18 Mar 2018

Mark Mitchinson: High Road heads to Lightbox

From Sunday Morning, 11:05 am on 18 March 2018

Award-winning comedy web series High Road has run for three seasons online and has now been adapted for Lightbox.

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Mark Mitchinson as Terry Huffer in High Road. Photo: Supplied

It follows the life of washed-up British rock star and “one-album wonder Terry Huffer, played by Mark Mitchinson, who starts his life over in Piha, running a community radio station out of a rented caravan.

Mitchinson says the inspiration was the experience he and series writer Justin Harwood had setting up a radio station in Piha.

“It was almost Terry Huffer-esque actually – we all had arguments, it all broke down. But there is now a radio station in Piha. It’s not us.”

Harwood, ex-bassist with The Chills, came up with the Terry Huffer character, Mitchinson says, “which is sort of an amalgam of both of us."

They realised they could make a web series in Piha after seeing Auckland Daze and the US series High Maintenance, he says.

Emma Thompson in High Road

Emma Thompson in High Road Photo: Supplied

The first season, made in 2013 with a budget of $423, was so popular locally and internationally that New Zealand on Air contributed $100,000 to get the series adapted for TV.

Mitchinson managed to secure a cameo from British actress Emma Thompson for the third series “because she’s a mate”, he says.

He’d shown some episodes to his friend Greg Wise, husband of Thompson, and they'd liked it.

“I called Greg and I said ‘Look I know you love High Road, but what about we do this.”

They both agreed to take part, despite Thompson’s “full on” schedule.

“The great thing was this was a three-hour shoot in a pub in Hampstead. She’s allowed to do whatever she wants to do, we improvise the whole scene, it was with mates and she had a great time.

Mitchinson came to New Zealand from the UK as a child, and returned to study acting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He decided it wasn’t for him, and for a time ran a restaurant – which hosted parties for Blur and Oasis. But he took up acting again on his return to New Zealand, taking lead roles in tele-movies Siege (about Jan Molenaar) and Bloodlines.

High Road has been reworked by Mitchinson and Harwood for Lightbox, in the streaming service's first foray into commissioning content. It screens as 30-minute episodes from 30 March, and a second series will play later in the year.