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Michael Hurst

About the man behind Iolaus...

Michael Hurst...let’s see. Doesn’t he play that blonde guy on Hercules?

This is a sentence I often hear from friends, and they are surprised to learn he has far more accomplishments to his credit than portraying Iolaus. Michael lives in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife, Jennifer Ward-Lealand and two sons, Jack (1997) and Cameron (1999). He was born in Liverpool, England, on September 20th, 1957. He was only eight years old when his father, a glass cutter, moved his family to Christchurch, New Zealand. It was there that young Michael began his long love affair with acting, practicing stunts, painting backdrops for high school productions, and watching Ben Hur way too many times.

He spent one year at the University of Canterbury and then was accepted (at age 19) into the training program at Christchurch’s Court Theater. Two years later (1979) he moved to Auckland spending several years performing in dozens of plays and parts from drama to comedy. He became the theater company’s chairperson in 1985. At the Mercury Theater in Auckland he starred as Mozart in Amadeus and King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar.

As we Iolausians all well know part of Michael’s trademark is the physical aspect of his acting - his stunt work. Any man who would climb to the top of a theater’s rafters and swing across only to break his wrist must be one dedicated actor. (Did I mention he slammed into a concrete wall, too?) He’s also gotten a lot of attention with directing anything Shakespeare - his version of Macbeth took place in a bomb site during WWI, for example.

By 1990 Michael was one of New Zealand’s foremost authorities on interpreting Shakespeare and co-founder of the Watershed Theater in Auckland. And in 1993, he was the first actor cast by Diana Rowan when Renaissance Pictures set up in New Zealand to start a little thing called Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. :-)

We can actually thank Diana Rowan for convincing Michael to audition - she pressed his agent until Hurst agreed to read for Hercules production supervisor Eric Gruendemann. They were looking for someone with an unbelievable constant energy, and boy, did they find him. We fans pretty much know the rest of the story from here.

Towards the end of Hercules: The Legendary Journey’s phenomenal run, Michael took the opportunity to direct a New Zealand feature film comedy called Jubilee. The film’s Official Website features a lot of information on the movie as well as details of Michael’s involvement with it.

Hurst has established himself as one of New Zealand’s greatest directors of theater and film - and quite deservedly. Along with Shakespeare productions, Jubilee and countless other projects, he has directed several episodes of Hercules and its spinoff sister-series, Xena: Warrior Princess.

Although Michael has moved on to bigger and better things, he still joined up with Kevin Sorbo at Creation’s Pasadena 2000 convention in California in January. In a sentimental and memorable Farewell to Hercules segment, good friends in attendance have reported the two being very mushy and nostalgic together. Good things came out of the Con, including Kevin Sorbo hinting that Michael may show up in his new Andromeda series, slated to hit the airwaves in fall of 2000. Much to the sadness of his Iolausians, it was also learned at the convention that Hurst has no plans to guest-star as Iolaus in any future episodes of Xena, although Kevin Sorbo will make an appearance as Hercules during the show’s fifth season. But there is the brighter news of Michael directing an episode of Xena next year, reportedly its last season.

And as for the fans...we can only sit back and wonder what lies ahead in the career of the man who played our favorite heroic sidekick. Though he continues to find new, inventive projects to expand an ever-growing resume, Michael’s name will always bring back memories of those Legendary Journeys and how much fun I’ve had following them. Thanks for that, Mr. Hurst. :-)

A large amount of the information compiled for this biography comes from the Official Companion book for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys by author Robert Weisbrot. I highly recommend purchasing this text as it is a great source of info just not on Mr. Hurst but on all of our favorite H:TLJ cast members. Thank you to Beckers, for the photo as my graduation present, Rosie, for standing in line with Becky (lol) and for signing, Michael. :-) The background on this page was designed by me from a photograph taken at the Pasadena Convention by Janet, webmistress of the excellent Iolausian Paradise.