Tuiasau: A pioneer for Samoans on big screen
Representation of people from the Pacific matter.
Whether it’s in books, writing or on the big screen, our stories deserve to be told.
This generation of Samoans have been fortunate enough see themselves represented in movies thanks to Samoan actors like Teuila Blakely, Robbie Magasiva, Frankie Adams and more.
But this wasn’t always the case.
A pioneer for Samoa and Pacific actors and actresses, Tuiasau Uelese Petaia, has had to endure great opposition to be where he is today.
Tuiasau is one of the stars of One Thousand Ropes, which premiered at Apollo Cinemas last night.
Prior to the premier, Tuiasau spoke about his journey during a press conference at Taumeasina Island Resort. He touched on the less attractive side of the industry and the persistence it took for him to make it.
“When I first started, acting was for palagis (white person),” he said. “My Samoan friends said I was a fa’afafine (transgender) because I was getting into acting.
“People would ask, “What’s your job?”
“I said ‘Acting.
“And then they say, okay, so what’s your real job?”
Tuiasau started acting in New Zealand. One of his first roles was in the film called Sons for the Return Home.
“When we first started, I remember doing a job with TV New Zealand.
“As the reporter, you’re the head of your team.
We got to the airport and the lady who was getting the rental car for us came and she said, ‘If you get your bags, I’ll get those guys to sign up.’ Those are the kinds of things we had to endure.”
“It was hard to break those doors and get through.”
But that wasn’t the only challenge.
“The challenge was getting your family to accept that this is what you want to do,” he said.
“No parent in Samoa would ever consider their son or daughter to become an actor. So that’s where the challenge was and it was just a matter of persevering.
“When I started acting in the seventies, there weren’t many parts written for Samoans.
“In New Zealand, we were playing Maoris, Italians, African Americans, because there weren’t parts written for Samoans.
“Now we have parts written for Samoa.”
There is also the issue of priorities, he said.
“In 1985, I gave it all up and came back to look after my parents. They passed on but I did my job. I went to do what I wanted and my passion is acting. I hope that you’ll enjoy what I’ve done.”
Fast forward to today, Pacific Island actors endure less criticisms because of the work of people like Tuiasau.
“Nowadays, everyone accepts it, it’s an acceptable job for Samoans and Pacific Islanders.”
And that’s a great change.