Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Samoan actor Chris Alosio on representing Pacific on the big screen

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Samoan actor Chris Alosio stars in New Zealand comedy Millie Lies Low which opened in cinema’s recently. Photo: Supplied
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Breanna Tugaga-Rogers | Te Rito Journalism Cadet

In memory of Mese Leuta Alosio

Samoan actor Chris Alosio stars in New Zealand comedy Millie Lies Low which opened in cinema’s recently. He spoke with Breanna Tugaga-Rogers about his experience on set, growing up in Wellington, shadowing actors like Oscar Kightley and Elisabeth Moss on the set of Taika Waititi’s upcoming film and creating his own opportunities to represent the Pacific on the big screen.

Millie Lies Low, is about a young woman (Ana Scotney) who misses her flight to New York and lies low in Wellington telling friends she’s in the Big Apple all while trying to scrounge up the money to buy another plane ticket. She goes to questionable lengths to keep up the facade in a ‘roller coaster of a film’. The film is directed by Michelle Savill and Alosio plays Millie’s boyfriend in a cast including well-known New Zealand actress Rachel House. 

Congrats on your role in Millie Lies Low! How was that experience, creating and being a part of this film?

It was awesome. Like right from working with Ana, who plays Millie, we did our studies together at Toi Whakaari, we’ve always been attracted to each other’s styles so when we both found out we got the roles, we met up and we’re just like ‘aw man, we get to test out everything that we’ve been jamming the past years on screen’.

Michelle (DIR.), Crew, Ana (MILLIE) in alleyway. Photo: Provided
Michelle (DIR.), Crew, Ana (MILLIE) in alleyway. Photo: Provided

Then there’s Michelle Savill, who is a genius in her own right. This is her debut feature film. Right from the very beginning, me and Michelle had sort of created chemistry because we had done a short film together and she got me on board to do this. I like her style because it’s relaxed, and in terms of dialogue and stuff she’s the kind of storyteller who can tell a story just by leaving the camera on and the actors don’t have to say anything. A lot of the direction she gave during the film was just ‘do nothing, do nothing’. For me, long term that’s helped me sharpen up my craft as well because the lens is so close, so doing nothing is exactly what you need to do, especially with how Michelle directs. On top of that, just to be able to go to Wellington as well, I was born and raised there and I’m very proud to be from there. When I saw the first cut of the movie, I was away from home and feeling a bit homesick, and watching it made me feel like I went home, seeing all those streets again that I grew up running amok on. 

Millie looks down at empty suitcase, clothes strewn in alleyway. Photo: Provided
Millie looks down at empty suitcase, clothes strewn in alleyway. Photo: Provided

What are some highlights for you in terms of your experience filming this movie?

Ah yeah, I mean I don’t know if it’s spoilers or not… There’s like a scene where I’m pretty much naked and we have to wear this stuff to cover up for like the intimacy coordinators, and there was one point where mine fell off and we still had a few takes left on that setup and everybody sort of like saw everything. So (laughs), I didn’t need this sock anymore aye but I think that was the cool thing about it was that we were all pretty comfortable with each other to that extent. So I was like shucks, you’ve already seen everything now, might as well go full tilt. That’s probably a more R-rated story.

Toetu Alosio with late wife, Mese Alosio. Photo: Courtesy of Chris' older brother, Tomasi Alosio
Chris’ parents – Toetu Alosio with late wife, Mese Alosio. Photo: Courtesy of Chris’ older brother, Tomasi Alosio

A story that is the reason why I’ll always hold this project close to my heart is one Sunday we were doing a photo shoot and I invited my parents to come to watch. So they came when they finished up loku and they were dressed to the nines, having finished their church service. It was their first time sort of seeing me do my thing live, even though I was just taking photos. Our producers were like to my parents ‘why don’t you guys get in the photo since you look so nice’. Their eyes lit up and just seeing my mum and dad’s eyes… It ended up being the perfect photo for my mum’s funeral last week, even though that’s not what it was meant to be for but it became the cover photo for everything. So for that reason, I’ll always be grateful to the team for even having the thought to make my parents feel like superstars for a day. I remember my mum coming out and going ‘I feel like a famous!’ (laughs). It was really sweet.

Chris Alosio BTS Millie Lies Low. Photo: Provided
Millie Lies Low. Photo: Provided

What did your parents think about you wanting to pursue acting when you first started this journey?

I mean, my mum was gutted because she didn’t see it as a viable job or a way to make a living. She wanted me to go into politics or law because I was sort of into that growing up but then regardless they’ve always been really supportive. Any role I get close to, I call them up and ask them like, ‘what do you guys think if I do this role?’ I remember when I first got offered a role to play a gay guy, they were the first people I called. I didn’t end up doing it but I asked them, I was like, ‘will you still love me if I do this role?’ (laughs). They were like ‘son, don’t be stupid’ and that was a testament to how they were throughout the whole journey, that they’ll love me no matter what but luckily I’m the youngest so I kind of get away with anything (laughs).

Chris Alosio with siblings and mum. Photo: IG - @chrisalosio
Chris Alosio with siblings and mum. Photo: IG – @chrisalosio

Let’s take it back a bit more, what was it like growing up in Wellington as a Pasifika boy?

Oh I love the way that I grew up. Obviously everybody has their trials and tribulations in a way. A lot of the reason why I loved shooting Millie in Wellington is that we were kind of developing our own sense of who we are as islanders. I felt like all my cousins and stuff from South Auckland, the city, they all kind of had their own thing like yeah, yeah we’re Ōtara or Mangere or we’re from Pap but for us in Wellington, it was kind of cool, it’s real like alty vibes. It’s a lot more peaceful down there I’ve found. I went to awesome schools too, I grew up a heavy Catholic so faith was 100% instilled in me.

How did you get into acting?

Yeah I actually had this convo with my old drama teacher on the weekend. We always did like Sunday school skits and stuff at church and I always loved doing those. I never thought of it as a career until I got to high school and in Year 10, I was quite naughty. Like to the point where I had to have a mentor teacher with me, to go with me to my classes and check on me. I was just cheeky, cheeky to teachers and had a cheeky mouth and then the mentor who came with me, she was starting a drama department in our school that year. She told me that I wasn’t doing much better in my other classes so why don’t I give drama a crack. I had a lot of energy as well and she’s like ‘in drama, we’re practical the whole time’. That worked out perfectly for me. Our school drama department was a bit of a joke like there were seven of us from the whole school in that one class. Because of that, the school didn’t want to spend money getting us the rights for plays so we had to write our own. That made it more enjoyable for me and the boys because without even knowing it, it helped us develop a ‘making-muscle’.

Upcoming film by Taika Waititi, Next Goal Wins. Photo: The Disinsider
Upcoming film by Taika Waititi, Next Goal Wins. Photo: The Disinsider

Let’s talk about the Taika Waititi film Next Goal Wins, that’s huge, congrats on that.

Oh thanks, yeah shucks, we shot that ages ago. It was cool man. It was a dream come true to work with not just Taiks but the likes of David Fane, Oscar Kightley, Beulah Koale, Uli Latukefu, Semu Filipo. I’ve got Dave and Oscar’s signatures on the wall in my room that I grew up in, like I got it off them at Armageddon once when the Bro’Town boys were there. So to be working across from those guys was massive, I was super grateful and learnt a lot. Because the film is a biopic, you need the rights to tell the story of each character and the character I was playing, he currently plays in the NFL (professional American football) and about three days in after me getting there, the NFL pulled his rights from the film. So they pulled my character. I went to Taiks like ‘shucks, does that mean I’m going home?’. He was cool about it though, he was like ‘nah you’re the youngest here, there’s heaps of people you can just watch and learn from,’ so he let me stay on the shoot to observe and help out. That was just a massive experience going over to Hawai’i and being able to learn from these huge global actors like Michael Fassbender and Elisbeth Moss. A lot of the time I was just starstruck. I learned a lot in terms of comic rhythm and collaboration as well. In between takes we’d be singing Samoan songs and stuff like that together so the morale was pretty high in terms of teamwork. You kind of come into the industry with this preconceived idea that everybody is here to be a superstar but I’ve discovered that we’re all just a bunch of people trying to figure it out, there’s no one here that’s special or anything, we just have to give a lot of love to each other and to the project.

Photo: IG - @chrisalosio
Photo: IG – @chrisalosio

Congrats on your role in the Netflix series Surviving Summer too! I saw a clip where you were speaking Samoan and a bit of reo Māori in the show, how is it getting these acting roles and being able to rep your culture and home country in them?

Us Samoans, us Pacific Islanders, we deserve stories right? To be able to look on the screen and be like, that’s me, like I relate to that. But also we deserve to tell our stories to the world and to be able to do it our way. Speaking Samoan in that clip, it was never written in the script. I made the decision the night before we shot the scene. I had a look at the scene and then I called the writers and producers like, ‘hey I think that I should do the welcome in Samoan,’ and they were like ‘oh but your character’s Māori, you can’t do that can ya?’, I was like nah, nah that’s alright, we can be half Samoan, half Māori (laughs). But then I knew coming to the day that I had to do it well, like back it up with a performance good enough to steal the scene because it was a key scene for all the characters involved as well. I was confident enough that actually speaking in Samoan might make my performance stronger. For me, my language really gets me going, when I hear like chiefs speak to each other by going back and forth, I knew that if I could channel that energy, it would work a charm. I’m not that good at speaking te reo Māori but the other members of my family in the show were Māori so we included some te reo in there like, wherever we can plug it, we will because I feel like Pacific Islanders deserve that. To give our culture but at a high quality, that’s our job as well as storytellers so I’m real grateful to Netflix for allowing us to do that. I got a lot of messages and comments about that too. That was a nice bit of relief that at least it touched one person, because I’m proud to be Samoan.


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