'Matai' star on family, Samoa and what matters most
Family and culture are the two things that matter the most for popular Samoan actor, Albert Tupuola.
Tupuola is the main character of the 'Matai' movie series.
The movie depicts the reality of a young paramount chief who carries the good name of his family.
He is in love with Oketi, yet she is forced by her father, the Reverend, to marry a layman preacher.
Tupuola, known as Saifuiane is the movie, is the main character.
“The audience of the Matai movie is for all ages,” said Tupuola.
Australian born, but raised all his life in Samoa, Tupuola attended Malifa Primary and St Joseph’s College. In 2005 he received a rugby scholarship for St Paul’s College and that’s when things changed for him.
Aside from acting, Tupuola is a probation officer who works in the Juvenile Prisons in New Zealand and is also a full time dancer.
Tupuola said everywhere he went, Samoans would approach him.
“The support I see firsthand for our Samoan people pushes me to do better not only in acting, but also dancing,” he said.
“I know the movie (Matai) is not Hollywood or anything, but I am very thankful for the fact that it caters to our own people, which is enough for me.”
“You know that person is a Samoan when they call out my Acting name Safuiage in public.”
“To be honest, I get embarrassed when people approach me because to me it’s just a movie, but to the people who love the movie it’s more than just a movie.”
“I love the fact that the movie is in Samoan, it’s educational and it indicates the Samoan proverbs and the reality of today as Samoans, for chiefs, reverends.”
“And I was told by some parents that their children are learning Samoan from the movie and that is what makes me happy.”
“And sometimes they even call my wife, Oketi, it’s kind of disrespectful at times, but she understands,” he said smiling.
Tupuola’s rugby career ended early after he injured his knee. And after undergoing 10 surgeries, he was told he can no longer play rugby.
“That’s when I started dancing in 2008 and since then, it’s been my passion.”
“It’s funny how the whole dancing thing started, I was homesick and so my cousins in New Zealand wanted to do something to keep our time occupied and that’s what kick started my dancing career.”
“We have been performing since then, we are now doing gigs left and right and it’s been successful.”
“We haven’t had a weekend off and we have been travelling all over New Zealand and Australia.”
He said from this dance group, Tatau, they managed to open an academy to teach young boys how to dance free of charge and this keeps them off the streets and also gives them something to do after school and during the weekend.
“We also teach them our Samoan language and our culture and this also ties in to my probation job at the prison.”
“I talk to them about why it’s important to stay out of jail because that is not a place for children.”
“I mean at this time and age, we have to be very cautious with our children with the latest technology and what they are exposed to, I feel the academy’s assistance goes a long way for the children that we take under our wings.”
Back to the dancing career, Tupuola said they have performed for the Toa Samoa World Cup games and the All Blacks and Manu Samoa match.
“This was done free of charge all because of the pride we have as Samoans and our unique dance moves, such as the slap dance.”
“In March, Tatau dance group will have its 10 years anniversary and it’s something to be proud of,” he said.
Tupuola is the son of Sepelini Tupuola and Wendy Fa’apoi of Lotoanu’u, Falefa and Amaile, Aleipata.
Ms. Fa’apoi was the first female Manager for Manu Samoa.
“She’s my role model, my parents split when I was young and she has been my mum and dad all at once.”
“She raised me single handedly and I turned out okay,” he said while holding back tears.
Tupuola, who is the only child, said now that his dancing, acting and career as probation has been a success, it is time to take care of mum.
Another role model in the life of Tupuola is his 82-year-old grandmother, Marina Schaffhausen.
“So I am here to visit my grandmother who was unable to travel to my wedding last week, so I am here to get her blessings for our marriage and have her meet the love of my life.”
Tupuola also commented on the importance of caring for your parents.
“I guess as a Samoan, my mum takes care of me and now that I am married it is my turn to care for her.”
“I always tell my friends that it is no use to have a flashy car and your mum does not have a car, it’s useless,” he said.
Tupuola told the Samoa Observer that it took him 31 years to look for a wife that will love his mother unconditionally.
“Rebecca is the one and I married her,” he said.
Regarding his acting career, Tupuola said they may be filming in Samoa or Savaii.
“I am always excited when its filming time, knowing that there are Samoans out there who appreciate the message that comes from the movie,” he said.