Beulah Koale's world has changed in every way - but he probably never will, writes Siena Yates.
The first time I met Beulah Koale he was 24 and filming on a small local set for the web series The Cul de Sac.
He was quiet, reserved, polite and warm. Now that he's 27, that much hasn't changed - but everything else has.
"A lot's happened since then," he laughs down the phone, "I pretty much got into Hollywood, so that's crazy".
Crazy's one word for it.
He's talking to me on the phone on his way back to the set of the most popular show in its time-slot in the US. He's in Hawaii, where he lives and works full time with the family he didn't even have last time we spoke.
He married his long-time love, Georgia, this summer, and the pair welcomed twins Xavier Lyall and Isaac Pakira, in 2017.
He's starred in a Steven Spielberg-produced Dreamworks film (Thank You for Your Service), and straight off the back of that, landed a role on Hawaii Five-0, in which he has been starring for two years and as many seasons.
It certainly is a long way from his humble South Auckland beginnings, growing up with a big family who "had nothing".
Especially when you consider it almost didn't happen. Koale's been open about the struggles that lined his path to Hollywood; he spent the last $50 to his name on submitting an audition tape for Spielberg's film.
"I was thinking, 'no one is gonna see this, every Polynesian in the world is auditioning for this', but when the director saw me, he knew I was the guy from day one - but he had to convince everyone else."
It must have been one hell of an audition because from that day, director Jason Hall took Koale under his wing, and vouched and fought for him to get the role over 1400 other hopefuls.
"I call him my angel. He talked a big game about me and… pretty much put his job on the line telling Mr Spielberg and all these executives to give this nobody a shot and it worked out," Koale recalls.
Koale's resulting performance was hailed as "excellent" and "absolutely heartbreaking" by Collider. The Hollywood Reporter said he made a "vivid impression", Variety said he was the "most poetic thing" in the film, and The Wrap hailed him as the film's standout saying: "He communicates fierceness and vulnerability in equal measure, and it's a deeply poignant and revelatory performance."
His performance was so good that when producers on hit TV series Hawaii Five-O went on the hunt for a new star, they came knocking on his door - not the other way around.
"The producer pretty much gave me a job without even talking to me or anything," says Koale. "He saw what I'd done in that film and that was enough for him to give me a role in his TV show, and yeah… now I live in Hawaii."
Koale is wildly understated when discussing his own success - part of it is that it still hasn't sunk it, another part is that it never will. As far as he's concerned, he's just doing his job and he takes nothing for granted - not even his next meal.
The first time he went to America he had no money or expectations. They flew him first class and put him up in a fancy hotel where he couldn't afford the food, so he lived off the free apples and water at the hotel gym - he didn't even think to assume his costs were covered.
"I come from South Auckland, not from much, barely had any money - the struggle was real growing up. I was helping my mum raise my four brothers and my sister and there was a tough time there, but it was all worth it because… it helped build my character," says Koale.
Now he lives and works in one of the most beautiful places in the world; Hawaii, where he says he's been able to finally slow down.
"I needed that. I've got my whole family over here, my wife and my twin babies and I work on a great TV show with a great crew and it's kind of similar to home, just the people. I'm not a fan of Hollywood...the politics. I think there's a lot of fakeness… there's a lot of stuff going on and I'm just like, 'oh man, I just want to go back to the bottom of the world and chill'," he laughs.
Hawaii is as close as it gets, for now though. And while he says life has "done a total 360", he's keeping himself as grounded as ever.
"I pinch myself every day knowing that I look out my window and I see I have a beautiful view of the beach - in Hawaii! - and my kids get to live this life that I never even dreamed I would have.
"I'm used to seeing the world through the eyes of this kid from South Auckland but then I was like, 'wow, the world is so big', so I definitely need to keep going. I'm just soaking up everything, learning, being a sponge and I'm just so grateful to be in the position that I'm in today."
Who: Beulah Koale
What: Joining the core cast of Hawaii Five-O
When: Season 8 starts next Wednesday on Three