Kiwi film star James Rolleston says it is "awesome" to see the country getting behind te reo Māori and that it is his goal to be a fluent speaker one day.

The charismatic young Māori actor, who rose to fame in the hugely-successful film Boy in 2010, dropped by NZME this week to play a cameo role in a spoof clip about te reo pronunciation for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori.

Rolleston, 22, said while he was not fluent in te reo, he was familiar with it through kapa haka and growing up in and around marae in Ōpōtiki.

"I've got the pronunciation and a lot of words and things, but I don't quite understand everything.

Advertisement

"Te reo means a lot to me, means heaps that it is strong at the moment. I do wish I could speak more and feel a bit stink, but it is a goal of mine in the future to become fluent."

Judging by the massive growth in learners across the country, it is never too late to learn.

James Rolleston says he hopes to be a fluent te reo Māori speaker one day. Photo / File
James Rolleston says he hopes to be a fluent te reo Māori speaker one day. Photo / File

According to the Tertiary Education Commission, those enrolled in Māori language courses at polytechnics, universities and wānanga had grown from just over 16,000 in 2014 to nearly 25,000 in 2018.

"It is awesome to see everyone getting into it, wanting to learn the language and are actually doing so," Rolleston said.

The NZME clip, directed by Allan George - also behind a documentary on the late Tā Hector Busby, has several friends discussing the "Ancestry Iwi" app (made up for the video), where users can test their pronunciation.

As one of the lads embarrassingly flounders with his macron pronunciation, Rolleston enters the scene in a style reminiscent of Keanu Reeves in the Netflix romcom Always Be My Maybe - plenty of slow motion and head-turning action.

"I don't know if I felt like Keanu, but it was definitely good fun," Rolleston said.

"I was just really keen to support the kaupapa of Te Wiki o te Reo."

Advertisement

Rolleston had only just entered his teens when he starred in Taika Waititi's Boy, which became the biggest New Zealand film ever made upon its release in 2010.

He went on to star in acclaimed films The Dark Horse and The Dead Lands in 2014, before a serious car accident in Opotiki in 2016 derailed his career.

Rolleston suffered serious leg and brain injuries in the July 20 crash on the outskirts of Opotiki. His passenger, one of his best friends, required spinal surgery after suffering four fractured vertebrae.

Rolleston, who was driving at the time of the accident, was sentenced to 200 hours community work, 12 months supervision and disqualified for driving for a year for his role in the crash.

He has returned to the big screen since the accident, appearing in 2017 road trip film Pork Pie, and Kiwi comedy The Breaker Upperers last year.

Rolleston, now based in Auckland, said it had been a tough couple of years recovering from the accident, both physically and mentally.

"It has definitely been a tough journey, but I am feeling a lot better. I am still doing some rehab on the mental side, but no longer physical rehab."

He recently wrapped up filming for Lowdown Dirty Criminals, directed by Paul Murphy, which is due for release next year.

"I feel excited about that and am very happy to be back into it."