Actor Richard Crouchley’s mind is in perpetual motion. One of the tricks to life, he says, is to always stay curious. “Being curious about other people keeps you open and empathetic.” It also leads to new possibilities. “The world has been created by normal people who are just curious about something and then decide to go out and figure it out, invent something, or do something.”

Crouchley says he likes to “look at the layers underneath what is happening”. As an actor, he finds himself doing so all the time. “Figuring out why someone does something is a lot more interesting and useful than focusing on their surface-level actions,” he says. Momentum is important too. “As humans, it’s easier to keep something going at a sustainable pace than stop and start again. Your health, career, social life, anything. If you can build on previous wins, it’s like compound interest.”

The 24-year-old Pinnacle Programme alumnus graduated from Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington’s Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School in 2019 and quickly went on to star in the TV miniseries Black Hands, which tells the story of the days leading up to the Bain family murders in Ōtepoti Dunedin in June 1994.

* Part one: Depth of focus
* Part two: Front of mind
* Part three: Advocating for climate justice
* Part four: Telling jokes about the weather
* Part five: Tamara Stratton is engineering humanitarian solutions
* Part six: Making a stand
* Part seven: Against the Flow
* Part eight: Kate Higham wants to turn the tide on global warming

After a long audition process, Crouchley secured the lead role of David Bain, the only surviving family member. He prepared intensely, studying court documents and footage of Bain’s mannerisms. He also lost 10kg by eating only fruit and multivitamins for several weeks. Crouchley recalls thinking at the time: “This is exactly the type of work that I want to be doing, with complex psychology. I want to be able to go deep into the character.”

Now flatting in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Crouchley grew up on a small farm in Te Ānau and is the youngest of six. There are no other actors in the family, but mum Joy is a teacher who wrote plays for the local primary school. As a child, Crouchley loved watching TV, but spent most of his time in nature. “I loved being outside, climbing trees,” he recalls. “As I got a bit older, I started learning different things, like how to make films by myself on YouTube.”

He joined the Pinnacle Programme after a school careers advisor mentioned an information evening being held in Waihōpai Invercargill. Crouchley and some friends from Fiordland College travelled down to learn more. Today, he recommends the programme “without a doubt”.

“The people you meet drive you to become your best self. The opportunities you’re given really help you fulfil that potential,” he says. “I think one of the biggest benefits is it really shifts your mindset that big goals are achievable. It’s varied, as well. It doesn’t just focus on leadership skills, but on finding your purpose and your ‘why’. Pinnacle is clearly committed to nurturing not just success, but people who are fully formed and multi-faceted. People who will thrive in whatever it is they do.”

Oddly for his profession, Crouchley says he doesn’t like attention. Photo: Jinki Cambronero

Seeing others in the later stages of the programme is inspiring, and activities such as Spirit of Adventure and Outward Bound help immensely with life skills. Crouchley says he also enjoyed the mix of people in the programme. “If you’re aware of aspects of other people’s lives, you’re going to be more fully formed and rounded as a person.

“And it’s not just about success. How you deal with failure is important, too,” he says. Dealing with disappointment is crucial in a career where auditions are part of the process. “Acting naturally has a lot of ebbs and flows. When you’re working, it’s a lot of big hours. And then there’ll be some downtime until the next role comes along.”

The actors Crouchley admires include Eddie Redmayne, Paul Mescal from Normal People, and George MacKay from 1917. They’re actors, rather than movie stars, and this resonates with his own approach. “It’s quite funny. I have these conversations with people, where I realise I don’t like attention – this is a weird career choice to get into. But honestly, [I do it] because I love the film world, and I am super curious about the lives of others. I hope to become a writer-director one day as well.”

In his latest project, A Mistake, Crouchley plays a surgeon alongside US actor Elizabeth Banks. The medical misadventure thriller is based on the novel by New Zealand author Carl Shuker. Banks is known for her comedy acting, and although Crouchley loves intense, psychological roles, he wouldn’t mind doing comedy himself one day. He’s had experience making people laugh – when he was a kid, his three oldest brothers called on him to do Michael Jackson impressions at their weddings. “Whether they were laughing with me or at me is up for debate. I try to be a bit more contained now. I’ve learned it’s sometimes good to leave a few tricks up your sleeve.”

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