Twelve Questions

Sarah Daniell poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions with Kirk Torrance

Kirk Torrance, ex-Commonwealth Games swimmer, was 28 years old when he was accepted into Toi Whakaari, the NZ Drama School. Now an award-winning playwright and actor, the 47-year-old, of Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairoa, lives in Auckland with his partner and five children.

Kirk Torrance says staunchness 'really gets on my tits'. Photo / Supplied
Kirk Torrance says staunchness 'really gets on my tits'. Photo / Supplied

1. How are you finding life after Outrageous Fortune?

You put a lot of work into getting work. I think after Outrageous there weren't a lot of places to go in New Zealand. You have to make things work. I keep writing plays and do a lot of workshops. I get scripts from people asking for my 10 cents worth. Core cast stuff - you just have to wait your turn. I don't want to move my family. To move your family overseas and start at the bottom, door knocking, would be too hard on the family.

2. Did you do all right out of OF - was it enough to relieve the financial tensions associated with the struggling artist?

I think I was the only one in the cast who didn't buy a house. But I've got the most kids. It was four to six months' employment. It's great because you get back to zero. Then you're waiting to hear if you go again and you have six months where it's often very slim. It sounds like you might be getting a grand amount, but the arts world is all about contracts and hustling for that next contract.

Some days I wake up with a bang and realise, shit, Christmas is coming up. It's a great leveller. You have to be resilient and you need to believe that something will come up.

3. How do you define wealth?

It's all to do with family. The wellness of my family. And that is it. How we're doing as a whanau and those we care about.

4. What's on your telly at home?

Our TV broke. So we don't have a TV. And I work in TV. When we had one we used to put it in the most difficult place to watch, because otherwise we'd watch it for hours. But all that meant was we were very uncomfortable for long periods of time. We watch on-demand stuff. A good drama is better than a good film. You get at least six hours. That's a good time to tell a story. You can do a detailed, well-thought-out story. You can develop good characters. I've really been enjoying Borgen. That was great. And you think, "Who'd watch a political drama about Denmark?" But it goes off its nut, man.

5. Speaking of political drama, who do you relate to in New Zealand politics? Who is eloquent about the issues important to you?

This government - can they honestly make any more stuff-ups? It's unbelievable. And I went into bat for David Shearer over the leadership battle with Cunliffe. But, they need a game-change. Hone Harawira - he's about being exclusive, not inclusive. When he first talked about the difficulty he would have with his daughter marrying a Pakeha boy, I found that very difficult. I've got a Pakeha step-daughter. She's my girl. I've known her since she was 7 and she's 18 now. By being associated with me she is associated with things Maori. It's already tough for her as a Pakeha girl. Those sorts of comments don't make it easier for her. I've got five kids - the two eldest kids could pass for any ethnic mix. Olive skinned and blue eyes. My littlest boy has blond hair and blue eyes. People wouldn't associate him with being Maori. But those negative connotations make it hard to get enthusiastic about that world.

6. What role have you ever played when you've said to yourself, I don't need to act for this one, it so closely resembles myself?

Fish Skin Suit was such a golden thing. That particular character and his inarticulate nature and his inability to deal with emotional issues - that would probably be closest to part of me. How he reacted to emotional demands - or tried to. He's like a lot of males of my era. It's something a lot of males of my generation have struggled with.

7. When do you let your hair down and what happens?

I feel like I've done that a lot and I don't need to do it any more. I did a lot of swimming when I was younger. It was a very rigid life. You'd train and build up to an event. And then when that event is over the teams go crazy. I look back and think, "Yuck". Now letting my hair down will be sitting out the back of a break with mates surfing. Or a bunch of us who play touch rugby. A bunch of fat old guys who think they can still play.

8. What was the single greatest lesson you learnt from Outrageous Fortune?

As an actor - and this is going to sound weird or negative - there's no such thing as talent. I think there's discipline, confidence and a little bit of luck. What I mean by that is, acting is a simple game, as long as you're honest and you're listening and you're being generous. When your ego gets involved, things go awry. Anyone who can apply those things can do it. You just practise. On Outrageous, we got six seasons to just practise. It doesn't happen a lot. We got to practise some really moving stuff. An amazing range - humour, tragedy, the whole dramatic gambit. We had time and we could do it. That's what made us good.

9. How would you complete this sentence: "I feel most at sea when I'm ... "

You know when you're about to walk into a room full of no one you know. Just before you push that door there's a little intake. There's that little pause, in that little fraction of a second. Then the rest of you catches up and pushes you through that door.

10. What do you see when you look in the mirror?

Wrinkles and blackheads. And a whole lot of grey.

11. What characteristic is the most overrated in a man?

Staunchness really gets on my tits. It's praised far too much. As a young guy growing up, the staunch thing was enormous - particularly with young Maori men in lower socio-economic families. If you weren't staunch by nature you had to fake it. And if you were faking it, you'd get caught and getting caught would be shit. Just the worst. You'd get your beans then. There's a couple of generations after me that are actually emotionally mature and articulate. It's no surprise gangs flourished in our generation.

12. You grew up in Dargaville, Hastings, Central Otago, and your creative voyage of discovery began in Wellington. How do you define home? Where is it?

Home is where the heart is. That sounds cheesy but it's true. My creative whakapapa is probably Wellington. Hone Kouka says that to me whenever I'm down there. That's where I belong. But home is where the heart is. Actors are like gypsies, moving all over the place. It doesn't matter, as long as my family is there.

- NZ Herald

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