Nancy Brunning is an actress and director who has won awards in film and television and has made a major contribution to the growth of Māori in the arts. Her accolades include Best Actress awards on stage and screen. She won Best Actress at the NZ Film Awards for her lead role in the movie What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (1999), the sequel to cult classic Once Were Warriors. In 2000, she won Best Actress in Drama at the New Zealand Television Awards for her lead role in the television series Nga Tohu. Brunning is of Māori descent from the tribes of Ngati Raukawa and Ngai Tuhoe. She was the Acting Coach for the Oscar nominated short film Two Cars, One Night directed by Taika Waititi.
Brunning trained for two years at Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School (1990-1991).
After graduating, she played many leading roles in theatre, film and television. In 1992, she won the award for Most Promising Female Actor at the Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards for the all Māori women production Nga Wahine. She also became one of the most well known faces on New Zealand television in the role Jaki Manu in the soap Shortland Street and other programmes. In 1994, she appeared in the classic Nga Tangata Toa play written by Hone Kouka and directed by Colin McColl. Brunning also appeared on stage in major productions for the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts, the biggest arts event in the country, in productions such as Hide ‘n’ Seek (1992) (NZ and Australian tour) and Waiora (1996) (NZ, Brighton Festival and Hawai'i tours) and Blue Smoke. She played the role of Belle in the UK-NZ co-production of Beauty and the Beast (1998). A speaker of the indigenous Māori language, Brunning also worked as a theatre director, cultural advisor and script consultant. She received a Best Actress nomination at the 2009 Qantas Film & TV Awards for her role in the movie Strength of Water screenplay by Briar Grace-Smith.
Brunning has been directing theatre and stage dramas since 1995. Her first production was Briar Grace-Smiths first full length one woman show called "Nga Pou Wahine". She also collaborated with Briar on a Taki Rua Theatre production in 1996 called "Flat out Brown"; directed Maori language play "Te Ohaki a Nihe" written by Selwyn Muru and devised/directed with Briar again on a touring show called Waitapu also in 1996. She directed Women Far Walking written by Māori writer Witi Ihimaera. The play toured nationally and internationally to the UK. She was also assistant director with Nathaniel Lees on Awhi Tapu by Albert Belz for the Auckland Festival. She was Assistant Director on the play The Songmaker's Chair written by Albert Wendt and directed by Nathaniel Lees.
Brunning directed the short film Journey to Ihipa (2008) which screened at the New Zealand International Film Festivals and internationally including the Vladivostok Film Festival (2009) and in New York. The film starred veteran New Zealand actress Elizabeth McRae and Nathaniel Lees, and shot in the Ngai Tuhoe Māori community of Ruatahuna in the central North Island of New Zealand.
- Profile and Screenography at NZ On Screen
- Nancy Brunning at the Internet Movie Database
- Interview with Nancy Brunning on her first play Hikoi, Standing Room Only, Radio New Zealand National, 2015