While widower George Turner is looking for a fresh start in the fictional town of Weld, actor Erik Thomson relishes his real-life return to New Zealand for the filming of the Seven Network drama 800 Words, now in its second season.
"When I got there as a little Scotsman back in 1974," says Thomson, 49, "New Zealand was seen very much as a colonial outpost of the Empire. Now, New Zealand is a South Pacific island nation."
Although New Zealand "doesn't have coconut palms on the beaches," Thomson adds, "it is a young, geologically very young country, with lots of mountains, volcanoes, bubbling hot springs and bubbling mud pools, and culturally, it's very much of the Pacific."
Though they currently live in Australia, Thomson's family visited six of the seven months he spent on location. "They came on the set two or three times and they loved it," he says. "It's kind of distracting having family there, but on a couple of occasions when I had really good locations to go to, they came out, and the cast and the crew looked after them very well."
Thomson, an associate producer on 800 Words as well as a Silver Logie winner this year for best actor, says bringing New Zealand island life to an Australian audience has been one of the joys of working on the series.
"One of the biggest aspects of New Zealand culture is the Maori culture, the indigenous culture of New Zealand," Thomson says, "so for an Australian commercial television series to show brown faces on screen and feature interracial love stories, it's kind of big stuff even though we don't talk about it too much."
To hear more from Thomson, pick up this week's issue of WHO.
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