From accidental audition to feature films: Vito Vito's unlikely journey
Before he became a movie star, back in 2014, Vito Aofaga Vito, was a dancer with the Samoa Tourism Authority.
Among other things, it was his job to take prospective Mr. Lavalava contestants to the Manumea Hotel for interviews, and then take them back to town again.
“After the auditions, this guy from Fresh TV named Will, he came up and said: 'It’s your turn'.”
He didn’t know it then, but that guy from Fresh TV named Will would kick start a movie career that, by the looks of things, is only getting started.
At first, Vito declined to audition. But as he turned away he had a second thought: “Why shouldn’t I?
“Next thing I know, I am in it.”
That season of Mr. Lavalava was the reason he would star in Three Wise Cousins (2016), and then Liliu (2018), a short film by former Fresh TV camera operator Jeremiah Tauamiti, who just released his debut feature film For My Father’s Kingdom.
It was a career he never imagined would be his, Vito said. Growing up, he thought acting only happened in Hollywood, a place he may never go, and no one he knew ever talked about growing up to become an actor.
So when he finally rose to become an actor, his family didn’t even believe it. Stallone Vaiaoga-Ioasa asked him to audition for his first feature, Three Wise Cousins off the back of his Mr Lavalava experience, and he got the part.
“It was funny at first, nobody believes me,” Vito said.
“There are a lot of movies that we make and produce in Samoa, so my family thinks at first that our movie is going to be the same as those, that don’t go in cinema, they are just on DVDs.
“They were always teasing me and saying funny stuff about me,” he said.
When the film premiered in February 2016, and his family was invited to the red carpet event at the cinema, “that is where everything changed,” Vito laughed.
And at first, he thought his life would go back to normal. He would return to his dancing job with the Tourism Authority, or to his family’s plantation.
But it wasn’t long before he was invited to play Solo, a local interpreter for the courts, when Samoa was under New Zealand rule in Liliu, and then just last December, Mr. Vaiaoga-Ioasa called upon him once more for Take Home Pay.
Vito has not been to acting classes or studied theatre. But he said acting comes naturally to him, like it does most Polynesians.
“It’s natural, it’s in our blood. We never go to acting school but we learn to do acting through White Sunday and youth village things to do, from our childhood," he said.
“Sometimes, we think we are not acting but we are".
“Sometimes, all of us do lie to parents and when you lie, you have to make sure your parents believe you are telling the truth, you know what I mean?”
But nonetheless, joining Take Home Pay as one of the lead actors was intimidating, he said.
His feature debut Three Wise Cousins had blown away the box office, and audiences at home and abroad loved it.
That set a standard to live up to and even exceed. But Vito said he was more confident in his screen-acting.
“In Three Wise Cousins I always had to ask how to do it; how to act," he said.
“But for Take Home Pay I would ask Stallone, how do you want to do it, and then I just did some practice, recorded it and see if I am happy with how I did it. And if not, do it again.”
The role was physically demanding, too. Take Home Pay is a fast-paced action movie, and there was a lot of running involved. Mr. Vaiaoga-Ioasa also created a new ‘Samoan Kung Fu’ for the film, he called Lima Tau.
“Strength was needed,” Vito said, laughing a little.
“I don’t love running.”
After his second feature film, Vito is not looking back, after having been bitten by the acting bug.
“I never thought I would be ending up doing movies," he said.
“Back in the days in my history, in my life, I never think anything like that would happen.
“I used to sell taro chips, vegetables, koko Samoa to earn money to do school.
“Every day, I would go sell anything to earn some lunch money or get some money to feed my family.
“Now I am blessed to be part of a great opportunity for me.”
In the meantime, Vito will go back to his brother, Father Manuele Vito and help him run his parish just as he did previously.
“Even now, he is waiting for me. After this, I am going back to Savaii,” Vito said.
He helps his brother with cooking and housework, as they are both unmarried.
Vito has a three year old daughter, Delphinium, who lives with her mother in Lotopa. Her picture hangs around his neck on an army tag he ordered from overseas, a black and white photo of the two of them smiling at the camera. Delphinium has a matching one.
“I just hope she is proud of what I am doing,” Vito said.