Twelve Questions
Jennifer Dann poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve questions with actor Fasitua Amosa

By Jennifer Dann

Actor Fasitua Amosa plays the Rev Sykes in Auckland Theatre Company’s To Kill A Mockingbird. The 34-year-old son of a Samoan church minister has done TV, film and stand-up comedy but says theatre is his first love.
Actor Fasitua Amosa, who plays Reverend Sykes in the Auckland Theatre Company production of To Kill a Mockingbird. Photo / Michael Craig
Actor Fasitua Amosa, who plays Reverend Sykes in the Auckland Theatre Company production of To Kill a Mockingbird. Photo / Michael Craig

1. Where did you grow up?

In a little country town in Canterbury called Pleasant Point. Dad was the Presbyterian minister. There was only one other Samoan in the village so it was a bit of a culture shock moving up to Auckland when I was 13. I went to Kelston Boys' High and had never been surrounded by so many brown people.

I kept so quiet most people didn't realise I could speak English until I won the third form speech competition. Boys told me I sounded like a white farmer. They'd be like, "Wassup?" and I'd be like, "Gidday mate. How'r ya goin'? Good as gold."

2. Were you brought up as devout Christians?
We had a very Christian, very Pacific upbringing. It was very strict. Hierarchy was always observed. We were only allowed to speak Samoan indoors. I'm the middle son of five boys and usually ended up doing chores with Mum.

At school I always got in trouble for talking too much. I get that from Dad.

He's a chief and his oratory style is quite poetic. Mum's part Chinese and has a really strong work ethic.

She was one of the pioneers in changing Pacific diets. She helped Professor Boyd Swinburn research the diets of Pacific church communities back in the late 90s when everyone was eating povi masima - basically cheap fatty meat in brine which was a major cause of obesity.

3. When did you realise you wanted to be an actor?

For a lot of Pacific Islanders, Sunday School is their first drama school. White Sunday is very competitive. Each family is invited to do their own items; they might do a speech and a skit and a song.

That's why the day goes on and on. And it's high stakes stuff. If you stuff up, a jandal will literally be thrown at you. I had the lead role in my high school show. It was terrible but a good excuse to hang out with girls.

Kelston Girls was just up the road and on the walk to school there was a point in the middle where all the boys and girls would hurl insults at each other. I wondered why we were yelling at them when we didn't even know them.

I'd always planned to join the army since seeing Navy Seals with Charlie Sheen at 10 but I went off the idea when I discovered that I really hate running. So I took up a friend's suggestion to audition for Unitec drama school.

4. You're currently acting in To Kill A Mockingbird. Do you think much of the play, set in segregated 1930s America, remains relevant today?

It's still very relevant in terms of racial tensions today. That's what's so sad. Look at the number of young black people in America who get shot within seconds of looking like they were doing something versus white killers who shoot up schools and movie theatres and not only survive the arrest but get bought Burger King by the cops.

Donald Trump supporters want to "Make America great again ... " What they mean by 'great' is the America of the 1950s when you had formalised white supremacy. 5 What about here in New Zealand?

Acknowledging past wrongs is always a tricky subject to bring up without people taking it personally. There's a resistance to teaching New Zealand history. We leap straight from the Treaty of Waitangi to Gallipoli to today, but there was so much in between that people need to know.

6. Have you ever experienced racism?

As a kid, I had white people call me nigger to my face. Playing rugby you'd often hear, "Get that black bastard". I used to go out with a woman who drove a BMW. She'd want to lend me her car but if I was wearing a hoodie I'd say no because I knew I'd get pulled over by the cops.

My brother got pulled over all the time when he owned a BMW.

7. You've managed to support yourself as a professional actor since graduating from Unitec. What role are you recognised for most often?

Auckland Daze, which started as a web series and then moved to TV.

Millen Baird, who wrote the show, asked me to play an actor named Fasi who was trying to get into stand-up comedy but was really shit. I wasn't sure if that was going to help my career but I trusted Millen and it worked out.

8. You were nominated for Best Newcomer at the Comedy Festival in 2010. Why did you try stand-up?

I'd got to a point where I wasn't feeling nervous on opening nights and needed something to light that fire when I walked past a stand-up comedy poster saying, "Do you have what it takes?" I have never been as nervous as I was for that first gig. I did stand-up for about two years but found solo shows a bit lonely.

9. You've worked in TV, film, comedy and theatre. Which is your favourite medium?

Theatre. It's generally regarded as the purest form of acting. It's so immediate. Last night I was on stage with 800 people sitting just metres away.

With some lights and costumes you've transported them into 1930s America. I love the live element; there's no stopping to fix things if a prop breaks or someone drops a line. You have to be on your toes and roll with it. Some of the best moments in theatre come from when things fail.

10. Which are your favourite plays?

I'm a huge fan of American plays. Their dialogue is so well written. Americans are able to have conversations you'd never have in New Zealand. We take things so personally so quickly. I was in New York recently and heard two guys having it out in the middle of the street. One guy was saying, "Your problem is you've just got to care more!"

I particularly enjoyed doing an American play called The Motherf***** with the Hat a couple of years ago. My character was obviously the villain but his justifications were so logical the audience found themselves agreeing with him even though his morals were completely flawed. I heard people arguing in the foyer afterwards. It's great to spark those conversations.

11. Do you have any hobbies?

I'm into motorbikes. Quite a few actors have motorbikes so we've started a club with me, Robbie Magasiva and about 20 others. We have one girl - Amber Rose. We all have different bikes. I've got a Honda 750. I'm doing a course in motorbike mechanics.

Most people have a creative outlet but because I work in a creative industry I need a methodical outlet. I've managed to pull an engine apart but I haven't put it back together again. So it's like I'm 8 again pulling Dad's typewriter to pieces.

12. What will we see you in next?

I play one of the bumbling bad guys in an updated series of Terry Teo and I'm in Dirty Laundry, a new show by the makers of Filthy Rich.

- NZ Herald

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