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Another Gizzy actor joins hit series

TWO East Coast women will be coming to a TV near you as part of the South Auckland O'Kane whanau at the centre of the hit show Head High.

Te Ao o Hinepehinga Rauna returns this season as Aria O'Kane while Roimata Fox enters the fray this season as Ngahuia, the cousin of Miriama McDowell's Renee O'Kane.

Both actors said it was a dream come true to be starring in a show with a Maori whanau and values at its core.

“Coming from home where first 15 (rugby) is such a big thing, it's like watching the Shortland Street of us,” said Fox.

She had never had so much fun on set, she said, and watching actors like Rauna develop their craft was exciting for the future of Maori representation on television and in film.

“I can't wait for the day I get an audition with a name and no ethnicity attached to it.”

Before her audition for the show, she went back to watch the first season, she said.

It was initially for research but, it's “so good I got the popcorn out”.

“It's just phenomenal. I see family and our culture really being promoted. . . it's not a diluted Maori family.”

Rauna said she felt “very lucky” to work on a show that so closely aligned with her values.

“It's not a story you get to see on TV every day. It's a true representation of who we are as people, not to be based on a comedy-based archetype that doesn't really represent us.”

Head High was Rauna's first step into TV acting. Her ambition is to be a powerful storyteller and she would prefer to avoid the clout and fame of being famous if she could.

That might be a big ask for a young actor with such a promising future.

From her work on Head High, she landed a role in Shortland Street and is enjoying a holiday in Mexico after wrapping up shooting for a yet-to-be announced show.

Rauna never planned to be an actor but her agent kept putting her up for auditions, so she thought “why the hell not?”

Growing up, she didn't see Maori represented on the screen and it took time to break down the apprehension of joining a predominantly Pakeha industry.

“It was really special for me to be a part of a production that centres around Maoridom.

“We want to give a true representation of our people and who we are.”

Through the hustle and bustle of the last year working as a full-time actor, she said her ideal job had changed.

Previously, she wanted to be a superhero in a Marvel movie.

Now her dream role is to be a lead in a Taika Waititi film.

As someone who isn't trained in acting, Rauna said her biggest advice for anyone wanting to enter the industry was to watch your performance in the finished product.

It took a while to get over the uneasiness of seeing herself but it was the best way to learn and grow as an actor, she said.

“It's about getting over that ego and voice in your head to see what could be changed.

“I watched my scenes five or six times before I could do that. There was a lot of cringing and looking away.”

The second season of Head High will focus more on the everyday family life of the O'Kanes after the first season focused on the whanau responding to trauma, she said.

“You get to know these people as individuals — their hopes and desires. If you pay close enough attention, you can notice the changes.”

Head High season two starts on Three on August 9 at 8.30pm.

Season one is available on Three Now.

STARRING ROLES: East Coast actors Roimata Fox (left) and Te Ao o Hinepehinga Rauna in a scene from the upcoming second series of Head High. Fox's character Ngahuia is a new face on the show while Rauna returns as Aria O'Kane, whose family is at the centre of the New Zealand-made drama. Picture supplied by South Pacific Pictures
Roimata Fox, Te Ao o Hinepehinga Rauna