Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

How Andy Tilo-Faiaoga became a stuntman in just one day

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Photo: Andy Tilo-Faiaoga
Avatar photo
Ann-Tauilo Motuga | Reporter/Videographer

Samoan actor Andy Tilo-Faiaoga was originally cast as a background soldier for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’, but when a stuntman couldn’t perform one of his stunts, Andy took on the task and executed it perfectly in his first take.

“They were so happy with it, and I got put up to the stunt team the same day,” Andy says.

The stunt that­ jumpstarted the Wellington-based actor’s stuntman career involved a character getting hit as he turns around. It might sound simple, but Andy says nothing in stunt work is as easy as it sounds.

Avatar: The Way of Water was filmed in 2017 and was released in December last year. In the 2023 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, Andy received recognition for Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture.

“Receiving the award was a reflection of the great team I was surrounded by. I felt over the moon,” Andy says.

“It made me realise how blessed I had been since I was a kid with watching my mum bring stories to life, and here I am getting recognised by some of the world’s greats.”

As a rookie in the stuntman industry, Andy never imagined he’d receive an award.

“I was in awe just to be learning from the industries best on my very first job. We are talking internationally renowned artists who, for the most part, have been at the top of their game since before I was born and they are still at peak,” Andy enthuses.

“A big learning curve was the schedule. It wasn’t your normal nine to five. Some days were mornings, others were nights, and some were long but, because I was learning most of the time, you don’t realise how fast the time goes by.”

With his new role and lifestyle, Andy still has to get used to having security surrounding him on set.

“I felt like I was a star in a movie,” he laughs.

Andy as a stunt double (L) and Andy at the premiere of Red, White and Brass (R).

With more than five years experience in the stunts and entertainment industry, Andy has been fortunate to expand his repertoire.

He was a stunt double for Jayden Daniels in the 2023 supernatural horror film Evil Dead Rise; he choreographed a dance piece called ‘Shapes in the Sky’ which involved his son Dallas; he travelled to Sweden as part of the ‘Shel We’ cast and even did a music video for Ezra Phoenix called ‘Storm’. He also landed a feature role in the latest Tongan film, ‘Red White and Brass’.

Andy attended Whitireia Performing Arts and has been working with many Performing Arts ensembles.

In his earlier days, Andy attended Whitireia Performing Arts and worked with the likes of Black Grace, Le Moana Arts, Pacific Dance NZ, and even worked among choreographers such as Neil Ieremia, Tupe Lualua, Tuaine Ropati and Tupua Tigafua to name a few.

His interest in performing arts stemmed from early memories of his mother.

“She was really good at dance, and costume making and creative design. She would always create performances for White Sunday, church talent quests and memorial days and just watching her create things to tell a story really blew my mind as a kid,” Andy says.

“Learning to love [the arts] came naturally and our ancestors have been storytellers for thousands of years. Now, we have people who are in the right places for us to bring more of [our stories] to the big screens.”

Andy with his family

With little representation of Māori and Pacific Islanders in the stunt industry, Andy recommends it as a pathway for our people to thrive in.

“We are only just starting and there is so much more of our stories coming through so we will definitely be in need of more Māori and Pacific stunt performers.”

Andy is currently working in a stunt team for a project with a Hollywood heavy weight which will be revealed later.


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