Frankie goes to Hollywood
Shorty star paving the way for new Polynesian talent
It’s about 54.6 million kilometres from Ferndale to Mars, but Frankie Adams leapt that with a single audition.
Not knowing the character she was going to play, she sent producers an audition tape she put together ‘‘intuitively’’. It worked. A couple of meetings later, she was leaving roles on Shortland Street and Wentworth to play Martian Marine Bobby Draper on sci-fi TV extravaganza The
Expanse, which is about to kick off season three on Kiwi screens.
An instant fan favourite, Draper is a woman of high principles on a journey of self discovery, testing the limits of loyalty to her homeland. She’s also a 183cm tall Martian badass.
‘‘She is really cool,’’ says Adams during a quick trip home from Toronto, where the show films. ‘‘She never hesitates to stand up for what she believes in. And that’s quite admirable, I think.’’
Adams likes that Draper is a ‘‘noble kind of girl’’ who will say whatever she is feeling and give her opinion confidently.
‘‘I’ve learned that from her. She is a really special woman. It’s really nice to play her.’’
Preparing to play the warrior woman, she undertook a month of training with former military instructors – but one thing she didn’t have to prepare for was Draper’s background. Like Samoan-Kiwi Adams, Draper is a woman of Polynesian descent. She now has a Kiwi accent, too.
‘‘When they found me [the producers] were like, ‘well, we’ll try three different accents’, and they tried American, English and natural, which obviously for me was Kiwi. They said, ‘well, we never considered her to be Kiwi or her family migrating from New Zealand’, but they really liked her – they liked that it was a bit different. They figured that all different accents would be present in the future and they let me keep it, which is great. It makes my job easier.’’
Busting down Hollywood doors for Samoa and New Zealand hopefuls appeals to Adams. In a genre where, usually, the bad guys are English and the good guys are American, she sees playing such a prominent role as representation in action.
‘‘It’s just a bit of pressure, because when you’re one of very few, you know you really want to do a great
job. But it’s been great. I’ve had people from Samoa sending me lovely messages and I feel really proud to do it. My mum’s really stoked that there’s somebody from Samoa who gets to be in a big Hollywood production.
‘‘With people like Beulah Koale (Thank You For Your Service, Hawaii
Five-0), KJ [Apa, star of Riverdale ]– we’re all Samoan-Kiwis and we’ve been able to pave the way for a new wave of Polynesian talent.’’
The Expanse is a pretty solid platform for that. A three-time Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films nominee and Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation winner, the show has a huge and dedicated fanbase – so big that when it was cancelled by Syfy, the outrage from fans was so successful Amazon Studios stepped in to rescue it.
Adams says Syfy airlocking the show was a shock, but she’d ‘‘made peace with it’’.
‘‘Then they started having these talks and they weren’t going to destroy the sets. I thought ‘no, this doesn’t happen’ [that a show gets rescued]. I don’t think this has ever happened before.’’
The show’s rescuer confirmed it. ‘‘We found out on the day when [Amazon head] Jeff Bezos announced it at a science conference. That was amazing and kind of exciting and we all popped some bottles of Champagne.’’
But before Bezos’ crew take full command, there’s season three and Adams has a hot tip for us: watch out for episode six. She fights a ‘‘Chronomonster’’.
‘‘That was a really memorable thing to shoot – and to watch. It was really well done by the visual-effects team. There was a lot of green-screen, but
I’ve had people from Samoa sending me lovely messages and I feel really proud to do it. My mum’s really stoked.
actually that entire shoot I did alone. I had to pretend I was shooting someone and interacting with the monster and then they did the motion capture after because it was so complicated.
‘‘That whole day it felt really silly, because I was having to do all this emotional stuff to nobody. But once it’s all cut together it looks amazing.
A longer trip back to New Zealand from outer space isn’t off the cards for Adams. She won’t even need one of The Expanse’s infamous ‘‘Epstein Drives’’ to make the leap.
‘‘I don’t feel that I’m only going to work in America,’’ she says. ‘‘If I love a [Kiwi] script I’ll be open to doing it, that’s for sure.’’
In the meantime, she’s sticking with Bobbie Draper. ‘‘I really enjoyed season three because she [Draper] got to be a little cheekier.
‘‘She got to be quite crass, but also empathetic. She was just a little bit more flawed and I think that’s what humans relate to,’’ says Adams. ‘‘She had really grown as a woman and as a human.’’
The Expanse season three, Sky Box Sets at 7.30pm on Thursday.
Frankie Adams as Martian Marine Bobbie Draper in The Expanse. Like Samoan-Kiwi Adams, Draper is a woman of Polynesian descent. She now has a Kiwi accent, too.