About The Luminaries

Based on the best-selling novel The Luminaries tells an epic story of love, murder and revenge, as men and women travel across the world to make their fortunes. It is a 19th century tale of adventure and mystery, set on the Wild West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island in the boom years of the 1860’s gold rush.

The Luminaries stars Eva Green, Eve Hewson, Himesh Patel, Marton Csokas and Ewen Leslie.It was adapted for the screen by Eleanor Catton, directed by Claire McCarthy and produced by Lisa Chatfield.

Eva Green as Lydia Wells and Eve Hewson as Anna Wetherell

 About the New Zealand Screen Production Grant

The purpose of the New Zealand Grant is twofold:

  • To build the sustainability, scale and critical mass of the domestic film industry and support the development of New Zealand creatives.
  • To provide cultural benefits to New Zealand by supporting the creation of New Zealand content and stories.

New Zealand productions may access a cash grant of 40% of QNZPE on up to $15 million QNZPE (New Zealand Grant). The New Zealand Grant is capped at $6 million per production unless the production qualifies for an Additional Grant.

Eva Green as Lydia Wells

Fast Facts

The biggest New Zealand TV series based on a local story that has ever been made.

New Zealand was first in the world to premiere the series on TVNZ 1 on May 17. 

The series will be broadcast on BBC1 in June.

100% of the story takes place and was shot in New Zealand.

87% NZ cast, which provided 40 jobs for New Zealand actors.

96% NZ crew, which provided 603 jobs for New Zealanders.

Roughly 90% of the series takes place inside built sets.

4,000 research images used by the production designer and set decorator.

The 1860’s world was re-created in Auckland - including the Dunedin streets and Quay, the township of Hokitika, the ship Godspeedand a remote cottage in the Arahura Valley.

Key location filming took place in Hokitika at Lake Kaniere and Crooked River.

Just over $1 million spent on housing out of town cast and crew – often bringing home people for the series or relocating them from other parts of the country. 

Eve Hewson as Anna Wetherell

About the cast and crew


Without a doubt it was the power of Eleanor’s writing that built the partnership of internationally renowned television companies needed to enable the series to be made. Since this series was originally commissioned Eleanor has become an international screen writing talent. She wrote the screenplay for Working Title’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma, starring Anya Joy-Taylor, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighyand Miranda Hart which released in February 2020 to glowing reviews. The fact her first TV series credit is as writer and executive producer on the international adaptation of her own novel is a significant achievement.  


The series attracted a fantastic cast. International names –  

  • Eva Green (Casino Royale, Penny Dreadful, Dumbo)  
  • Eve Hewson (Bridge of Spies, The Knick, Robin Hood)  
  • Himesh Patel (Yesterday, The Aeronauts, EastEnders)  
  • Ewen Leslie (The Cry, Nightingale, The Gloaming).  

As well as a wonderful cast of New Zealanders - several of whom returned home for the series -

  • Marton Csokas (The Lord of the Rings : Return of the King, Into the Badlands, Divorce)  
  • Erik Thomson (800 Words, The Code, Storm Boy).  
  • Callan Mulvey (Underbelly, Avengers : Endgame, Mystery Road)  

And many we are lucky enough to have living here - 

  • Matthew Whelan (Go Girls, Top of the Lake, Narcos)  
  • Richard Te Are (In Dark Places, Danger Close, The Dead Lands)
  • Yoson An (Mulan, Fresh Eggs, Dead Lucky)
  • Joel Tobeck (One Lane Bridge, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Mortal Engines)
  • Gary Young (Outlander, Harry, Secret City)


The calibre of the performances, design, costume and cinematography in the series has been much praised by the BBC and Fremantle. Director Claire McCarthy, from Australia, harnessed a dynamic cast and a fantastic core creative team to shoot a truly challenging schedule with high end results. 

The Heads of Department and crew delivered amazing work – New Zealander Felicity Abbott returned home to production design after twenty years working in Australia and the US. The work of her and her team to re-create Dunedin and Hokitika in the mid-1860’s is exceptional and strongly based on reference images of the time from the National Library.  

The cinematography of Denson Baker (The Dark Horse) – returning to New Zealand to shoot the series – and his local team is fantastic. Having recently shot an episode of Victoria he came to the series with high ambitions and delivered on them.  

The detail and beauty in the costumes, hair and makeup is world class and made possible by the passion of the teams for the unique opportunity to work in this period of New Zealand history.  

Supporting all of this production work has been a post-production team that continued to deliver world-class work with significant visual effects work from Auckland company Assembly, music composed by Wellingtonian David Long, sound design from James Hayday who returned home from the UK for the series, and picture grading by colourist Alana Cotton.


The Luminaries premiered Sunday 17 May on TVNZ 1 at 8:30pm.

The full series is available now at TVNZ OnDemand