Former Shortland Street star KJ Apa is pinching himself after a whirlwind start to his career overseas.

The 18-year-old actor recently finished filming a Hollywood blockbuster with Dennis Quaid and has gone straight into a major TV role alongside Beverly Hills, 90210 hunk Luke Perry.

Apa, best known to Kiwis as Shortland Street's Kane Jenkins, is causing a stir in North America after being cast as Perry's son Archie Andrews in TV pilot Riverdale, which is based on the Archie comics.

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The teen is filming Riverdale in Vancouver, Canada. The show is tipped to be a ratings smash when it is screened this year.

Apa was cast in the role after a four-month worldwide talent search.

"I was late to audition but within a few days I was told I had the job," Apa told the Herald on Sunday from Vancouver. "What has been happening to me over here was hard to take in at first but I'm now beginning to settle in.

"It was all pretty surreal at the start but I have to remember it is only a job and things wouldn't be happening for me if it wasn't for a great team behind me in New Zealand and Los Angeles."

If Riverdale goes to a full series, it will tie Apa up in Canada for the next six months.

In Hollywood, Apa is already being compared to a young Tom Cruise after landing the role of a high-school quarterback called Ethan alongside Quaid in the DreamWorks movie A Dog's Purpose.

"I play a younger version of Dennis' character and it was great to hang out with someone like him," Apa said. "He didn't really say what he thought of me playing him as a young guy and we just talked about personal stuff."

Apa's New Zealand agent, Mandy Jacobsen of Red 11 Management, recently said she can't believe how quickly the teen has taken off in the United States and that top film industry executives are tipping him to be huge.

"They think he's going to be the biggest thing to come from New Zealand."

Kiwi fans will next see Apa in new TV2 futuristic drama series The Cul de Sac, which starts on April 3.

The family thriller centres on a group of teenagers who wake up to a world where the adults have mysteriously disappeared and all technology has ceased to function.

With no authority figures around, the teenagers suddenly find themselves in charge of the world.

"It is a really interesting concept and I loved doing it," Apa added. "There is heaps of cool stuff being made in New Zealand and spending time in America is not going to stop me from continuing to work at home."