Skip to main content
News article - My life is murder cast standing together

The popular mystery of the week series, which stars Lucy Lawless as former homicide detective Alexa Crowe, showcases the vibrant urban oasis of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland to audiences at home and around the world.

My Life is Murder treats viewers to fresh angles and unexpected views of familiar places across the region including urban hotspots such as Fort Lane, the Sky Tower, Wynyard Quarter and Westhaven Marina; the cultural hubs of Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki; and the stunning natural surrounds of Piha Beach.


Following the runaway success of My Life is Murder Season 1 – which was set in Melbourne, Australia – rights to the show were picked up by Auckland-based production company Greenstone TV and lead character Alexa Crowe returned to her hometown.

Filmed across the region from January to May 2021, the nearly 100-strong local crew demonstrated adaptability and resilience through challenging times, navigating a city bustling with the 36th America’s Cup, and dealing with two regional moves to COVID-19 Alert Level 3, which halted production.

The hit drama will screen in New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom and North America, highlighting how productions filmed in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland provide ongoing economic benefits to the region through national and international brand exposure.

We catch up with Mark Beesley, Series Producer for My Life is Murder to discuss how the Kiwi spin-off arrived on our shores, what it’s like to film in Tāmaki Makaurau, what our region offers productions, and why we should all be proud of Auckland’s thriving screen sector.

Q&A with Mark Beesley, Series Producer
Initially an Australian production, how did My Life is Murder make the journey from Melbourne to Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland?

It was Lucy’s idea really. The Australian show wasn’t planned to return, and she was living back in Auckland, so the idea of a Kiwi spinoff was born. Greenstone TV licensed the rights to the key characters (Alexa and Madison); got TVNZ excited and on board – along with our international channel partners, Acorn TV and Network 10; managed to get Ebony Vagulans (Madison) and Claire Tonkin (the creator of the Australian series) through MIQ; and we engaged a team of amazing Kiwi creatives including writers, production people, cast and crew. It took off from there!

News article - My life is murder - Lucy Lawless

Lucy Lawless as Alexa Crowe on location in Auckland, Greenstone Pictures

Auckland becomes a star and a character alongside Lucy’s character. How did you choose where to film across the region to create this dynamic?

So much of Auckland-based drama has tended to dwell in the suburbs – we wanted to be proudly urban, not suburban. The city's been having an extended facelift over the last few years and right now it's a lot of cones and road works and Aucklanders are a bit grouchy about their city.  But once the bandages come off, Aucklanders are going to find themselves living in a stunning urban environment.  

We wanted to give people a glimpse of Auckland without the bandages – remind folks how gorgeous our urban spaces can and will be.  Plus, it was an opportunity to visit some classic landmarks through fresh eyes and celebrate those too. 

So, we see Auckland War Memorial Museum, the Sky Tower, Maungawhau Mount Eden, Rangitoto Island, Piha Beach and the Waitākere Ranges. But we spend a lot of time by the water too – Westhaven Marina, Britomart and the Wynyard Quarter. My Life is Murder was an opportunity to show off Tāmaki Makaurau as a sparkling jewel of the Pacific.

This season has been described as a ‘love letter to Auckland’. How does it feel to showcase Tāmaki Makaurau on the world stage and why is this important for the region?  

International film shoots tend to spend most of their time in Auckland either in a studio, at Woodhill Forest or at Te Henga Bethells Beach. In my opinion, these locations have been over-exposed – going all the way back to Lucy's Xena: Warrior Princess days in the 1990s. Those locations continue to be on-screen internationally, but they are usually standing in for a fictional/fantasy/post-apocalyptic location. We deliberately avoided those spaces.  

It was so exciting to shoot Auckland as itself and to look for the beauty of that urban setting. We wanted the city to have its own distinct screen presence in the same way there are cinematic versions of San Francisco, or Paris, or New York that we love. We wanted Auckland to screen as somewhere you'd want to live.  

What were your favourite Auckland locations to shoot at and why? 

Shooting in and around Buoy Café at Westhaven Marina was a personal favourite. With the Auckland Harbour Bridge looming quite romantically behind and the marina and harbour, and the cityscape in the background, it looked like a best-kept secret spot that would have locals and global audiences reaching for Google maps. It wasn't the easiest location to shoot in, but on screen it looks beautiful, unique and fresh.  

What feedback have you received from international partners about Auckland’s presence on screen? 

They all want to visit! If only we could get some MIQ spaces.

What does Auckland offer filmmakers as a destination?  

Tāmaki Makaurau is a great combination of natural features and modern urban infrastructure. It also has a talented and motivated screen workforce, with highly skilled crews and creatives.

News article - My life is murder - Ebony Vagulans

Ebony Vagulans as Madison Feliciano on set in Auckland with Director, Katie Wolfe, Greenstone Pictures

What value do screen productions such as My Life is Murder bring to Auckland communities?  

There's a unique sense of pride we feel in seeing ourselves represented on the world stage. Whether it's through sport or through film, we find common cause to celebrate when we're visible internationally in a positive light. Whether it's The Piano, The Lord of the Rings, Sweet Tooth or My Life is Murder, it's a thrill to recognise our whenua on the world's screens.

There's also the dollar value of what productions spend locally and the job opportunities they bring to our region’s people, sometimes in unexpected ways. For example, for an episode of My Life is Murder, we reached out to Auckland’s drag community and cast some of the city's best drag performers in guest roles and hired many others as extras for club scenes. It was a very positive, affirming experience for the production and the community. We're very proud to have brought the community to primetime.

Why are productions such as My Life is Murder a valuable part of the screen pipeline in Auckland and New Zealand?  

The screen sector is an ecosystem. It works best and can contribute the most to wider economic and cultural goals when there’s a mix of productions – small, medium and large; documentary and drama; locally-created and international servicing. 

A local drama like My Life is Murder – supported by domestic and international financing – plays a meaningful part in that ecosystem. It gives, for example, a talented new writer their first produced script credit, uses dozens of services adjacent to the industry such as catering and accommodation, and hopefully also has a long tail of some positive tourism impact.

How do you think it could be made easier for filmmakers to film here?  

Film and television productions work at speed and are very efficient at scheduling and managing their footprints, but our location managers get exhausted by the consent processes for public spaces. These require the same requests being pitched to multiple actors in the same space. Streamlining the consent process so there is a one-stop shop for public spaces would be a massive help.

Why should and how can Aucklanders help support the region’s thriving screen sector?  

Aucklanders have proved pretty patient with film crews and that's much appreciated.

My Life is Murder is screening in New Zealand on TVNZ 1 and TVNZ OnDemand.

Video and images courtesy of Greenstone TV, 2021. 

Suggested Articles

Kei te hiahia kōrero atu anō?

Want to know more?

Get in touch