Movie star with a heart for Samoa

Tom Hern hardly needs an introduction in the movie world.

Most moviegoers in this part of the world are likely to recognise the award winning producer and actor who was dubbed the “future leader of the industry” in 2015.

He is renowned for producing New Zealand feature films such as, The Dark Horse, Everything We Loved and now newly released comedy, Pork Pie, which is already screening at the Apollo Cinemas in Samoa.

He has a distinguished acting career, playing leading roles in Power Rangers Dino Thunder, The Ram and much more. 

The Sunday Samoan caught up with the award-winning producer where he shared his connection to Samoa, his love for the people of Samoa and of course his new film, Pork Pie.  

Mr. Hern has visited Samoa on many occasions and the natural beauty and pace of life always brings him back form more. 

“I love Samoa,” he said. “I have been to Samoa many times over the years.  Usually I try and visit once a year.  I love the heat, the people, the laid back pace, the natural beauty."   

“I have always dreamed about settling there or setting up some kind of creative retreat over there where we can write and edit our movies!” 

Born and raised in New Zealand, he says he feels a strong connection to the Samoan Culture.  

 “For some reason I have always felt like I am Samoan,” he said.

“Although I am palagi, I feel a deep affinity with Pacific, Polynesian culture.  I guess Aotearoa is the biggest island in the Pacific and part of the Pacific Islands, so it makes sense for those of us who have grown up here to feel a connection to other parts of the Pacific."

 “My brother is married to a Samoan and they have two boys - who I absolutely adore and encourage to embrace their Samoan heritage."  

“I have also always been a Manu Samoa supporter and also Toa Samoa rugby league! And I play rugby league for the mighty Richmond Rovers rugby league club in Auckland, who have deep Samoan links (via the Ah Kuoi aiga and other Samoan family lines). 

At the moment, I’m one of the only palagis in the team! Geez. This list is going on. My sister in law also taught me how to make a mean Oka - so that is part of my repertoire now!” 

Mr. Hern goes on to say that the love and warmth shown to him by the people of Samoa has left a life long impact and made him the person he is today.  

 “When I was young and moved out of home from Christchurch to Wellington (at the young age of 15), my in-laws (my brother’s wife’s family), the Afamasagas, embraced me as part of their aiga."  

“They had my back and made me feel like I belonged."  

They took me in and loved me.  This impact of love and loyalty and support in the family I have since learned is often rich in Samoan culture and communities - and it has had a lasting impact on me.  For these reasons, Samoa is now in my bones.” 

Hern’s most recent project is the newly release comedy, Pork Pie. It is a reboot of the Kiwi classic, Good Bye Pork Pie.

In short, the movie tracks the escapades of a trio of accidental outlaws as they travel the length of the New Zealand in a yellow Mini, protesting conformity and chasing lost love with a posse of cops and a frenzied media in hot pursuit.

Mr. Hern believes the Samoan audience will love the film.  

 “It is hilarious!  A rollicking, fun and heart warming journey down Aotearoa!   I know Samoan humour, and I reckon Samoans will crack up at this one!” 

The three leading roles are played by a distinguished star studded cast, Dean O’Garman, Ashleigh Cummings, and James Rollestone.   

The name Rollestone may sound familiar as he is the as the young Alamein in the New Zealand movie, Boy.  

For Mr. Hern, he understands the importance of having Pacific Islanders in leading roles.  

 “I think it is very important that Maori and Pacific actors are represented on screen in a diverse way - not just as under-developed stereotype characters or negative portrayals,” he told the Sunday Samoan.

  “My last film was The Dark Horse, starring Cliff Curtis, and I was proud to play a part in showcasing an incredible, real life character, Genesis Potini, in that film." 

In Pork Pie, it was a great experience giving young James Rolleston an opportunity to play a fun comedic, cool character such as Luke.  I mean the guy is a Casanova.  He’s got game with the ladies, speaks French and is generally a smooth as fulla! 

Mr. Hern’s latest project is a television series titled, NZ Panthers. 

“I am currently developing a television series in  about the The Polynesian Panthers, a group of young street gangsters and university students turned political revolutionaries in Ponsonby, Auckland in the 1970’s."  

“The PP's modelled themselves on the Black Panthers in the US, with the goal to improve living standards and secure equal rights for Pacific immigrants at that time.   They had a huge impact on New Zealand history and culture.”

Although the series is still in the planning stage, Mr. Hern is keen to film in Samoa. 

“I would also like to film parts of the series in Samoa, Tonga or both and would then look to cast some locals!  We’ll have to get the scripts finished before we know the plan on that front though."

“I’m really looking forward to exploring more Pacific characters on our series The Panthers.”    

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