feel and selling out his six-stop NZ tour.
He's a reluctant pop star, but the New Zealand soul singer took 2021 by the horns, releasing songs while filling the nation's hearts and with messages of finding love and overcoming loss.
The singer-songwriter is also a finalist for five awards this year at the Aotearoa music awards, including album of the year, single of the year, best solo artist of the year, best Māori artist of the year and best soul/RnB artist.
Adding to his admirable repertoire, Teeks also used 2021 to tackle the bigger social and political issues - taking down anti-vaxxers, misuse of the Whakaputanga flag, misinformation, and always staying true to his roots.