LOUISA CLEAVE has a quick word with Caleb Ross, the 18-year-old who plays Lex in The Tribe, the locally-filmed teenage sci-fi series about a future world where the adults have been wiped out by a virus. The show is a cult hit in nearly 20 countries and it finally heads to local network primetime tonight (TV3, 6.30 pm).

You recently went on a publicity tour to England. How did that go?

It was great. Three of us went over a year ago but the show hadn't been released. Now it's been going for a year (on Channel 5) and there was quite a bit of reaction, getting recognised in the streets all over the place, and a different reaction from the press.

You were recognised even without makeup?

Yes, surprisingly enough. It can be a disguise, but I was actually trying to go as incognito as possible, wearing sunglasses and a hat.

Why the make-up?

It's very Mad Maxy, the costumes and makeup. Punky, new-age warpaint. And it's very colourful, very urban and chaotic. My character wears a lot of - not trying to sound dodgy - leather and things, all ripped and all dirty.


How has the show changed your life?

For a start I had to move away from my home town of Whangarei, which was a big step in itself. It has changed in so many ways. I'm making a living off something I love doing so much, which is probably the biggest one.

Are you still studying?

I'm still studying music but I've stopped my school studies. I play the piano and the guitar and drums. (The Tribe cast has recorded an album to be released later in the year.)

Why do you think it is so popular overseas?

The whole look of the show, especially in the Scandinavian countries, they really dig the funky look. I think a lot of younger people latch on to it because they can learn a lot from it, life experience and things. A lot of older people, maybe from fantasies they had as a child. I think it could latch on over here as well. It is the first show made entirely by teenagers and kids for teenagers and kids.

What do you think would really happen if kids ran the world?

I think it would have its ups and downs. It would be utter chaos for a long time. Although everyone has probably wished at some stage in their life that their parents would go away and they can be alone. I think when it comes down to it, it would be pretty crazy. But having said that, I think there would be those people who would be mature enough to pull through and start the kinds of things The Tribe shows.

What does The Tribe give to young viewers?

It's the first show of its type that deals with a lot of problems that other shows are scared of doing, like teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, alcoholism and things like that. And it always shows a positive outcome to all of those situations, so it's teaching teenagers a lot of things they can't get from anywhere else.

But in reality a lot of those issues don't have a positive outcome...

That's true, but it shows kids how to get to that positive outcome, how to work through the problem, and hopefully teaches them to help themselves.

We had a case of bulimia earlier on and there was a girl overseas who wrote in to thank the company and the person who played the part for helping her through the bulimic problem.

Are there any issues that you, as a young adult, would like to see the show tackle?

It's tackled most of them that I can think of off the top of my head. We've done teen pregnancy, drugs, alcoholism, rape. You know, most of the major emotions that a teenager can possibly go through.

The kids on the show will grow up and become adults at some stage. What happens then?

I don't know yet. It's still being written.