What Happened To ‘The Princes of Auckland’?

The Princes of Auckland cast. (Top row: Grayson, Lewis and Ardon. Bottom row: Alex, Zakk and Anrione.)
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In early 2018 express ran a story on the gay reality TV pilot that was being pitched as a gay-male version of the Real Housewives of Auckland. Four years on express sits down with creator Lewis Rowe to find out what went wrong for ‘The Princes of Auckland’?

It felt like car dealership owner Lewis Rowe could be on the brink of national stardom, when he had the idea for ‘The Princes of Auckland’, a slice of reality tv that would showcase the lives of several young gay men in Auckland. 

I had the idea after watching several reality shows,” he tells us his intended cast were all from different backgrounds, and he wanted to tell the story of, “how they came to achieve what they were doing, talk about the obstacles they had to overcome, our journeys with mental health and where we were all heading. I also wanted to get their families involved to really talk about their childhoods and backgrounds.”

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The concept felt like a pipe dream for Rowe, who had no experience of creating television, until he met Lisa Burd (a field producer and caster for ‘The Real Housewives of Auckland’) at Gilda Kirkpatrick’s house on the night of the show’s season finale.

“We got talking and I raised the idea of a reality show based around gay men. I already had a concept in my head and some of the people I thought would want to be involved and would work well on camera,” explains Rowe.

Burd liked the concept and knew the right people to help Rowe mould his idea into a TV pilot. Rowe, meanwhile, turned to his friends to establish his dream cast.

We had a fun and diverse cast,” he tells us, “with the likes of Designer Zakk D’Larte, Samuel Levi (who had already been on Married At First Sight), hair & makeup artist Grayson Coutts, Maori TV presenter Luke Bird, boxer Ardon England, Fashion Designer Antoine Ogilvie, Stylist Sidd Bahree, budding singer Alex Mazzone-Pitt and myself.”

An 18-minute pilot was created to give potential networks and funders a taste of the show’s potential. In it, the boys talk about their pasts, presents and hopes for the future. There are disagreements over Samuel Levi’s fashion sense, Antion’e’s mum gushes with pride and Ardon England enters (and loses) a charity boxing match, all narrated by the charismatic Luke Bird.

Rowe tells us that the entertaining pilot was,put in front of most networks and rounds of funding. It seemed to garner a lot of positive attention, but unfortunately, it wasn’t picked up at that time.”

Lewis Rowe filming ‘The Princes of Auckland’.

Rowe feels that a key issue that stopped The Princes of Auckland from getting funded was because he and his co-creators wanted to make a more authentic product than the networks were really looking for.

“Getting funding for NZ-made content is always difficult and what we had pictured for the show was a documentary show first, with a reality tv edge. Rather than a gay version of Real Housewives which wasn’t the direction some of the networks saw it going in,” explains Rowe, clarifying, “we were keen to tell our true authentic stories and not fabricate them too much!”

While the Princes’ future fell flat, Rowe still believes passionately in his concept and the ability for a show like ‘Princes’ to succeed. “Maybe some of the original cast is too old and boring now, but I certainly do (believe in it),” he says with a cheeky laugh.

“The more we can talk about the rainbow community and show us in mainstream media, and promote how people from diverse backgrounds can achieve big things, the better things are for the younger people out there in Auckland, the regions and across the world!

“No matter your gender or sexuality, it is a positive, and it should never hold you back from doing the amazing things you want to do!” He says defiantly.

So where are the Princes cast now?

“I have continued to run and grow my business through what has been a challenging time for everyone with Covid, bought a house and eaten my way through this Pandemic! Ardon has grown his boxing business and moved to Wanganui, Alex completed his Bachelor’s, Luke and Grayson are continuing to do amazing things in their chosen fields, Samuel has moved to Melbourne and fallen in love, Sidd is in London and Zakk is still an incredible member of the LGBTQ+ scene.

“Everyone has continued to succeed and grow into amazing young men, and I really wish we could have shown that journey to our audience!”

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