Baritone singer Nick Afoa, actor Turia Schmidt-Peke and comedians Courtney Dawson, Laura Daniel and James Mustapic might be chasing Celebrity Treasure Island glory this week, but all have come away from the show philosophical and transformed.
Afoa tells Spy that when the cameras weren’t rolling, contestants showed their true personalities around the campfire.
Daniel rapped a Disney medley, which blew everyone away. Blair Strang talked about aliens, Steve Price shared his psychology of grocery shopping and Schmidt-Peke sneaked food to a rival team.
“Off camera, I saw people beat inner demons and face inner childhood traumas,” says Afoa. “When people rose to peaks they never knew, I realised how much bigger the game was than myself.”
Tāme Iti told his team, Tohorā, that he was leaving the night before he left, spills Mustapic.
“Tāme told us all before we went to bed and we stayed up super late just listening to all his amazing stories from his life. We all got incredibly emotional; it was a memory I will cherish forever,” says Mustapic.
When Steve Price left this week, Afoa was gutted. He says he had become extremely close with the former league star, who taught him some awesome life lessons.
During the elimination, where Afoa and Jordan Vandermade hung from a wall for more than two hours, it was Price’s cheering that ignited Afoa’s flame to get him through the physical agony.
Other than working on different sets, Schmidt-Peke tells Spy she hasn’t really had many opportunities to branch out of her big circle or with non-Māori until CTI changed things up for her.
“I grew up through kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa Māori. Most of my friends are the ones I went to kōhanga and school with,” says Schmidt-Peke.
“So, it was amazing to be on a show like this and to create strong relationships with everyone.”
It may surprise fans of TVNZ’s fastest-growing star, but James Mustapic says he is pretty introverted.
“I was so worried coming in that I’d struggle to make friends, but everyone on our team was just so fun and kind,” he says.
“I’ve definitely had battles with anxiety over the years, so I never thought I’d be able to make it to the final week.
“I’ve been a fan of this show since I was a child, and once we got to the final five it was truly mind-blowing to me.”
Daniel says Mustapic was her toughest competition because deep down she actually wanted him to succeed.
“He’s a superfan of the show, has been playing everything so smart and genuinely he’s an all-rounder,” she says.
Daniel says she is super proud of herself. Her goal when she entered the show was to make heaps of friends, and she thinks she did that.
Dawson realised she had what it took to make it through to the end after her softball throw on the totem challenge.
“It was the first moment where I was like, hey, maybe I can do this and I’m physically capable of a lot more than I thought,” she says.
All five finalists have been blown away and pleasantly surprised by the fandom, awareness for their charities and the positivity shown on social media.
“I’m very grateful for all the kind messages I’ve been sent. I think the messages that really make my day are the ones that are supportive of te reo Māori we’re speaking on the show,” says Schmidt-Peke. “I’ve had a few in my career about people wanting to learn their language after it being normalised on TV, which makes all the mahi I do even more enjoyable.”
For Afoa, the biggest support has come from his charity BMM (Buttabean Motivation).
“I feel proud to represent them. My history and alofa for Tāmaki Makaurau - South Auckland runs deep and is where I was born and where a lot of the core work for BBM is also done,” he says.
Afoa is currently performing in Australia in Miss Saigon and tells Spy he has just successfully auditioned for another show – but he can’t say what it is just yet.
Schmidt-Peke is excited to film her sixth season of Ahikāroa at the end of the year. Next year she will take on her first role as producer at te reo Māori children’s show Pūkana.
“I used to watch it growing up and now my good friend Turanga and I get to produce it,” she says.
And for those who can’t get enough of Mustapic, he says he’s got a “wee” stand-up tour coming up in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin next month.
With a wink, he tells Spy he’s got a couple of “little” shows coming very soon on TVNZ+, which is no surprise at all to hear from the fan favourite.