Five Kiwi actors are particularly excited about the premiere of The Luminaries on TVNZ 1 tonight.

The epic six-part miniseries based on Eleanor Catton's 2013 Man Booker Prize-winning novel, and adapted for the screen by Catton herself, premieres tonight in New Zealand.

"It feels right to me that Aotearoa gets the premiere, and that our people see this story on the big screen first," says actor Richard Te Are, who can't wait for the rest of the world to see the series.

"Even though most of the characters are travellers and settlers, the story unfolds on our land."


Set in New Zealand's Hokitika in the South Island during the 19th-century gold rush, the story follows a large cast of characters including "12 men", many of whom are played by Kiwi actors.

The star-studded cast includes Erik Thomson, who plays Dick Mannering, Richard Te Are as Te Rau Tauwhare, Joel Tobeck as Benjamin Lowenthal, Mark Mitchinson as Thomas Balfour and Yoson An who plays Sook Yongsheng - and each of their characters is based
on a Zodiac sign.

The lead characters Eve Hewson, Emery Staines and scheming fortune-teller Lydia Wells are played by Anna Wetherell, Himesh Patel and James Bond Casino Royale actress Eva Green.

Filming the series also reunited Kiwi actors Tobeck and Marton Csokas, who started their careers together.

"We hadn't worked together for a long time and it was great to spend time with him again," says Tobeck.

"He hasn't changed at all, and he is a great guy - we had a lot of fun together."

The actors also said that filming the historical series felt like they'd time-travelled back to the 1800s, and that it was a culturally educational.

"From the costume, makeup, set design, arts and props - very little imagination was needed on my end to help me sink into that world as an actor," says An.

"Even though there are fantasy elements in the story, it's still a historical piece and I learned so much of our history by being in this series. From what it was like being Chinese in New Zealand in the 1800s to learning how to use a revolver and smoking opium the correct way," he says.

Te Are was also blown away by how the incredible wardrobe department transported them back in time.


"The moment I first saw myself in full costume, it was like this whole other reality had been created and I got to play in it," he explained.

"I had this awesome long hair and tā moko, and I was struck then by how many people it takes to make the magic we do."

Though it wasn't all smooth sailing on set - with actor Thompson catching on fire during a day of filming.

"In the opera house scene in Episode 4 we used naked flame as foot-lights, as was the practice of the time," he explained.

"While much attention was paid to ensure Eva's dress was nowhere near the flame - no-one had considered, however, that an overly theatrical swish of my cape would settle perfectly on the fire,"

Mid-scene I was robustly tackled by several safety officers as they patted down the smoking cape! It was shocking but hilarious."


And that wasn't even the only flare-up! During another scene with Bond actress Eva Green the entire table caught fire.

"While I was sitting with what I consider to be a group of the best New Zealand actors, suddenly the table caught fire - the excitement was palpable!" said Mitchinson.

All of the five actors will be tuning into the first episode tonight with family and friends, and Mitchinson says he's a little nervous.

"I will be watching because I want to see the end result of this huge story being told and what Clare [McCarthy], the director, has done with it," he says.

"Plus, I can't wait to see how it gets critiqued by my very fussy family!"