A good role for the Kiwi bad guy - Hawke's Bay Today - 2000 (September 01)

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This article is from the newspaper Hawke's Bay Today, dated August 31, 2000, featuring Kevin Smith.

The high-res newspaper scans are from Bryn. Article text from The New Zealand Herald.

A good role for the Kiwi bad guy

By Louisa Cleave

      Need a bad guy? Ask Kevin Smith. The hunky Kiwi actor has spent six years playing Ares, the resident evil in Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules, a role that has earned him international fans.

      His brooding dark looks have also won him roles in many local television series, including Gloss, Shark in the Park, Marlin Bay, Shortland Street and City Life.

      "In New Zealand you have this thing, with television anyway, ‘Need a bad guy? Get Smithy'," he says.

      Smith has broken the mould with cop John Lawless, the title character he resurrects in the TV-movie Lawless 2 — Dead Evidence, screening on TV2 next Thursday. A third instalment, Beyond Justice, will screen on television later in the year.

      The supremely confident Ares and John Lawless are complementary, says Smith.

      "The difference between playing a good guy and a bad guy is that the bad guy smiles much more. They have no doubt as to their mission in life. Their paths are clear."

      In Lawless, Smith co-stars with Angela Dotchin and plays an ex-undercover cop who has left the force and dropped out of his old life after a series of personal tragedies.

      "To me, this episode is about someone who has been awakened," says Smith.

      Dotchin's character, Jodi Keane, convinces Lawless to help her private investigation into a man's suspected wrongful imprisonment for murder.

      Smith has tried unsuccessfully to avoid playing similar characters, but had no problem resurrecting John Lawless.

      The first Lawless TV-movie rated well among viewers and went on to collect five gongs at the New Zealand Television Awards, including Best Actress for Dotchin, best director and best drama programme.

      Despite having won awards in the past, Smith says he's "never really been an award boy. "It's that idea of ‘expect nothing and you won't be disappointed'."

      "I've made the mistake every now and then of taking a role and then once you've started shooting going, ‘I've played this guy, damn.'

      "Quite often people want what they know, like evil-guy Kevin Smith. In a country with a small industry it's always hard to say no to stuff. But basically now my thing is, it's got to be someone I haven't been before. Although I've been to John Lawless before, it's a place I don't mind visiting.

      "It's acknowledged that here's the same guy. It's not like, different costume, different name, same guy."

      In films such as Desperate Remedies, Channelling Baby and Jubilee, Smith says he has been part of a strong woman's story rather than the leading man.

      Even in Lawless, his role is a partnership with Dotchin rather than her playing second fiddle to his character.

      The easy-going actor, who would fit just as easily among the guys down at the pub as on a film set, says his "blokey" image is something he has fostered and "there's a large part of me in that."

      "I don't call it blokey. It's the result of the places I've been brought up and the things I've learned and the people I've known."

      Smith grew up in Timaru and met his wife at high school. They have three children.

      The 37-year-old says he was expelled from school and left Timaru in 1980 for Christchurch, where his wife encouraged him into acting.

      They moved to Auckland in 1990, but Smith says he still considers himself a "Canterbury boy," and his Canterbury Crusaders' cellphone backs up his claim.

      The actor explains his non-pursuit of Hollywood by recalling his one foray into the Los Angeles acting scene five years ago.

      "I did a pilot season. I went over for two months and just by being there, away from my wife and my kids, you buy into a level of desperation which feeds on itself.

      "You go there with a very clear thing: I want to do movies, none of this television.

      "Then next thing you're going out for your third lead in any cheesy sitcom."

      Smith is one of New Zealand television's highest-paid actors and he's happy with the constant flow of work he is offered.

      "The point is, I'm always working. This is where I live, this is where my kids are. There's more at stake than moving to America. If I was 25 and single it might be different."

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