800 Words star Erik Thomson on the show's new season

Erik Thomson plays newspaper columnist and widowed father George Turner in 800 Words.

Erik Thomson plays newspaper columnist and widowed father George Turner in 800 Words.

It is a cold winter's day and Erik Thomson is wearing a black puffer jacket as he tucks into lunch at Warkworth's RSA.

He is in the small township north of Auckland to film the popular comedy drama 800 Words in which he plays newspaper columnist and widowed father George Turner.

It is the third season of the New Zealand/Australian co-production, but Thomson, who also serves as associate producer, is not taking success for granted.

Australian actress Melina Vidler as Shay the daughter of Erik Thomson's character George (right).

Australian actress Melina Vidler as Shay the daughter of Erik Thomson's character George (right).

"I think there's more pressure because it's easy to get complacent and write more of the same," says the 50-year-old actor. 

"You need to keep growing it. You're no longer the shiny new kid on the block. People in this business, whether they are behind the scenes or the audience, they're all looking for the (next) new thing. 

"We're also a free-to-air television, commercial drama and we're competing with binge-watching – things like Netflix and streaming services. People are getting very used to, and preferring to watch, drama without ads."

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At the end of last season, which is partly filmed in the Warkworth region, Weld locals were staging a night-time beach vigil for news of the three men – Ike (Alex Tarrant), Zac (Rob Kipa-Williams) and Steve (Mark Ferguson) – who had failed to return from a fishing trip. 

The boat the trio were in was washed up on shore but the men were nowhere to be seen.

Thomson is tight-lipped on whether there will be any survivors.

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"That first episode is a bit more epic than your average episode of 800 Words," he says.

"It really launches big. We've got some beautiful set pieces, aerial shots, boats and action."

Thomson, who was born in Scotland, raised in New Zealand but is now based in Australia, arrived in Auckland in late summer to begin filming 800 Words' third season.

Unlike the previous years, he decided to leave his wife Caitlin and their children – Eilish, 10, and James, six – behind in Australia. 

"It was too much of an upheaval this time. Although my kids enjoyed it last time, my daughter said, 'Daddy, are we going back to New Zealand?' and I could see in her eyes that she sort of had one foot out the door thinking, 'Do I commit to my friends?' 

"I thought at that point, 'You stay here, we'll make it work'. But it's been a lot more difficult than I thought.

"We've had times together here but I'm working all the time so I hardly saw them. 

"I've realised this is not a conventional job. Having kids is one thing, but when they start going to school and developing their own lives, that life of being an actor and like a gypsy moving around a lot suddenly becomes a lot more difficult."

Thomson's character George is the show's lead and much of the storyline has George dealing with the loss of his wife Laura (Tandi Wright), who was killed in a road accident. Last season he dated a couple of local women but the romances were short-lived.

"At the beginning of this season George is just taking a step back from it all and taking some time for himself," says Thomson.

"George was in love with someone and that person was taken away from him suddenly. He's still in love with her, but there's pressure from the community, and from himself, to move on. 

"I think what we've seen driving his decisions to maybe go out on a date, or this or that, is he essentially needs to be seen to move on. That was what being with Fiona (Michelle Langstone) was all about.

"If you take a leaf out of the book, you don't find love, it finds you and usually when you least expect it. If you're trying to find it, you're never going to find it. It's just going to sneak up and tap you on the shoulder, and that pretty much sums up what happens in season three of 800 Words

"There is hope, prospects on the horizon. Unlike the first couple of seasons, it's not at the forefront to begin with. But there is a momentum building."

800 Words, TVNZ 1, starts Wednesday October 11.

 

 - TV Guide

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