Kiwi-born actor Manu Bennett is proud to be a visible Maori face in international television and film.

Best known for his roles in The Hobbit and hit TV shows Spartacus and Arrow, Bennett was in Hamilton last weekend to mingle with fans as a guest at the Armageddon Expo.

He sees events like the expo as a vital part of the film and television industry.

"Being part of the convention world is part of the industry. It's a part of the connective tissue," he said.


"The best part about it is getting one on one time with the fans. At any other industry-related event the fans aren't allowed near youthere's no other activity the fans can go to and engage with the celebrities."

He particularly likes attending Armageddon because there's always a lot of young Maori in the audience. Manu feels there's a special connection here when he talks about his upbringing, that isn't there when he's on panels elsewhere in the world.

Making that connection, letting young Maori see someone like them in international TV shows and films, is important to Manu.

"I'm proud of being able to get up there and represent as a Maori," he said.

That's one of the reasons he's excited to be back in New Zealand filming for MTV's new series Shannara, based on the popular fantasy book series written by Terry Brooks.

Bennett will play series regular Allanon, a warrior druid he describes as a mix between Gandalf and Aragon.

He said that in Hollywood culture, non-white actors are sometimes overlooked when the main character is being cast.

"Sometimes you find that you won't find yourself as the protagonist if you don't fit into the perfect model of being a hero, which is your Hemsworths and all those boys," Manu said.

"[But] the really interesting thing for me with Allanon is I'm getting to be the protagonist."

After doing a question and answer panel on Saturday a young Maori boy came up to Manu and said he'd been very moved by it. When Manu asked him where he was from the boy said he wasn't sure how to say the name of his iwi. With a little encouragement he sounded out Ngati Kahungunu.

"I said I'm Ngati Kahungunu. When he'd said that and looked at me as if, miraculously, I was someone to look up to, and [then] I was like I'm the same as you kid. It was an interesting moment."