If you've ever introduced yourself as the "crazy b***h-ex" in te reo (Kia ora. Ko au tana wahine pōrangi o mua) or chastened someone for losing their brain when they are horny (Ka mateonioni koe, katahi ka kuware ke atu) then risque drama series Ahikāroa, a ground- breaking bilingual drama may just be the show you need to tune in to.
Featuring Shortland Street star Awhimai Fraser, who recently married her Modern Māori Quartet beau James Tito in a beautiful island wedding, the show has also gathered together a host of young actors with te reo Māori backgrounds to make up the ensemble cast.
Fraser, who played Ferndale nurse Becky Burrows, the love interest of mega star Jayden Daniels' character Curtis, has returned for the second series of Ahikāroa to reprise her role as Chantelle, a determined young woman trying to discover her cultural roots after time away from NZ.
The actress and trained musical theatre singer acknowledges that some of the material has touched on important issues for young audiences.
"There's definitely times when I've read the script and thought 'whoa! okay, we are going there!' with some of the dialogue, but to reach a younger audience I think you do need to be relevant and push boundaries to make them pay attention. Teaching them how to say 'Stop killing my buzz' in te reo might just be the way to do it."
Awhimai's love interest on the show is turning heads on set with a miraculous transformation. Nepia Takuira-Mita, who plays lead character Hemi, slimmed down by 15kg after season one and credits his lifestyle change to kapa haka.
"The journey to lose weight came from wanting to look "matatini ready" but also in order to pull of such a physical bracket we had to make sure we were training so that we could execute it," he says. "Food is my weakness, so I'm finding it hard to stay motivated on set as we get fed well. In saying that, I'm happy with the progress made so far and will keep on pushing through," says Takuira-Mita.
His new-found fame has found him being recognised on the streets of his hometown, Rotorua with fans greeting him in te reo.
The show, the brainchild of former Shortland Street star and now Maori language advocate and television producer Quinton Hita, says the show is fully bilingual, transitioning between English and te reo in each episode.
"Young people have a way of speaking these days that we need to acknowledge. If we push boundaries along the way, I'm prepared to take that risk as long as we are encouraging people to learn."
λ Ahikāroa starts on Māori TV later this month.
By Ricardo Simich