One of New Zealand's most well-known faces.
Ginette McDonald grew up in a large Irish-Catholic family in Wellington. Aged 15, already caught by the acting bug, she began acting professionally on stage and radio.
Future television sensation Lyn of Tawa - the character most associated with McDonald - was born soon after. Playwright Bruce Mason heard McDonald playing around with accents backstage. Keen to see more New Zealand accents on stage, he suggested she contribute to revue show Knickers. She came up with Lyn of Tawa; together Mason, McDonald and playwright Roger Hall cooked up successful sketches for the gormless character from an outer Wellington suburb.
McDonald made her screen debut in 1971 alongside Bruno Lawrence, in an episode of landmark Kiwi drama show Pukemanu. She played a runaway private schoolgirl who falls in with a biker gang.
Five years in England followed. She played a maid in a BBC adaptation of Katherine Mansfield story At the Bay and a lead role in TV play Sweeping Plains.
When McDonald returned to New Zealand in 1976, a new soap opera Close to Home had started. Producer Ross Jennings offered her a part as "a 38-year-old nymphomaniac housewife from Te Puke", she said yes, and did not regret it.
Lyn of Tawa became a national celebrity with scripts written by Ginette's brother Michael. Lyn proved so successful that a one-off special followed, then her own series. There were also appearances at a Royal Variety Concert (she told the Queen "God Bless You. We all love you, eh").
Lyn would become both a calling card, and a millstone around the versatile McDonald's neck, thanks to constant demands for her return. Meanwhile she was winning awards for other roles - a Feltex Award in 1979 for Its Your Child Norman Allenby; another for her Pioneer Women portrait of Hera Ngoungou, a P?keh? bought up M?ori.
McDonald's time in London had spawned the desire to get behind the cameras. She debuted as a producer and director on the last series of Gliding On (she had originally played Beryl in Glide Time, TV's first adaptation of the Roger Hall play). She went on to direct for Close to Home, Open House and Country GP.
1986 kidult series The Fire-Raiser marked the start of "a beautiful professional partnership" between McDonald and director Peter Sharp. The Fire-Raiser won awards in Australia and America, plus GOFTAs back home for director, best drama, best children's programme, and Maurice Gee's script.
McDonald then "poured her energy and passion" into Peppermint Twist, a colourful, part-musical portrait of 60s teenagers.
McDonald's hopes of maturing into "a raddled, chain-smoking senior drama producer" faced setbacks after Television New Zealand closed its in-house drama department.
Lyn of Tawa was reborn in 90s shows In Search of the Great New Zealand Male and Visual Symphonies. The decade saw McDonald continuing to act, produce, and present occasional one-off documentaries. She produced TV adaptations of Riwia Brown's play about pregnancy Nga Wahine, and Robert Lord's decade-spanning Joyful and Triumphant. McDonald also co-starred opposite Rawiri Paratene in TV gambling tale Dead Certs, and produced Face Value, a trilogy of solo pieces; she also took centre stage in one of them, Her New Life, a finalist at both the Banff and New York TV Festivals.
There was also an extended run as presenter of gardening show Ground Force. In 2007 McDonald was made an ONZM (Officer of the Order of New Zealand) for services to entertainment. Soon after, she returned to Downstage Theatre, to star in one-woman play My Brilliant Divorce. In 2011 she appeared in the in the tele-movie Rage - about the 1981 Springbok Tour.