Turning up to the set of Cousins, Terewai Gray realised the movie was full of actual cousins.

Terewai Gray has two children in the movie. Te Raukura Gray, 8, plays Mata, and 1-year-old Taharangi Gray makes an appearance. Terewai says six of the Cousins actors are related through the Elkington family.

"There's father and son Cohen and Theo Holloway, father and daughter Jim and Hariata Moriarty, and brother and sister Te Raukura and Taharangi Gray."

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She explains that Cohen's mother is Jim's sister, and that Jim is her mother's first cousin.

"It's amazing for Te Raukura to be a part of this movie. It's funny because it's called Cousins, and there are so many cousins in it!" says Terewai.

Co-incidentally, Te Raukura and Taharangi have many cousins in Tūrangi and their grandmother is Denise New.

When Te Raukura arrived home from Westbrook School in Rotorua with a letter saying she had been selected to audition for Cousins, Terewai said she and her husband Lee Gray said "What the heck!". The audition at school was the first time their daughter had ever acted. She's in the choir, but too young for the kapa haka group.

"The teacher said if you are a young Māori girl, go to the school hall for auditions," said Te Raukura.

Five or six auditions later and the role of Mata was hers.

"I had no second thoughts. The other kids at school think it's a good chance," says Te Raukura.

Filming Cousins at Lake Rotoehu. Te Raukura Gray, 8, is in the green dress. Photo / Supplied
Filming Cousins at Lake Rotoehu. Te Raukura Gray, 8, is in the green dress. Photo / Supplied

Before acting in Cousins, Te Raukura said she probably wanted to be a painter when she grew up, but now she wants to be an actor.

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Her favourite part was wearing the costumes and meeting new kids her own age who play the other cousins. She was picked up each morning by a chauffeur and taken to various sets around Rotorua, with grandmother Denise New stepping in to help out for more than three weeks when filming moved to Wellington.

Terewai says Te Raukura is a real talker, but when it came time for her to act she just switched into character.

"I had a few tears when I saw her acting. Something changes and she becomes the character."

In real life Te Raukura loves talking and is very curious and is a caring big sister to her three younger siblings. Terewai says she has a sensitive side and knows when something is up with her family.

"Mata was shy and curious about the people and a person who is very patient," says Te Raukura.

Terewai says they thought about signing Te Raukura up for acting lessons, but were advised not to by Cousins producer and directors.

"They said she's got such good raw talent, let her develop into herself."

The producers and directors told Terewai and Lee it could be quite overwhelming for Te Raukura when the film is launched because her face will be all over New Zealand and Australia.

"We received some good advice to protect Te Raukura and are going to wait and see how the film is received before considering signing up with a producer," said Terewai.

Terewai says her mother, Denise, is very excited for her oldest granddaughter and the extended family are all looking forward to seeing the film when it comes out this year, some time after Easter.

"We've got so many relatives in Turangi, we hope the movie will screen in Taupō or maybe we can have a special screening in Tūrangi."