Family & Companions
While his swarthy, dark good looks allowed him to convincingly play everything from cads to outright villains on screen, New Zealand native Kevin Smith was also an accomplished musician and stage performer who amassed an eclectic resume over a career that spanned more than two decades. The son of a career naval officer, Smith spent part of his early life moving around his native land (and even passed a year in Sydney, Australia) before his family finally settled in Timaru, New Zealand. His interest in performing was stoked by the school's drama club, but the athletic youth also harbored a desire to play professional sports. When his nascent career in pro rugby was derailed by an injury, though, he turned to his other love and auditioned for a touring production of the stage musical "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" in 1987. Cast as one of Elvis Presley's bodyguards, Smith was also tapped to understand the lead role, but he never got to go on as The King as the show failed to find an audience and the tour was curtailed. Other stage roles followed before the actor landed his first TV gig on the serial "Gloss" in 1989. On this sort of Kiwi "Dynasty," Smith was cast as the caddish lover of the daughter of a publishing magnate. He got to stretch his comedic muscles two years later playing Joe Blow, a character no one can understand because of his use of slang and his penchant for telling stories with no point, in the sketch series "Away Laughing."
In 1991, Smith returned to the stage displaying his buff, hirsute body playing a male stripper in the hit "Ladies Night" but after the play's final performance, he was the victim of a attack by a group of disgruntled youth. Unable to work for a while, Smith was forced to make his living doing temp work (at a bank) and as a manual laborer. His hiatus was short-lived, however, when he landed the recurring role of a hunky aerobics instructor on the New Zealand serial "Shortland Street" and friend Michael Hurst cast him in a stage production of "Cabaret." Smith completely rebounded when he signed on to the long-term role of ruthless businessman Paul Cosic on "Marlin Bay." In between, the actor found time for his first film lead as a penniless immigrant hired by a wealthy woman to romance her drug-addicted sister in the period romance "Desperate Remedies" (1993), which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
Hoping to capitalize on the buzz surrounding his debut as a feature leading man, Smith ventured to Los Angeles and made the casting rounds. Reportedly, he auditioned for the lead in "The Phantom" (1996) but lost out to Billy Zane, and was under consideration for a recurring part on "NYPD Blue" but immigration snafus curtailed that opportunity. Although Smith had declined the chance to audition for the lead in a series of telefilms about the mythological figure Hercules, the producers were impressed enough to offer him the recurring roles of Herc's sibling Iphicles in the syndicated "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys." The same producers then tapped him to play Ares on their sister production "Xena: Warrior Princess" and Smith gained international attention and a large fan base portraying the sinister but smoldering god of war on both shows. Over the course of his run on them, he was able to demonstrate his versatility tackling romantic and comedic storylines and even demonstrating his accomplished singing voice in musical episodes.
While Ares was another in the string of bad boys that became Smith's stock in trade, the actor was able to continue to hone his craft on stage (in productions like "Othello" in 1995) and in other roles. In 1996, the very macho performer caused a minor sensation by engaging in the first male-to-male kiss on New Zealand television when he was cast as a sexually ambiguous landlord who falls prey to a murderer in the serial "City Life." He also co-starred as an Australian bushman in the telefilm "McLeod's Daughters" (also 1996). After reprising Ares in the spin-off Fox Family Channel series "Young Hercules" in 1998, Smith returned to the big screen as a Vietnam veteran in the drama "Channelling Baby" (1999) and in a pivotal role as a rugby player in "Jubilee" (2000). Back on the small screen, he earned plaudits for his work as an undercover cop in a series of telefilms, "Lawless" (1999), "Lawless - Dead Evidence" (2000) and "Lawless - Beyond Justice" (2001).
Having eschewed Hollywood because of his family, Smith was poised to finally cash in on the international success of "Hercules" and "Xena" in 2002. He had been cast in support of Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci in "Hostile Acts/Man of War" but first had a commitment to the film "Warriors of Virtue II" in China. Having completed his role in that film, Smith suffered an accident and fell a reported six stories in early February, suffering head injuries. He remained in a coma for about ten days before he succumbed to septic shock at the age of 38.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Appeared in a touring production of the stage musical "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"; played a bodyguard and understudied the lead role of Elvis Presley
First played Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire" at the Court Theatre in Christchurch
Appeared in the New Zealand TV soap opera "Gloss"; first teaming with Lucy Lawless
Demonstrated his comic abilities as Joe Blow in the series "Away Laughing"
Starred onstage as a male stripper in "Ladies Night"
Joined cast of the New Zealand serial "Shortland Street" in the recurring role of an aerobics instructor
Appeared in "Cabaret" on stage, under the direction of future "Hercules" co-star Michael Hurst
In March, on the closing night of "Ladies Night" was attacked and beaten by a group of thugs
Had starring role in the feature "Desperate Remedies"; released in the USA in 1994
Had dual roles of Cinderella's Prince and The Wolf in a New Zealand staging of "Into the Woods"
Starred in "Othello", directed by Hurst; performed at the Watershed Theatre
Co-starred in the Australian TV-movie "McLeod's Daughters"
Played a sexually ambiguous character for a limited run on the New Zealand soap "City Life"; had the first male-to-male kiss on New Zealand television
Again played Ares, this time on "Young Hercules" (Fox Family Channel)
Starred as a Vietnam veteran opposite Danielle Cormack in the feature "Chanelling Baby"
Created the role of undercover cop John Lawless in the telefilm "Lawless"; reprised the role in two sequels, "Lawless - Dead Evidence" (2000) and "Lawless - Beyond Justice" (2001)
Had pivotal role as a rugby player in "Jubilee", a feature directed by "Hercules" co-star Michael Hurst
Starred opposite Danielle Cormack on stage in "The Blue Room" and "A Streetcar Named Desire" with the Auckland Theatre Company
Appeared in the mockumentary "Love Mussel", directed by Hurst