Actors Cian Elyse White and Eds Eramīha prepared physically and mentally for their action and drama scenes in the new TVNZ 2 gangland series, Vegas.
The tourist mecca of Rotorua is the location for the thriller show that follows 800 Words star White as Toni Poulan, a tavern owner and solo mother pulled into the crime world when competing gangs use her bar for a million-dollar methamphetamine deal.
The New Legend of Baron To'a star Eramīha plays Kingi, the newly appointed leader of the Te Toki gang who becomes locked in a power struggle with Toni.
White prepared in the gym before filming the action scenes and now sports a scar after her lip was cut during one scene.
"I absolutely love doing stunts. A personal favourite was a stunt I got to perform in real time that takes place in episode two. (Bats & glass = chaos!)," she says.
"I've done some stunt training over the years and I absolutely loved the adrenaline rush. I was low-key envious of all the stunts the boys got to perform."
White says she sank her teeth into the dramatic scenes required for the role and enjoyed "releasing some steam" in those moments.
She says she innately understands the challenges that face wāhine Māori and felt she had an important duty to do the role of Toni justice.
"I was protective of Toni's trajectory and the way she was portrayed in this world. It matters. Toni is a woman striving to be the best version of herself, while protecting her family and her empire," she says.
"This role is like no other I have played before and the journey was quite challenging for many reasons. My focus was to do my best to honour the resilient women in my life who would do anything to protect the ones they love."
Eramīha says his Muay Thai competitive kickboxing background helped him prepare for his role.
"Kingi is very disciplined in what he does and is very connected mentally, physically and spiritually, so my martial arts background really helped with that."
He needed to bulk up by 20kgin six weeks for the role, which saw the usually pescatarian athlete and actor eat meat again and take part in heavyweight sessions with a trainer twice a day, five days a week.
In the series, Eramīha's gang president Kingi needs to find other ways to look after his family and friends and get them away from the dangerous world of gangs and drugs.
Eramīha used his first-hand experience of seeing the harm caused by meth to tap into the character and says someone close to him battled demons and fought hard for their recovery, so he has empathy for the position Kingi finds himself in.
While he hopes viewers enjoy the action scenes and seeing the characters come to life, he also hopes viewers see that in the dark world of gangs and drugs there's the chance for hope, redemption, healing and answers.
"I hope that there is a realisation that this stuff doesn't belong within our people, questioning happens around the laws and values of gangs and I really hope they hear the messages of that and people are not afraid to ask for help," he says.
The series has an A-list cast, including Katie Wolfe, Xavier Horan and Rena Owen, as well as White's 800 Words' co-stars Alex Tarrant and Miriama Smith, a reunion White says she loved.
"The cast and crew were an incredible whānau and we traversed volatile terrain to achieve kotahitanga in the face of adversity. I was most inspired by our rangatahi- the emerging actors and crew members who constantly brought dynamism to the table in every way, shape and form," she says.