Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mike Myers and the yellow M&M — they've all fallen for Tia Carrere.

You might remember her from the cult comedies Wayne's World and Wayne's World 2 playing Myers' love interest, Cassandra. She also starred alongside Schwarzenegger in True Lies and featured in a series of M&M ads.

Now 34, the part-Filipino, Chinese and Spanish beauty has come a long way since she was discovered in her native Hawaii at the age of 17.


Then she was Althea Rae Duhinio Janairo, out shopping in her local supermarket in Waikiki when movie producer Mike Greco asked her to appear in his film Aloha Summer. The teenager moved to Los Angeles and landed guest roles in 80s series such as the A-Team, MacGyver and Tour of Duty.

Wayne's World in 1992 was her major breakthrough, when Myers cast her as the Chinese singer Cassandra.

"Wayne's World was a turning point," Carrere says today. "After Wayne's World, it was like, 'Who is this girl? Where did she come from? Let's give her another job. Have her come in and meet instead of read,' and things like that."

More than just read: the movie revealed Carrere's talent for singing. She had always wanted to be a vocalist rather than an actress, had started out fronting a band that played Black Sabbath and AC/DC covers; later a jazz orchestra. After the Wayne's World soundtrack her middle-of-the-road album Dream went platinum in the Philippines. Family connections, maybe.

"It was kind of funny that I took this road, started acting, then — almost 10 years later — in Wayne's World people finally got to see me sing. And everyone thought it was dubbed in," she said.

"We have a very musical family. At family get-togethers, famous local jazz players would get up and play saxophone, bass, xylophone. At my uncle's parties, everybody would play and they'd always say, 'Get up and sing' and things like that. I love music. I haven't been able to do much of it lately."

For now, the small screen calls, with the Indiana Jones-style adventure series Relic Hunter (even the opening title has a Raiders of the Lost Ark feel about it).

Carrere has appeared in Veronica's Closet, Murder One and Married ... with Children and spent two years on the soap General Hospital.

Relic Hunter is her first chance to carry a series on her own and earn her top billing as the new Indiana Jones.

As unorthodox history professor Sydney Fox, Carrere moonlights as an impassioned explorer, crisscrossing the globe in pursuit of a mix of lost icons from the 4000-year-old alms bowl of Siddhartha to the lost glove of a 1946 baseball legend.

Because of her reputation, Sydney is sought by secret government agencies, private collectors, museum curators, law enforcement officials, religious figures, politicians, the wealthy, the obsessed, the quirky, even the criminal (hey, we're only telling you what they told us).

Christien Anholt plays opposite Carrere as the sheltered British academic Nigel Bailey, described as the "weekend worrier" to Sydney's "weekend warrior."

Married to producer Elie Samaha in 1992 and divorced in 1999, Carrere's biggest moment came alongside Schwarzenegger.

"The grown-ups knew me after True Lies. It was interesting after each movie came out to see the kinds of people who would come up to me when they recognised me to say hello.

"And it was all grown-ups after True Lies. It was a great experience, a high-profile, fun part. It's nice being able to change and do different things."

Carrere said her exotic look can be a handicap in the acting world.

"I'm trying. It's an uphill battle. It's hard. When you're a little left of centre, if you don't look like someone's concept of the girl next door, it's harder for you to get cast. So I keep thinking, if I do some fancy footwork and keep playing untypical parts, I'll be able to have a broader base of work that I can go after."

Like the computer game: watch out

for Carrere in a game called Deadalus Encounter. Her big moment there comes when a pack of computer-rendered batlike aliens attack her neck.

She's also produced some films lately, and she owns a bar with her former husband, the Irish pub, Dublin's on Sunset.

Asked what key strength and character trait had seen her through the hard times, Carrere said: "Never questioning myself or my decisions along the way. After the first movie, I moved to Los Angeles.

"It was very difficult. It wasn't as easy as, 'Oh, I was discovered in a grocery store and I'm gonna keep working like this.' Even when I didn't have enough money for an apartment, going back home with my tail between my legs wasn't an option.

"I don't know why, maybe it was because I was so young and fearless, or stupid. I don't know. But I never really considered swaying from my forward movement."