Hollywood star Cliff Curtis may be famous for playing just about every ethnicity under the sun.
But it's his commitment to indigenous storytelling that is seeing him recognised at the Kea World Class New Zealand Awards tonight.
"I make a living doing Hollywood stuff, which is great. But my commitment to Māori storytelling is really what defines my purpose," Curtis said.
Students from a number of schools gathered at Studio West in Auckland today to hear from the actor and producer, ahead of the awards night.
Curtis was wearing track-pants and jandals, telling the students, "it's not very razzle-dazzle or fancy, it's just me."
He's set to star in James Cameron's Avatar sequels.
Last month, director Cameron told 1 NEWS he had asked Curtis to provide advice on how to incorporate an alien 'haka' into the new movies that are partly being filmed in New Zealand.
"I get to represent the indigenous story. It's a very important thing to me," Curtis said.
"On-screen in Hollywood, I used to be defined by the colour of my skin. I got to play other brown people, that meant that I played latin roles or Middle Eastern roles, any person of colour.
"But my career's evolved beyond that. Also the business has evolved where roles are not necessarily defined by the colour of skin anymore.
"I can be a leading man, and be brown and be of no particular ethnicity."
He says it represents a shift in the industry.
"But it's also a testament to perseverance and determination really."