Actor Rawiri Paratene reflects on how the industry has changed for Māori over his almost 50-year career

Acting great Rawiri Paratene has reflected how the landscape has changed for Māori and Pacific actors over his long career as he prepares to front a bi-lingual kids’ stage show that will tell Māori myths as well as fairy tales like The Ugly Duckling.

Mr Paratene said when he started in the industry almost 50 years ago there was four Māori actors.

“When I started a long time ago, almost 50 years ago now, there was really no industry let alone a Māori segment of that industry,” he told TVNZ1’s Breakfast.

“There were very few Māori women, the Māori men that I can remember at that time were George Henare, Don Selwyn, Jim Moriarty and me and I was young.”

In the almost half a century since, the industry has exploded with Māori actors and directors now global stars.

“The industry has just gone crazy and now Māori and Pasifika actors have more of an opportunity to make it big on the world stage than any others,” he said.

“That’s proven time and again by the people that do, Taika (Waititi), Cliff (Curtis) and so on.”

After starring in acclaimed films like Footrot Flats and Whale Rider, Mr Paratene has enjoyed a stage career that has taken him around the world.

He was the only Kiwi actor among an international cast who travelled to 196 countries with The Globe Theatre to mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and also led a Te Reo Māori version of the play, Troilus and Cressida.

Mr Paratene explained that his new show, Kōrero Pūrākau – Māori Storytelling, which starts next week at the PumpHouse Theatre is more than just Māori myths and legends.

“It’s not just Māori stories, the program I’ve called tale feathers, as in tale, see what I did there,” Mr Paratene said.

“I’m including in that the story of The Ugly Duckling, The Goose That Lay the Golden Egg, The Little Nightingale, a story I wrote, The Tui and The Sparrow and a traditional story, The Battle of the Birds, about the sea birds and the land birds.”

Mr Paratene said he loved stories from across the South Pacific and not just Māori stories and he felt obligated to tell them.

“I love our own stories, not just Māori kaupapa, but stories from the Pacific as well,” he said.

“An obligation (to tell them) because I’m Māori, an obligation because they’re damn good yarns, an obligation because the audiences enjoy them.”

School groups can see the show at the PumpHouse Theatre during visits next week while there are tickets available for public shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The star of Whale Rider has reflected on the changes for Māori actors over his almost 50 years in the industry as he prepares to front a new bi-lingual stage show for kids. Source: Breakfast