Roots & Reggae
STAN WALKER’S BIG SCREEN DEBUT
S TAN Walker knows all about pressure, having held his nerve to win the 2009 Australian Idol and pave a successful pop career. For his debut acting role in the New Zealand independent release Mt. Zion, Walker was prepared for adjustments; he took acting lessons, covered up his tattoos and grew a goatee to suit the role.
Walker plays aspiring singer-songwriter Turei, the son of a hard-working potato farming family, who dreams of greater things with his band, Small Axe. When a search for a support act for Bob Marley’s 1979 tour is launched, Turei sees his chance to make it big – but finds his ambition at odds with family traditions.
Written and directed by Te Arepa Kahi (Taua), who drew inspiration from his own family background, the coming-of-age film features original music with a Maori twist on Marley’s reggae.
Walker is predictably impressive in the singing scenes as his group moves through the talent contest. More surprising is his range of acting skills, from the natural camaraderie he shares with his band mates to the strained relationship with his father.
Claiming he took just three acting classes before shooting began in Pukekohe, near Auckland, last year, Walker says the biggest hurdle getting into character was forgetting he was on stage.
‘‘I had to find myself as the character Turei as opposed to Stan Walker, which was a challenge because I started singing like me,’’ Walker says.
‘‘It took a while to realise that Turei is a unique person from a different era with his own background and musical influences.’’
The concept for Mt. Zion started when Kahi discovered old footage from Marley’s 1979 tour in which the late singer received a traditional Maori welcome. The director edited the footage to include Marley in the film’s key scene with Walker’s character performing the famous ‘‘wero’’ dance – bringing the actor virtually face to face with his idol.
‘‘I love Bob Marley and he’s everywhere and everything in New Zealand so I was really nervous doing that scene,’’ Walker says.
‘‘Everyone in the Maori community will judge me on my skills and know whether I’m faking it or not. Fortunately, I think I did all right.’’
Mt. Zion opens at Pacific Fair tonight, with red-carpet arrivals/entertainment from 5pm.
Gold Coast singer Stan Walker (left) and Te Rangi Kahi in feelgood drama