Jacksons Wharf producers are ditching some of the old faces in favour of "young, hip and gorgeous" in the hope of injecting some life into the sleepy seaside town. Television editor LOUISA CLEAVE talks to some of the new faces.

The Government may want the box to reflect true New Zealand culture but in television land it seems too many middle-aged, country-looking folk do not make a hit series.

Market research has told the producers of Jacksons Wharf and TVNZ that the 15-39-year-old target audience wants young, hip and gorgeous cast members to keep them in on a Friday night.

So the local drama returns tomorrow night, minus the casualties of younging-down and sexying-up the show.


Gone from the first series are Ronnie Peek, 50, played by Syd Jackson; Kath Reilly, 40, (Denise O'Connell); Lucy Jackson, 16 (Elisa Ashenden) and Maggie Jackson, 26 (Rema Smith).

The urbanisation of the fictional rural township is also designed to attract new viewers, and followers will see dramatic changes to the decor, sort of Shortland Street pacifica.

New faces include 24-year-old Rachel E. Wallis as constable Jay Tolich, a young copper brought up from Auckland to help solve Chantelle's murder and who finds it hard to break into "the boys' club."

Acting blue-blood Emmeline Hawthorne joins the cast as Hannah Priest, along with Sara Wiseman who plays her older sister, Rebecca.

Seventeen-year-old Hannah and mid-20s Rebecca are shipwrecked and wash up at Jacksons Wharf after escaping Sydney and Rebecca's no-good husband.

Rebecca sets about sprucing up the pub's bistro while Hannah brings a big city brat attitude to the countryside.

Shayne, in his early 20s, takes over the local superette from his Auntie Kath and introduces espresso and panninis. Of course, he is gay.

The main love triangle between Mahina Jackson (Nicola Kawana), husband Frank and his brother Ben continues to simmer.


Calvin, locked up for Chantelle's murder, still can't articulate his love for Larissa, and new cop Jay has her handcuffs out for bad-boy Zane Rewiti.

If you haven't yet guessed, Jacksons gets a little more spicy this year.

The first series had a bumpy ride in the ratings early on but by the end of its run had a loyal following.

TVNZ dragged its feet on giving the green light to a second series, and two weeks out from shooting in May, New Zealand On Air came up with $1.5 million for 20 more episodes.

The first series suffered, too, from TV2's decision to roll two, purpose-built, half-hour episodes into one, affecting the continuity and storylines of the show.

Producer Tony Holden says it was decided to concentrate on a smaller number of core characters which the audience can relate to.


"We wanted to bring in a more urban connection, not get it quite so rural, quite so countryfied," he says. "This is not an exact science. We try to stick within those strong characters and hopefully they'll connect with the audience.

"It is designed for the Shortland Street audience, to be a nice follow-on. It doesn't pretend to be an 8.30 pm, high-production Lawless."

Holden hopes female viewers will connect with characters like Wallis' Jay Tolich.

Wallis has taken on her first major television role in the form of Jay.

She caught the eye of Jacksons Wharf producers during a stint on its sudster sister Shortland Street, playing Dr Mandy Desmond.

Wallis, with a Bachelor of Arts in theatre, had plans to attend drama school but decided to launch herself into the business and learn from experience, taking numerous theatre roles in Dunedin before moving north.


"You can drama school as much as you want but it doesn't necessarily make you a more honest actor," she says.

Her character connects with Zane, played by Clint Eruera, immediately.

"It just happens because we're both outsiders. No one is really willing to give me a chance, being a young female cop," says Wallis.

Eruera says the prospect of a relationship with Jay gives his character a sense of direction. "For ages he is interested in Jay and he flirts. It's not like a relationship. He just goes hard out. It's like when you care about anything you don't know how you feel until it's gone.

"Zane is trying to give his whole world for this lady. Considering he doesn't have much of a world, he gives whatever he can."

Like its Shortland Street stablemate, Jacksons Wharf will be topical, says Holden.


It plans to confront issues such as rape, land occupation and a police shooting.

"It is a cross between ongoing serial elements and one-off episodic stories, so there is no connection between episodes one and two in terms of direct continuity, but there's a lot of issues that follow on and the relationships develop."