Google Temuera Morrison and of course oodles comes up on his film star status.

But what Google won't enlighten you about are his first 20-something years growing up and working in this place which will always be home.

Throw in having a mother from the King Country and he has what he calls his "Māori dichotomy" cemented by his dual Arawa and Maniapoto parental links.

This, in part, is what we've come to explore.

Advertisement

The timing for our get together's not ideal, he's at the tail end of back-to-back promotional interviews for his latest film Occupation and he's had a gutsful of that kind of stardom stuff.

That's just fine by us, we've not cornered him to dish the Hollywood dirt. What we want is Tem's take on being just an ordinary born and raised Rotorua kid.

He joins us straight from an intensive workout at mate Mike Sykes' boxing gym and is "bloody hungry".

Scrambled eggs take care of his puku, kai as down-home as the story he shares of the side of Tem Morrison that's rarely aired.

In seconds he's in full flow from here on in the words are his, unscripted, unrehearsed and uninterrupted by us.

Take it away Tem Morrison:

"I came out of my mother's womb doing the haka, our homestead was on Fairy Springs Rd, still is. My father, Laurie Morrison, was away a lot surveying, singing with his brother in the Howard Morrison Quartet, he had eight kids' mouths to feed. He died in a car crash when I was 14.

"I remember polishing his shoes and him taking us kids out to Kaingaroa deer stalking, pig hunting then taking the meat around the whole family. Going to Koutu was an outing for us.

Advertisement

"Hunting was never a passion of mine, I used to feel sorry for the deer. My sister Sandy wanted to be a nurse but Dad put her off by making her gut a deer, he wanted her to be a performer. Mum (Hana Morrison, Our People December 11, 2010) worked in a shoe shop.

"I played a lot of kids' rugby. We'd meet at Smithie's Fish and Chip shop on Arawa St, he was our manager; Uncle Trevor [Maxwell] was the coach. We had a good running team, I think it was with Old Boys. I played league too, liked it because of those big shoulder pads.

"I wasn't very good at school, dreaded my school reports, they had a lot of As: for absence and average. I had to sit School Cert twice. The first year I got 35 per cent for science, the next, 25 per cent.

"My aunty Dina [the late Atarita (Dina) Maxwell] got me a grant to Wesley College in Auckland. I was head prefect because I knew how to do the haka, Aunty Din and Trevor taught us, we were all cousins in their Ngāti Rangiwewehi group and went into a lot of festivals.

"In those days they were organised by the Catholic and Anglican churches so we sang hymns, not songs like they do today.

"I only had two really close friends - Eddie Tuhakaraina and Wayne Flavell - but I was very, very close to my cousins. My cousin Terry Tapsell was born a week after me, whichever one was born first was going to be called Temuera after our Morrison grandfather, Mum beat Aunty Judy [Tapsell nee Morrison] to it.

"Eddie and I spent a lot of time swimming from the Awahou bridge to the lake. There'd be huge campfires on the beach, smoked trout like you'd never believe, the guitars came out, we'd sing our lungs out. Man, I'm getting nostalgic; I'd forgotten how much love I got from the people out there.

"By the 1980s I was very influenced by funk rock Uriah Heap, Led Zeppelin with their electric guitars. Eddie and I topped and tailed in bed listening to all their 33s [long playing records].

"When we weren't swimming in the river, Uncle Trevor's brother had us clearing water cress from Taniwha Springs then take it to the kuia.

"When I came back from Wesley I got job at Māori Affairs as a community services trainee. I was meant to be filing records but we didn't do too much work, if we did we got fined by our work brotherhood then we'd go to the Palace, Geyser Tavern, the Lake House and drink our fines. When I look back now there was too much drinking.

"My bosses [the late] Merle Brightwell and Maria Shuker sent me to be the driver for the chiefs from our Ohinemutu pa, Koro Tenga and Hamu Mitchell. I was blessed taking them to hui and tangi; they stressed how important it was to get into our language [te reo Māori]. Just hanging out with these people was my grooming, like I got my performing arts grooming from Din and Trevor and Uncle Howard.

"His discipline wasn't to growl you, he'd just give you a look and say 'get off the stage you bloody native', you knew it was a joke.

"In my early 20s we travelled to the US five years in a row. I look back and that was my theatre training. Sometimes we got into trouble. One night my cousin Howard [Morrison junior] and I got beaten up as we getting out of a taxi, our sisters came to our rescue swinging their purses.

"That was my Morrison side. I was blessed my mother came from the King Country, we went there every holidays.

"Our grandmother Roimata Stafford hardly spoke any English. It was a whole new world on their farm, up at 4am to catch the horses, milk about 130 cows, take the cream cans to the gate. It was quiet, so quiet.

"I have this strong image of riding with my granddad Harry Stafford, he looked so cool galloping around, I was flapping about in the saddle, at those times I never wanted to be anywhere else in the world.

"In the haymaking season the neighbours had the machines, we were the labour going from farm to farm having these amazing Pākeha smokos of scones with lemonade. It was a united world with no barriers of race.

"I never saw that in Rotorua either. We had a sense of identity, we were proud to be Morrisons, proud of our kapa haka, we could see our history singing about it, our tribe was ingrained in us, I was part of a gang without having to wear a patch."

Our People is taking a break and will return in September.

TEMUERA MORRISON ONZM
Born: Rotorua, 1960
Education: Selwyn Primary (foundation pupil), Kaitao Intermediate, Western Heights High, Wesley College (Auckland)
Family: Mother Hana Morrison QSM, 6 sisters, 2 brothers. Children James, 25 (London), Aiorangi, 13 (Auckland). "Too may cousins on both sides to count."
Iwi affiliations: Te Arawa, Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Rarua
Interests: Family, Māori Performing Arts. "I'm trying to get back into a bit of fitness, that's why I'm boxing at Mike's [Sykes] gym. Reading. "Self help books because I make a lot of speeches, the other day it was at Waikeria prison, I had a captive audience."
On being a Morrison: "We're not special, just tenacious, accept challenges."
On himself: "I don't want to talk like some big movie star, my life's about the voyage taken on my whanau waka."
Personal philosophy: "Be daring, life's like the Awahou stream - you dive straight in and suffer the consequences."