NZ actors get roles in US series

New Zealand actors Jay Laga'aia and Craig Parker are playing key roles in a new American swords and scorcery television series being filmed around Auckland.

Filming of Wizard's First Rule, the first book in Terry Goodkind's popular The Sword of Truth books began this week.

But the 22-episode series has been renamed Legend of the Seeker - apparently to avoid religious concerns among American audiences about scorcery.

Executive producers Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert told a comics and fantasy convention of the name change, and announced the New Zealand actors, Entertainment Weekly reported.

The syndicated series from Disney-ABC Domestic Television and ABC Studios, will premiere in the United States on the weekend of November 1. The series marks ABC Studios' first foray into broadcast syndication, and has already been sold into stations covering 95 percent of the American market, according to TV Week.com.

Each one hour episode will have a New Zealand director and the series will be shot in the Auckland region over 36 months. One of the episodes will be directed by New Zealand actor Michael Hurst who starred in the original Hercules TV series.

The series is based around a backwoods guide, Richard - played by Australian actor Craig Horner - in Westland, the only part of the world which contains no magic. While investigating the mysterious murder of his father he rescues a woman, Kahlan Amnell, (played by American actress Bridget Regan) who has crossed over from the "magic" side of the world, and does battle with an evil dictator.

Raimi said Australian actor Bruce Spence will play Richard's best friend Zedd, Jay Laga'aia will play a boundary warden Chase, and Craig Parker will play the series' villain, Darken Rahl.

Parker spent four years on Shortland Street after being cast as Guy Warner in 1992, and won international attention after being cast as Haldir, one of Lothlorien's elves in the first two parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Laga'aia played David Silesi in four series of the television drama Street Legal and Captain Typho, in two Star Wars films, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

Tapert, who filmed Hercules and Xena, Warrior Princess in New Zealand and married his star, Lucy Lawless, in 1998 showed people at the convention a clip from the show's filming around Auckland.

 NZPA