NZ New Idea Aug. 2003

Clothing courtesy of Road to Rome and Route 66; Photography by Fiona Tomlinson.


The hunky stars of local show Mercy Peak are making their mark overseas, as Canadian fans take our laid-back lads to heart.

They may not have huge sex symbol status, but the hunky men of Mercy Peak make up some of the hottest guys on New Zealand television.

Tim Balme, Craig Parker, Renato Bartolomei and new guy Owen Black are the spunks of Mercy Peak, and their special charm has not gone unnoticed-particularly from Canadian women who write fan mail to the cute Kiwi actors.

The programme has been so popular in Canada that reruns are also being screened there. And the TV1 programme has just returned to New Zealand's screens on Friday nights.

The men of Mercy Peak don't seem to consider themselves sex symbols, but Craig jokes the males seem to appeal to the mature woman.

"A lot of our viewers are well into their 90's and it's good to see they still have the motor ability to put pen to paper," he grins.

And while female actresses don't normally find it hard to put on make-up and dress up in stylish clothes for a photo shoot, the men aren't as keen.

"I can think of better ways of spending a morning than standing in front of a camera," Renato, who plays Kieran Masefield, adds.

But luckily for them, their work life is not stressful because there is no tension on set.

"It's one of those rare shows where there is no diva ego," Craig explains.

Not only does everyone get on, but they'll often go for drinks after work-with whoever happens to be around at the time.

"It's like a 70's commune live-in relationship- anyone around will do," Craig smiles.

Owen, who is the new cute face on Mercy Peak, has been friends with lead actress Sara Wiseman for years, and she had no idea that he would be going for the part.

"I went to drama school with Sara Wiseman, who plays Nicky Sommerville. We spent three years together and I was really excited when she got that role."

Owen plays American Chad Crawford, who helps to build a youth prison in Bassett and quickly becomes Dana's boyfriend.

"It's timely to have an American presence on the show. I think it's a really good storyline," Owen says.

Young Kiwis may recognise Owen as Brian the alien from the TV2 Sunday evening programme Hard Out, and he's also guest-starred in Street Legal.

And Aussie actor Renato is thankful his part on the show got him off a speeding ticket recently, when he was stopped by police for speeding. "The policeman asked me what I did and I explained to him I was working in New Zealand and he asked if it was for a television show and I said 'Yes, Mercy Peak'. At which point he put his book away and said 'I think it's best if you report to Constable Ken for some community service.'"

So far Renato has served a fair amount of that community service over a drink with Tim Balme, who plays Constable Ken Wilder.

Tim says he's had more possitive feedback about Mercy Peak than any other programme he's starred on.

"When people bother to stop you in the street, concerned about the plight of your character, then you know that the show must be hitting its mark,", he says.

Story by Vicky Tyler