He may be back on US television playing a guy who lives and works in Los Angeles at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. But at least Cliff Curtis isn't having an identity crisis. His character in The Walking Dead prequel, Fear the Walking Dead, is Maori.
He's Travis Manawa, high school English teacher of Maori descent.
"It's not made a big deal of," Curtis tells TimeOut in Los Angeles. "But it is pretty cool knowing that. I'm playing an American primarily, so there's nothing obviously Maori about him.
Apart from, well, we'll see what happens. It's the first time I've not been asked to cover up my moko, my body art."
The character wasn't written as Maori, but when the possibility of giving him that lineage emerged, Curtis, who has Ngati Hauiti and Te Arawa tribal affiliations, was excited to pursue it.
"We were talking about backgrounds and stuff like that and [ executive producer Dave Erickson] goes 'What if he was Maori? How would that work?' And I said, 'Ah well, it's completely possible.' We've got Maori who come up through Hawaii and stuff. They cross over into San Diego and San Francisco, and some go to Utah, some go to Vegas. It's completely possible. I've met contractors here, builders and roofers, who are Maori."
It's the first time Curtis' Maori heritage has factored into a character he's played in an American production since the 1999 sci-fi thriller Virus. He's played a wide variety of ethnicities - his next feature is Risen in which he plays Jesus - in American productions over the years.
Cliff Curtis features on the cover of this week's TimeOut:
"[Travis] was probably born here. We're working on the idea that his grandmother or grandfather came over, and he's like a second generation [American].
"I think it's kinda cool, because it sort of says that they were casting me as an actor and my approach to the work, not because of the colour of my skin or whatever. Which for me is the greatest compliment. And the idea of building that aspect of me into the character - I was like 'Cool! Great!'"
When TimeOut spoke to Curtis, he was wearing a traditional Maori textile belt, made for the actor by his sister. He went on to explain that the belt became part of his Fear The Walking Dead character's wardrobe after being spotted by the costuming department.
"They've been embracing [my Maori heritage] as part of who he is. I have no idea where they're gonna go with it or what they're going to do with it, but we'll see."
Unlike its parent series, which began several months after the collapse of civilisation, Fear The Walking Dead chronicles the onset of the zombie outbreak on the American West Coast.
As Travis and his guidance counsellor girlfriend Madison (Kim Dickens - House of Cards, Gone Girl) set about trying to corral their respective teenage children, the world begins to crumble around them.
Working on the programme led Curtis to consider how New Zealand may be reacting to the crisis.
"I've thought about that. And I sort of think, if you turn the power off where I come from, it's like 'all right, go light a fire. I'm going to get in the kayak and catch some fish.' I just kind of feel like we would fare much better back home. I'd much rather be there than here, 'cause it would be really scary here. It's a massive city with millions of people where the infrastructure can barely keep humanity going in any case. So when it falls, it's going to be a nightmare."
In addition to the earlier timeline, it is the nature of the people who Fear The Walking Dead follows that sets it apart from The Walking Dead.
"The characters that you could have in this genre type world - there are the archetypes of the cop, or we could be military, or we could be scientists. This revamping of the franchise could've gone in any direction. They chose high school teacher and high school counsellor. So it's really something that is common and ordinary and normal, and we're just ill-equipped, ill-prepared and probably not at all likely so succeed in the apocalypse, so that gives us further to travel. I love it."
Though Curtis' last TV series - 2014's Gang Related - failed to make much of an impact and was cancelled after one season, season two of Fear The Walking Dead has already been ordered. It speaks to the fervour that surrounds the hugely popular zombie property.
"Undeniably, there's a little excitement. I told some people back home in New Zealand that I was looking at this project and they started screaming at me. They started speaking in tongues and I was like, 'What is going on?'
"So undoubtedly, there's excitement about being a part of such a successful franchise. And then you take a step back. As an actor we learn to take nothing for granted. Whatever it looks like from the outside, on the inside it's a very humbling profession. You take so many knocks and your expectations get jacked up so many times throughout your career and you get disappointed so many times."
Who: Cliff Curtis
What: Fear The Walking Dead
When and where: Premieres on SoHo at 8.30pm on Monday, August 24