Mercy Me – The new Kiwi drama Mercy Peak is ‘not just another medical drama’ say stars Craig Parker and Miriama Smith.
By Donna Fleming
There are doctors, nurses, and a medical centre but that’s about where the similarities end. The new TV One series Mercy Peak may be made by the same company which brings us Shortland Street, and feature some familiar faces from New Zealand’s long-running soap but it’s a very different programme, say those in the know.
“Way different,” says Craig Parker. Craig played social worker Guy Warner in Shortland Street and now starts as Dr. Alistair Kingsley in Mercy Peak. “At last, I get a real job,” he laughs.
He adds, “People have said, ‘Oh, not another medical drama’ but it’s not. It’s about a group of people living in a small town and some of them happen to work in the heath industry. Andit’s different because they’re all hour-long, self-contained episodes and not an ongoing storyline.”
Miriama Smith is another ex-Shortland Streeter who has been cast in Mercy Peak. Once again she is playing a nurse. “I’m getting very good at taking blood pressure,” she smiles. “I look like I know what I’m doing.”
This time she’s playing solo mum Dana McNichol – on Shortland Street she was Awhina Broughton. Since leaving that show three years ago, she’s worked steadily as an actress and also found the time to finish a sports and leisure degree and do post-graduate studies in public relations.
“I thought it would be useful to have some qualifications under my belt,” says Miriama (25). However, she hasn’t had the chance to use any of those qualifications yet. “I’ve thought about it but I keep coming back to acting. I enjoy it so much.”
She’s had regular roles in the TV series The Tribe and Atlantis High, as well as appearing on Xena: Warrior Princess. She has also been in Harry Sinclair’s third film, Film Three, as well as two US productions, Eye of the Storm and Double Exposure. “I had to spend two months in Rarotonga making Eye of the Storm. It’s a tough job sometimes,” she says.
Craig (30) has also been working on the Lord of the Rings. It was an amazing experience, he says. “Peter Jackson is just brilliant. The whole atmosphere was great. At one stage the crew had been working for three months at night in the rain but there was still this sense that what we were doing was amazing. There were all these famous people but not tantrums and no egos.”
He admits he was nervous meeting Christopher Lee and Sir Ian McKellen. “For a start, Christopher Lee’s about three metres tall and he has that incredible voice…” recalls Craig. “But once I got over my initial dread it was a real buzz.
Craig has presented TV shows and appeared in Xena: Warrior Princess and Young Hercules as well as acting in the theatre and films, but Mercy Peak is the first TV series in which he’s been a member of the core cast since he left Shortland Street in in 1996. “I had no desire to work on something that was ongoing so soon after leaving. It’s hard work,” says Craig.
“But I was ready to do more TV when Mercy Peak came up and after I read a couple of scripts I though, ‘Yes, I would really like to do that.’ I’m glad I am. I’m really enjoying it, especially working with the cast and crew. I’m having a great time.”