Emma Lahana is the latest Kiwi actor to hit the big time, thanks to a starring role in the new Marvel Comics television series Cloak & Dagger. The plum gig sees Lahana join the ranks of other Kiwi women fulfilling their Hollywood dreams, such as Rose McIver (iZombie) and Frankie Adams (The Expanse).
Although Lahana has been a working actor in Hollywood for some time and previously had prominent roles on cheerleading drama Hellcats and the supernatural series Haven, she acknowledges that a main character on a Marvel TV show represents an exciting new chapter in her career.
"Once you have the Marvel name attached to something, it changes the game," Lahana tells TimeOut during a sitdown in Los Angeles, where she's based. "It's a different level of quality. A lot of the time you'll sign on to something and you don't know what you're gonna get. With Marvel, a little bit of that uncertainty is taken away."
In the New Orleans-set Cloak & Dagger, Lahana plays Detective Brigid O'Reilly, a steely New York cop who comes into contact with the titular pair, a couple of super-powered teenagers.
"I didn't know what I was auditioning for. They give you fake audition sides and they don't tell you what show it is. It's just 'Untitled Marvel Project'. Once I heard that I was like 'Yeah great, I'll do it! I don't need to know what show it is.'"
Readers of the comic books know that O'Reilly becomes the super-powered character "Mayhem", but Lahana is coy on whether or not that's in the cards for the TV version.
"You're gonna have to watch aren't you? I can't give all my secrets away. I think the way that Brigid plays out is really interesting in season one and it'll give you a good tease for season two. I'll tell you that much."
Marvel fans are famously intense, but Lahana has some experience with that thanks to her time playing Yellow Ranger Kira on the New Zealand-shot Power Rangers Dino Thunder, a common breeding ground for young Kiwi talent.
"People still call me Kira, it drives me crazy," laughs Lahana. "I'm like, stop it!"
Prior to that, Lahana did a stint on Shortland Street as a teenager.
"Shortland Street was really the only New Zealand gig that I got. All my work in New Zealand after that was on American productions because I was told I was 'too American' to do New Zealand work, which I still get told."
The exposure she gained from Power Rangers got Lahana an American agent, and she'd been travelling between New Zealand and the US for about 10 years before moving there permanently in 2016.
"I got my Green Card and became like, legit and got a dog."
She says being a Kiwi in Hollywood carries less of a stigma than it used to.
"Things have become a lot more international. When I first came over here I was always advised by my representatives to not let anyone know I was from New Zealand. Because they get a little bit worried about the accent thing, and the immigration thing, even if you're legal. So I would walk in the room with an American accent. I booked a movie then they freaked out because they thought I was American then I showed up on set and was like "Gidday, how's it going, mate?'"
Cloak & Dagger premieres Sunday, September 23 at 9.30pm on TVNZ Duke.