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Cohen Holloway’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Cohen Holloway’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureMay 18, 2024

‘Stop laughing, I’m trying to kill someone’: Cohen Holloway on playing a serial murderer

Cohen Holloway’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)
Cohen Holloway’s life in TV (Image: Tina Tiller)

The star of Dark City: The Cleaner takes us through his life in TV, including the VHS revolution and the John Campbell impression that started it all. 

Best known for his comedic roles, Cohen Holloway says he struggled at times to maintain the stone cold facade of serial killer on the set of Dark City: The Cleaner. “You’re trying to keep in the zone of being a serial killer, but then someone will go ‘oh, I loved you in Eagle vs Shark’,” he says. “And then they start laughing and I’m like ‘stop laughing, I’m trying to kill someone’.”

Playing the role of Joe Middleton, unassuming cleaner at the local police station by day and twisted serial killer by night, Holloway says he often found it “quite weird” playing such a disturbed character. “It was pretty surreal,” he says. “You almost wanted to go home have a shower every night, and then you’d just have all these evil thoughts in the house by yourself.” 

Cohen Holloway in Dark City: The Cleaner. (Image: Supplied)

Still, with its deadpan one-liners and ridiculously gruesome set pieces, the Dark City script came with enough slashes of dark humour to satisfy Holloway’s comedic inclinations. Although he’s popped up in everything from Facelift to Find Me a Māori Bride, Fresh Eggs to Rūrangi, Holloway says Joe Middleton is by far the most exciting and challenging role he’s ever had. 

“Being the lead role and having to turn up to work with a certain standard and level of professionalism has felt very grown up,” he says. “Every day shooting it was amazing, even if I felt quite repulsed at myself.” Thankfully, a slightly less repulsive task was looking back at his own life in TV, including the power of VHS, his first gig on The Strip, and John Campbell impression that started it all. 

My earliest TV memory is… My mum and dad are huge fans of Coronation Street, and I remember the whole house had to be quiet when it was on. You’d hear that trumpet [actually a cornet!] and me and my brother would look at each other and know we had to shut up. When we got a bit older we started watching it too and I just remember being like “…what is this show?”

The show I would rush home from school to watch was… Me and my brother would watch whatever kids TV programme was back on in those days, whether it be Jason Gunn or Olly Ohlson. Every Friday there would be Asterix, which was a cartoon. That was so good. 

My first TV role was… The Strip. I was playing a love interest and I was so nervous, just fresh out of drama school into this role for three days. I had no idea of the process or what was going on. And now I’m in Dark City with Robbie [Magasiva] again so it’s like a Strip reunion. 

The Strip was Holloway’s first TV gig

A TV moment that haunts me is… I’ll never forget when VHS came around, and just how amazing it felt to go down to the local video store and pick a movie. Especially if you missed out on it the fist time because you were too young. We begged Dad to watch Jaws and he finally let us watch it when Mum was out on night shift. I found it really scary, but then I showed it to my kids recently and they just cracked up the whole time. 

My earliest TV crush was… Probably Daisy Duke. I saw an episode of Dukes of Hazzard on Jones about half a year ago and I suddenly saw all these flaws in the show. She’s on top of the track and then she jumps on to the orange car, and you could see it was very clearly a male stunt double. 

My favourite New Zealand television ad of all time is… I do love the classic Mainland cheese commercials – “good things take time” – they are just great. 

My TV guilty pleasure is… Sadly these days it’s all sport. Anything Black Caps or Hurricanes or All Blacks or the Warriors. I can also get sucked into watching reels for hours. 

My favourite TV character of all time is… Robin Williams as the alien Mork from Mork and Mindy. I couldn’t stop laughing every time he drank with his finger and those multiple personalities that he that he had. 

My most well-known impression is… Probably John Campbell on Facelift. That was the character they were looking for at the time so I did it and got the job, and then they kept asking me if I could do a bunch of other people… Richie McCaw, Winston Peters, Tana Umaga. Anyone with brown eyes or who was Māori, basically.

My most-watched television show is… Sadly, The Mandalorian because my kids love it. I’ll be making dinner while they are watching it and I’ll just get hooked. 

A show that I’ll never watch, no matter how many people say I should is… Dark City: The Cleaner. Terrible, I heard it has got the computer porn guy from Eagle vs Shark in it and he’s a real dick. 

The very last thing I watched on television was… I was channel surfing the other day and I got stuck watching the Sevens in Vancouver, it was pretty mean. 

Watch Dark City: The Cleaner Wednesday nights on Sky Open.

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