Kaiwaka-Tomarata locals may not know they have a TV actor living among them, because he’s more usually in the guise of a six-wheeler truck driver.
Tomarata resident Phillip Gordon stars in The Gulf, a six-part crime drama series set on Waiheke Island, which premiered on Monday, August 26.
But in between acting jobs, he is a truck driver for Kauri Park Nurseries in Kaiwaka, which takes him down to Tauranga and Raglan daily, delivering plants to large projects such as developments or motorways.
Phillip says he doesn’t watch TV himself, and the only reason he found out that The Gulf was going to air was because he was recognised from the trailer by a barista in a café in Wellsford.
“I thought she was referring to Volkswagens and I had no idea what she was talking about,” he says.
Phillip was a famous actor as a young man in the 80s. He was best known for starring in regular soap Close to Home, 1984 film Came a Hot Friday with Billy T James, and as the lead role in the TV show Inside Straight.
“I became quite recognisable and people wanted to talk to me, buy me a beer or fight me. When you’re famous it’s like you become public property and people think they own you.”
Phillip then lived abroad for 30 years in Australia and Europe. He only returned to New Zealand eight years ago.
He spent a year driving around the country deciding on a new home, investigating the likes of Hawkes Bay and Taranaki, but settled on a paradise called Tomarata.
For the last three years, he has been growing a tropical food forest comprised entirely of edible plants on his 4ha property.
“When I moved in, I went around the neighbours’ houses and gave them trees and said, ‘Hi this is me’.
They were quite taken aback and one couple said that I was the first stranger who had come down their drive in 20 years,” he says.
In The Gulf series, Phillip plays a drunken bus driver who wrestles with his addiction.
“People are not sure about him or whether they want him around, but he’s woven into the fabric of that world for better or worse. I really enjoyed playing him.”
Phillip says he is also considering putting on a one-man show and would like to test it out at a local theatre.