He is the Kiwi star of Boy and Pork Pie who stole the nation's hearts and was headed straight for Hollywood.
But a horrific car accident left award-winning actor James Rolleston's life hanging in the balance and his whanau preparing to say their last goodbyes.
More than a year on from the crash, Rolleston has described his miraculous survival in an hour-long documentary that follows his recovery from a traumatic brain injury, including relearning to walk and talk.
In the lead-up to the TVNZ 1 documentary Wait for Me Hollywood going to air tomorrow night, Rolleston told the Weekend Herald about rebuilding his career after the accident. "I was planning on going over to Hollywood to try and start my career over there," he said.
"Obviously I had this car accident and everything got put on hold. That's life I guess."
On July 26 last year, Rolleston was driving with his best mate Kaleb Maxwell, both 19, when he crashed into a bridge near his home town of Opotiki. Firefighters had to cut a seriously injured Rolleston free from the wreckage.
A month later, he woke up in Waikato Hospital's intensive care unit with no memory of the crash, a traumatic brain injury and compound fracture in his leg - injuries he is still recovering from.
Rolleston's memory is still impaired as a result of the head trauma, his emotions are affected and he gets tired easily.
"I thought my acting career was pretty much over. I lost a lot of hope," he said.
"When I thought I wouldn't be able to act again it was very hard for me. Acting is all I know really. I've been doing it since I was 10 years old.
"My focus was only on [acting], I didn't have anything else to fall back on. There was no plan B."
Not long before the accident, Rolleston secured an American agent.
But, after a spate of unsuccessful auditions Rolleston said he had been losing hope of getting a break in the US.
"I thought I didn't have what it takes. My manager would just tell me 'keep going James, one will bite, one will bite'."
Sure enough, two days before the crash, Rolleston's manager received the news they had all been waiting for. The young actor had landed a role in a movie that was set to be directed by American filmmaker Robert Rodriguez.
"I didn't actually know [before the crash]. I found out maybe a month or two after I woke up from a coma in hospital," said Rolleston, who didn't even remember auditioning for the film.
"My manager and Cliff Curtis told me that I had actually landed that role. Obviously I was bummed out."
Determined to continue acting and pursue his dream of going to Hollywood, Rolleston turned his focus to getting back to where he was before the crash.
During his time in rehab, he relearned to walk and talk and focused on tasks that were relevant to his everyday life such as learning lines.
"That was the one thing that I didn't lose. I'd forget appointments; I'd forget a lot of things ... but [not] learning lines and scripts," he said.
"So, that was awesome."
However, the now 20-year-old said he sometimes struggled to convey emotion when acting, as a result of the head trauma.
"But I feel this car accident has given me a lot to reach from, you know like hard [times] that I've been through, which I can use in my acting."
Rolleston finished speech therapy a few months ago and said his "speech has come a long way, which is a confidence booster for me".
He is still having occupational therapy to help him get back to an independent lifestyle and some physiotherapy.
"Lucky for me, I've had the best support around me and I've been able to make massive improvements," he said. "[But] there are definitely still areas that I need to take time to work on."
Alongside his rehabilitation, Rolleston spent time working in the community sharing a road safety message with young people. In August, he was sentenced in the Opotiki District Court after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing injury. He was sentenced to 200 hours community work, 12 months supervision and disqualified from driving for a year.
All things considered, Rolleston was determined to do the documentary.
"I wanted to do this doco because I thought this was an opportunity to speak out to youth and the public about road safety, about the risks of dangerous driving," he said.
Rolleston admitted that filming the documentary had been difficult because he was still dealing with a number of issues after the accident.
"But I definitely feel lucky. Especially from what the doctors and nurses were saying about me, they think I'm a miracle and I think I am too."
Wait for Me Hollywood will screen in a Sunday special on TVNZ 1 tomorrow night.