As countless think-pieces would have you believe, we're in the midst of an era of peak TV - a second golden age of television brought on by advances in the technology and distribution of television, resulting in an increase in the sheer number of original shows.

Its growth has seen a number of A-list stars make the once-embarrassing jump to TV, but the medium's rise also heralds an exciting time for new actors seeking a breakthrough, with more opportunities than ever. And in the past few years, many Kiwis have had their breakthrough moments on American screens. Here's a look at some of our favourite homegrown actors who have found success on the small screen.


New Zealand's prodigal Oscar nominee continues to prove her acting chops on the latter side of her adolescence, and in 2015 Keisha Castle-Hughes landed a role in one of the most popular shows in the world: Game of Thrones.

It's not a lead role, but in a show as populated and political as Thrones, every character plays a significant part in the story. Castle-Hughes plays one of the Sand Snakes in the land of Dorne, a kick-ass warrior out for vengeance after the death of her father. The actress reprised her role over the following seasons, and the seventh is due to premiere on Sky's SoHo and Neon on July 17.



Arguably New Zealand's original queen of television, Xena continues to shine on the small screen in 2017. Lucy Lawless has reunited with Xena creator Sam Raimi for Ash vs Evil Dead, a television expansion of Raimi's 1981 cult film Evil Dead, as seen on Sky, with actor Bruce Campbell returning as the lead character and Lawless playing the mysterious Ruby Knowby.

Production of Ash vs Evil Dead takes place in Auckland, meaning Lawless often plays against fellow Kiwis on the show. Lawless also played the villainous witch Countess Marburg in the witchy US series Salem, which ended earlier this year.


After a star turn as Tinker Bell in modern fairytale epic Once Upon A Time, the golden child of New Zealand TV landed the lead role in The CW's iZombie, a cop procedural with a twist from the mind of Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars).

McIver plays Olivia "Liv" Moore, a medical resident who eats the brains of her autopsy subjects, enabling her to temporarily inherit their personality traits and memories and use the information to aid police with murder investigations.

If it sounds mad, that's because it is -- but the show's immense success in the States has propelled McIver to stardom. Kiwi viewers can stream iZombie on TVNZ OnDemand.


One of New Zealand's most successful acting exports, Oscar winner Anna Paquin found a new legion of fans when she took the role of Sookie Stackhouse in HBO's cult vampire series True Blood.

That show ended in 2014, but this year Paquin returned to TV in the Canadian crime drama Bellevue. Paquin plays Annie Ryder, a dysfunctional police detective searching for a missing transgender teen.

The series, broadcast on Canada's CBC, received rave reviews in its home country for its "distinct Canadian gothic sensibility", with the Globe and Mail calling Paquin "gloriously good".

Bellevue screens on Sky Box Sets from Saturday August 5.


Former Go Girls star Jay Ryan has been infiltrating US TV screens for some time now; on top of a supporting role in Jane Campion's lauded mini-series Top of the Lake, Ryan landed the lead role in Beauty and the Beast, a CW series that re-hashed the beloved fairytale for modern times.

In 2017, he stars in Mary Kills People; a critically acclaimed Canadian series following an ER doctor who moonlights as an "angel of death", assisting terminally ill patients with dying on their own terms. Ryan plays one of her voluntary "victims" in the series, the first season of which is available on Neon.


The CW clearly loves Kiwi actors; Shortland Street and Spartacus alum Craig Parker stars in the network's period drama Reign, a series following the politics and sexual intrigue surrounding the life of the teenaged Mary Queen of Scots.

Parker debuted in the second season of the show as the antagonist Lord Stephane Narcisse, starring alongside a number of Australian actors including lead Adelaide Kane and Caitlin Stasey. Though popular with fans, Reign aired its fourth and final season in June.

The first three seasons are available on New Zealand Netflix.


Best known back home for playing Outrageous Fortune's twins Jethro and Van West, Antony Starr broke through in the US with a role in the gritty crime show Banshee.

Following the end of the Emmy-winning series, he landed a role in American Gothic; a mystery drama following an affluent Boston family who discover their late patriarch was a serial killer.

Starr plays the mysterious eldest brother Garrett Hawthorne who returns after a 14-year absence, performing alongside TV veterans Juliet Rylance and Justin Chatwin.

American Gothic screens on Sky Box Sets from Tuesday August 22.


Former Shortland Street teen KJ Apa secured a major breakthrough at 19 with the lead role of Archie in Riverdale, a modern murder-mystery show based on the Archie comics.

Billed as Twin Peaks-meets-Gossip Girl,it brings the well-known characters of Archie, Betty, Jughead, Veronica into the 21st century and follows their lives after the mysterious death of a classmate.

A second season is currently in production, with season one available on Netflix.