Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

NBC sitcom ‘Young Rock’ a launching pad for Pasifika talent

Stacey Leilua of Young Rock

New US NBC sitcom Young Rock was released in Aotearoa on Sky and Prime TV last month. Starring Samoan Dwayne “The Rock ” Johnson alongside a cast of well know Pacific actors, the series tells Johnson’s colourful story at different times of his life. 

From the get-go, new comedy series “Young Rock” will have you rocking and rolling in and out of the ring. 

In the Universal Television produced show it’s 2032, Johnson’s running for President and he’s reminiscing about his colourful life. 

“It’s my earlier years when I was a teenager, I went to about three or four different high schools by the time I was 14, they all thought I was an undercover cop” Johnson says in a promotional clip.

Filmed in Brisbane Australia the cast included New Zealand-based Pacific Island actors Fasitua Amosa, Stacey Leilua and John Tui. 

Samoan Leilua plays the key role of Ata, the Rock’s mother. She says it was a blessing to work with old friends.

“With Fasi and John we all trained together so we’ve known each other for 20 years you know,” Leilua says. 

“So, because we were away and because of covid and being stuck there it was nice to have familiar faces around and felt like you were a bit more connected to home,” she says.

Equally enthused was Sydney based Tongan actor Uli Latukefu who plays Johnson aged 18-20 years old. 

To prepare for the role, he hit up the superstar with some key questions.

“I just prepared, you know, questions that were relevant to the show relevant to what we already had in the script,” Latukefu says.

“So, a lot of the things that happened within the first season you establish kind of what the relationship was like with his father. 

“Dwayne mentions it quite often that it was a challenging relationship, it was a difficult relationship.” 

Leilua says playing Ata Johnson was a role close to her heart, one that was life changing for her and her young daughter.

 “The fact that she is Samoan, she’s a mother, you know all those things really mattered to me. And I was really conscious about the portrayal of that being not only accurate but respectful,” she says. 

“She had a really tough life and she’s a survivor of so many things and so I think a big part of this work for me is knowing that… that I’ve changed my daughter’s life.” 

Young Rock might be a comedy but these actors take their opportunity seriously.

“I think we’re all aware of what this means for Pacific Islands creatives coming after us,” Latukefu says.

“We’re really aware that this is furthering any opportunities for young Pacific Island creatives and talent to come through and we’re just privileged to work on it.”

Leilua agrees: “It’s proof that our stories are viable on an international scale like it’s the biggest selling comedy NBC has had in years and a huge part of it is Samoan culture so that gets me really excited.”

The show’s just been approved for another season and Uli says he and fellow actors are keen to fly the Pacific flag. 

By Soana Aholelei


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