New Zealand-born actor KJ Apa says his first ever role, in Shortland Street at the age of 16, gave him the technical training he needed to be where he is today.
In an interview with actress Demi Moore, KJ Apa blasts the "New Zealand tall poppy syndrome" and says he didn't want to stay in the country.
"In New Zealand, it's hard to be yourself if you're not confident enough," he said, in his chat with Demi Moore published in Interview Magazine.
"I was 16 when I started on a soap called Shortland Street. I had no idea what I was doing but I became a machine at learning lines, which came in handy because they shoot 25 scenes a day. It gave me the technical training that I needed. I felt like you did, in that I didn't really want to stay there," he told Moore.
"I didn't want to stay in New Zealand, full stop. There's this thing in New Zealand called tall poppy syndrome, where if you stand out, if you want to do anything too big or you dress weird, people give you s**t and try to cut you down. I remember going to LA for the first time and being like, 'Holy s**t. This is what it's like to be in a place where you can dress how you want. No one cares if you're gay or straight'," the actor added.
After his first time on camera in Shortland Street, KJ Apa landed his role in Riverdale when he was 18 years old.
"I almost don't remember who that guy was. I was so naïve. I hadn't even had a drink yet," he said of that time.
Despite his issue with the way he says New Zealand perceives and reacts to successful people, the act says that, deep down, it'll always be his home.
"Deep in my heart, my home is in New Zealand. But when people ask me nonchalantly [where I'm from], I usually say LA. That's my sanctuary right now. My place of rest," he told Demi Moore.
In the interview, the Indecent Proposal actress asks KJ Apa what people would really know about him, if they knew him well.
"You would know that I stand by every big decision I've made in my life," he told her.
KJ Apa and Demi Moore co-star in "Songbird", directed by Michael Bay, which was released last October.