With gang tattoos all over his face and an angry stare that spelled evil, you'd swear Jamus Webster was a real killer gang member.

But in his role in the TV movie Resolve, Webster was just doing what he does best - performing.

The talented yet humble Rotorua man is poles apart from his gang member role.

In real life the 35-year-old is polite, hard working and holds his culture close to his heart.

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So much so, being Maori and passing on his knowledge and skills is what he does for a real job - two jobs in fact. He is the Rotorua Boys' High School director of Maori Performing Arts and Tamaki Maori Village cultural manager.

All those amazing haka you see Rotorua Boys' High School students doing as well as owning the title of national secondary schools kapa haka champions is the handy work of Webster and his older brother, Kimiora, the school's head of the Maori Faculty.

Webster's spine-tingling performance in Resolve, which aired on TV One on July 25, has helped the film get rave reviews and smash television ratings for that time slot.

Jamus Webster in his role as a gang member in the TV movie Resolve. Photo/supplied
Jamus Webster in his role as a gang member in the TV movie Resolve. Photo/supplied

Resolve

tells the true story of Chris Crean's courage to stand up to the Black Power in New Plymouth in 1996 and give evidence against three patched members.

In retaliation, Black Power ordered a hit against Crean and he was shot in the doorway of his home and later died in hospital.

Crean's case prompted law changes in New Zealand that saw court witnesses given greater protection.

Webster played the role of one of the patched members involved in the attack, Brownie Marsh Mane, and who was among those who ordered Crean's killing.

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For Webster, a father of three, performing with such intensity came naturally because of his kapa haka roots.

The real Jamus Webster is nothing like his character on TV movie Resolve. Photo/Stephen Parker
The real Jamus Webster is nothing like his character on TV movie Resolve. Photo/Stephen Parker

He said kapa haka was all about channelling energy to portray a message or tell a story and he used that training to channel his energy into anger to deliver the role.

The movie ends with a courtroom scene where Webster slays it, lashing out in a rage at police, the judge and a fellow gang member who turned on him.

But surprisingly, what Webster did on screen wasn't part of the script.

"It was pretty much made up on the spot. The director was open to our own interpretation of the character ... I felt if I was going to be real with this I would portray it this way."

Although he found the role relatively easy, there was one part he struggled with.

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"The hardest thing for me was to wear the gang patch. I'm not into gangs."

His knowledge of gangs is extensive, having worked with Kimiora, and their father, Alfred, in prisons for about eight years delivering culture and tikanga programmes.

"I met all the [gang] boys and could channel what I had learnt from the way they were."

When the movie aired last month, Webster was in Washington representing New Zealand with a contingent of kapa haka performers from Rotorua.

He didn't get to watch the movie until about a week later and was pretty chuffed with how it came out, admitting it was probably his best performance so far.

He had a role in The Deadlands and played an important part in the production of the film training the cast in Maori martial arts.

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Other roles have included starring in two Maori Television series - Kairakau and hosting a game show Patapatai.

Ask him if he aspires to be a famous actor, and he throws his head back and cracks up laughing.

"Nah, no way.

"It's not a career I want to move into. It's just a hobby and I'm able to come back and teach the children what I've learnt. If they want to move into this industry I'm able to say 'you need to do this and that'. It's mainly for the kids and I can show them that if this is what you want to do you can do it."

He often finds it amusing at auditions when he has to write his background down on application forms. While others are busy listing their qualifications, Webster just writes "kapa haka".

"Matatini is probably the pinnacle of kapa haka and if you achieve that, to me what's there beyond that? You can use all those skills you've learnt in other areas like theatre, acting and music."

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Webster is one of four talented siblings along with Kimiora, who is the male leader of top kapa haka group Waka Huia, brother Te Kahuirangi runs the family entertainment business at JW Marriott Hotel in Dubai and sister Talitha is also a talented performer and teaches at Pukeroa Oruawhata Kohanga Reo.

He said there were two important ingredients that made him and his siblings who they were.

"That's Mum [Jocelyn] and Dad with their unconditional love and support in what we do. They've always taught us that if what we do is for the betterment of our people then it is for the right reason. Our intention is always to build our people."