Richard Te Are as Teina Pora

What was your knowledge of Teina’s story before you got this role?

Doing all the researching for the audition I learned heaps about Teina and his story but prior to that I didn’t know anything. 

I guess that’s why it’s important this movie is made – New Zealander’s need to know his story.

What were the challenges of playing a role such as this?

There were definitely a few challenges. I was trying to honour him, trying to really serve the story with sensitivity but also, I have a job to do and my job is to make people feel a certain way about him. So my job isn’t to be him but to convey the essence of him. 

This is such a deep role with content so heavy, personally, it was a huge challenge to come back to myself after a day of work. That was a massive challenge, it got pretty dark there some nights.

Why do you think it is important to tell the story of Teina Pora’s experience with the NZ justice system?

To raise awareness that the NZ justice system isn’t perfect, and what happened to Teina will happen to others if the right procedures aren’t put in place.

How did you prepare for your role?

I took over the school library for two weeks. I utilised everything I’d learned at Toi, I gathered up all my workbooks and combined everything into what I hoped would work.

I came up with a plan of attack then flew up to Auckland to meet Michael Bennett (writer and director) and we combined what I’d prepared with what he’d prepared. Together we broke down the text and built up my version of Teina. 

Richard as the young Teina

The costume helped heaps, getting the right clothes does a huge job and then I can build his physicality around it. We created a map for his journey because I was going to have to flip between his different ages in the same day, play 17 and then 35. I got to spend time with the other actors to build up relationships. 

When I look back at it now, I was so lucky, Michael in particular was so generous with his time and expertise and I am incredibly grateful.

What was the most memorable aspect of being part of this experience?

I think it was the feeling that everyone that was there was really passionate about the work.

Everyone really put their best foot forward, people worked hard and everybody was prepared and working to be authentic. 

It was blood, sweat and tears but with so much heart and it really made me want to work as hard as I could. We took the time every morning to start with a karakia, it was powerful stuff. Feeling the love and the fierceness for it and wanting to do the very best for this powerful story.

In Dark Places premieres Sunday 22 July at 8.30pm on TVNZ 1.