Rising star Te Ao o Hinepehinga Rauna joins the cast of Shortland Street this month as nurse Waimarama Glover, a firecracker with mana.
Rauna spent many years treading the stage boards all around New Zealand and the world, but made her first debut on New Zealand screens playing school student Aria O'Kane on the hit drama series Head High last year.
The Gisborne beauty is about to make her presence felt in Ferndale. The new nurse is introduced to the story as an old friend of nurse Dawn Robinson (Rebekah Palmer) and promises to put a few noses out of joint around the hospital.
Nurse Waimarama is confident, strong and charming, but Rauna says that her character's confident exterior may not be as strong as she thinks.
She is "complex", Rauna says, laughing.
"Wai is a firecracker! You're never quite sure which side of her you'll get, which is fun to play, as I am not quite as outspoken as she is. Waimarama is the woman I would love to be: passionate, feisty and confident. She's not afraid to stand her ground," she says.
Rauna credits her own mother as her inspiration.
"I drew a lot of inspiration from my mama. Like her, Wai is not afraid to rock the boat but she does it with the best of intentions and love in her heart. But her love and commitment to her whānau is something we both share."
With both her Head High and Shortland Street roles, the actor has found a similar foundation to base them on, but then executes them in very different ways.
"Aria and Wai are both loving and whānau-orientated. They have that fire of a mana wahine (strong woman) inside them. But where Wai is steadfast and opinionated, Aria is very gentle, still trying to find her voice and figure out who she is. It's a tribute to how two women can share the same core values but still be very different people," she says.
With her background in theatre, including roles with the Auckland Theatre Company's Mythmakers – Mahuika and the recent Little Black Bitch, by award-winning playwright Jason Te Mete, Rauna says her time in Ferndale has been a real eye-opener.
"My first day on set is actually the first thing you'll see on-screen. Funny and a little cheesy, it was a very relaxed introduction to a well-oiled machine that charges at full speed. Working with the Shorty team has given me new appreciation for the work that is done behind the scenes. These guys work hard!" she says.
2021 will also see this rising star head back to the set of Head High for season two of the hit drama, currently in pre-production. We know her future is about to get only brighter.
"I hope everyone loves Wai as much as I do. She is a tribute to the strong wāhine Māori I have been raised by, and I want our Māori viewers to be proud of the mana she carries. Even if it gets her into some sticky situations," she says.