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Passion in Paradise


About Passion in Paradise

Watch episodes of Passion in Paradise on TVNZ Ondemand

Passion in Paradise has finished airing on TV ONE.

About Passion In Paradise

Award winning Documentary Maker Director Bryan Bruce began filming Passion In Paradise seven years ago. 

"It's incredible how time flies when your having fun," Bruce laughs. "Passion began life as a standard docu-drama. You know the kind of thing - archive footage, old photos and reconstructed drama, all connected by music and a classy voice over."

"But half way through filming, my series The Investigator  for TV ONE took off in the ratings and there simply weren't enough hours in the day to write and direct both projects." 

So three successful series of the AFTA award winning TVNZ crime show later plus a spin off 90 Minute Special Jesus the Cold Case which won accolades in New York as well as New Zealand, Bruce finally found space to finish his sexual history series. 

"But it wasnt a simple matter of picking up where Id left off," Bruce explains. "Prime time television had moved on a lot since I began filming and the challenge was to shape the historic reconstructions I had already filmed into a series that would resonate with today's viewers."

The solution Bruce came up with was to invent a new genre - thedramamentary. It's "an on going drama with a documentary buried in the middle of it," explains Bruce with a broad smile. "You might even call it a soapumentary." 

"I just woke up one morning and thought 'Chaucer and Shakespeare' - the play within the play. Why don't I write a play about a group of graduate students studying the sexual history of New Zealand in which the historic cases they are studying reflect their own sexual behaviour, preference and relationships." 

"Making the decision to set a documentary within a drama was the easy bit," says Bruce. "Writing it so the present day drama not only integrated with the documentary elements but was an on- going and interesting drama in itself, took months of writing and re-writing." 

But at last Bruce had 5 shooting scripts and began the 6 week long process of auditioning actors up and down the country .


Finding The Perfect Cast

"The challenge was to find young actors who could make this new genre work and the ensemble we eventually put together are really terrific," Bruce says. 

The present day drama revolves around the life of Zoe Miller, the lead female character. 

"I must have auditioned more than 40 potential Zoes before Venetia Verner walked in." 

"I explained that I was looking for the girl next door who we feel we have known all her life, who isnt looking for a life partner enjoys sex and enjoys playing the field." 

"Then I rolled the camera and to my amazement Venetia disappeared and there was Zoe. The sexually adventurous but vulnerable young woman I could build the drama around." 

Next Bruce had to find the actor to play David Grant the University Lecturer who runs The Sexual History of New Zealand course and ends up having an affair with Zoe (who is one of his students).

"It was the 11th hour when Erroll Shand auditioned. He just arrived home from working on a film in China on the last of the audition days. And as soon as he did a scene with Venetia I instantly knew it was going to work says Bruce. It sounds corny I know but they have that old cinema term - chemistry."

"I have huge respect for Errolls performance in this series. The role of David Grant is such demanding one and Erroll had huge amounts of dialogue to learn and deliver as if he had been lecturing students for the last 20 years," says Bruce. "And he nailed it."

"Shand is often picked to play evil characters, psycho-killers who will kill you without batting and eye but in Passion In Paradise he is the romantic lead."

"Again the role of David Grant isnt an easy one to deliver on. I didnt want him to be just a stereotypical sleezy lecturer. Which is why Zoe is the one who does the seduction. She goes after David. Not the other way around," says Bruce. "And believe me she does!"