Michael Eric Hurst, ONZM (born 20 September 1957) is a New Zealand actor, director and writer, mostly on stage and television. He is probably best known internationally for playing Iolaus in the television programs Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and companion series Xena: Warrior Princess. Most recently, he is known for his role in directing the popular Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand.
Hurst was born in Lancashire, England, the eldest of three brothers. When he was seven his family moved to Christchurch, New Zealand. He enrolled at Papanui High School, then University of Canterbury, but for only one year.
He married New Zealand actress Jennifer Ward-Lealand in 1988. They have two sons: Jack Louis Ward Hurst, born in 1997, and Cameron Lane Ward Hurst, born in 1999.
In 1984, Hurst won the lead role of David Blyth’s Death Warmed Up, New Zealand’s first splatter movie. The plot saw Hurst’s character weathering institutionalisation, sundry wackos, and a motorcycle chase in the tunnels below Waiheke Island. The film won the grand prize at a fantasy film festival in Paris. The same year Hurst began playing drummer Dave Nelson over two series of Heroes, about a band searching for fame.
Crime thriller Dangerous Orphans (1986) is the first film in which Hurst co-starred with real-life partner Jennifer Ward-Lealand (he had already acted with her on-stage). Hurst was one of three grown orphans caught up in a mission to one-up various criminal figures; Ward-Lealand played romantic interest to one of the other orphans.
Hurst would work with Ward-Lealand again on his next three features, 1992’s The Footstep Man, 1993’s Desperate Remedies, and I’ll Make You Happy in 1999. In 1993, he starred alongside Australian Sophie Lee and Brit Greg Wise in TV thriller Typhon’s People. Hurst played a European mystery man uncovering the truth behind corporate genetic meddling. The script was by author Margaret Mahy.
Hurst went on to co-star in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys with Kevin Sorbo, playing nimble sidekick Iolaus to Sorbo’s Hercules.
Hurst made his feature debut as a director with Jubilee (2000), based on the book by Nepi Solomon. The film stars Cliff Curtis as a kind-hearted procrastinator who gets the chance to prove himself by organising a 75th jubilee.
Hurst followed Jubilee by directing Love Mussel, an acclaimed one off satire for television. Written by Braindead’s Stephen Sinclair and starring Kevin Smith, Love Mussel is a mockumentary about a fictional township which erects a monument to a shellfish with Viagra-like properties.
In 2003, Hurst was awarded an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award. He was later designated an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2005 “for services to film and the theatre”.
In 2015, after critically acclaimed runs in New Zealand and at the 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Michael Hurst is Director of The Generation of Z: Apocalypse which is a high-velocity theatre experience being brought to a purpose-built venue in East London from 4 April 2015 to July 2015. “A lot of the reviews have said “immersive theatre into overdrive”. “Video game, only live.” It has those qualities. There are choices where the audience can affect the outcome of scenes which is quite a new thing. It flows very easily depending on which choice they make.” Interview with London Theatre1