The Brokenwood Mysteries

Murder lurks in even the most homely location - or so Detective Inspector Mike Shepherd discovers. 

The Brokenwood population continues to decline this spring as the popular Murder Mystery drama airs for a fourth season. 

South Pacific Pictures has crafted another four two-hour stand-alone murder mysteries set in a seemingly quiet country town.

Screening on Prime, the series is a key way NZ On Air is keeping local drama alive on NZ screens.

Neill Rea (Scarfies, Legend of the Seeker, Go Girls) stars in the lead role of DI Shepherd while Fern Sutherland (The Almighty Johnsons) plays Detective Constable Kristin Sims.

We had a few questions for Neill Rea.

What appealed to you about Brokenwood Mysteries?

First off, after reading the script I felt that Brokenwood is a New Zealand I recognise. It’s a place with a particular set of characters, familiar types, who I felt I could have grown up with. Brokenwood is a small community where friendships and links are strong and people care about each other, apart from those who are murdering each other of course. 

Secondly, it’s a murder mystery, which is a genre I really enjoy. It’s a format that I don’t think NZ telly has fully explored, which is kind of odd as it does feel like a natural fit for us here. We have the landscapes and the tight knit communities and the subversive humour!

Being set in a small town – do you think that makes it more relatable for New Zealanders?

Yes. But it’s also a small town that is idealised, so it’s a small town that we wish we lived in! Despite the high murder rate! We see a lot of cosmopolitan NZ on the TV, but the values that are inherent in our small town picture of NZ are ingrained in us. Even if you can’t relate to it, it’s still recognizable and engaging.

Why do you think it’s important to have local drama on TV?

Because it’s interesting! Otherwise it would just be all homogenised overseas content. I reckon art in any form, or entertainment, is both reflective and instigative. There is something in it that responds to where society is at the time. Hopefully that’s what we’ve done with The Brokenwood Mysteries.

Local drama holds the mirror up to us and shows us where we are and maybe pushes in the direction where we want to go as a society. New Zealand is so unique; there is nowhere else in the world that has the exact same set of concerns as us, which is why it’s important that we make work that illustrates that. The thing I like about Brokenwood is that it’s not shiny or neat and tidy, it has grunt and it’s a bit rumpled like my character. Rough round the edges.

How confident do you feel about the future of local TV drama?

We have a history (particularly in film) of being very noir and dark but there is also a new generation of telly and film makers that have very much embraced the NZ quirkiness and offbeat humour, the combination of all the light and dark elements is what’s interesting. It feels a bit like a coming of age where we don’t have to worry about cultural cringe, we can stand confidently in the knowledge that our work is well rounded, valid and insightful in its own right.


South Pacific Pictures for Prime

4 x 2 hour

NZ On Air funding $3,636,000

Watching Prime's new The Brokenwood Mysteries, Sunday, ticks every box, but it's a wonder we didn't start making this series 10 years ago. It now seems so obvious that we have enough talent and experience to make our own brand of Midsomer Murders, and on the strength of this week's debut, long may it continue.

— Jane Clifton,

Watch this show

This show screens Sundays at 8.30pm on Prime. It is also available free on demand.

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