Actor Jay’s 30-year love affair
The actor spills on marriage, musicals and loving your work
As the saying goes, “behind every successful man is a strong woman” – and one of New Zealand’s favourite actors is testament to that.
Performer Jay Laga’aia has been treading the boards for decades, headlining countless plays, musicals and TV shows around the globe. But it is his secondary role he is most grateful for – that of being a parent and partner in his very busy family.
The father-of-eight says he couldn’t have had such a long and varied career were it not for his leading lady, wife Sandie, 52.
“My secret? I know what the secret is – it’s not about me. It’s someone clearing the chaos behind you so you can pretend to be the breadwinner, when she is the hand that rocks the cradle,” the 55-yearold candidly admits.
“I see myself as the high jumper, but I need 13 steps to get over and she backs everyone out of the way so I can make it.”
The pair recently marked their 28th wedding anniversary, although the day was like many others in the Laga’aia house – work appointments, paperwork, household demands, and driving children to their sports, theatre and music commitments.
So Jay took to Facebook to acknowledge high school teacher Sandie’s unwavering support, saying she is the reason for his “joy of life”.
“My wife is the secret to my longevity in this industry,” he wrote. “She supports me when I’m down and challenges me when I sulk. She fills me when I am empty and directs me when I am lost. She is the reason I have such a wonderful family, who are blessed to have a mother who only has their interest at heart.
“She is the ultimate organiser and list maker, and she is tireless. A coach, a teacher, a mentor, a wife, a mother, a cook, a dog whisperer, an Uber driver and ATM – but most importantly she has been my friend for three decades and I love her.”
Fun for all ages
Quality time for the Sydney pair is rare when you have six children aged between nine and 20 living at home so Jay was looking forward to Sandie joining him on opening night of his latest play, Peter Pan
Goes Wrong – a comical look at a disastrous amateur theatre group attempting to put on a perfromance of Peter
Pan. It’s showing at the Civic Theatre in Auckland, before heading to Wellington and Christchurch.
Sitting in the red velveted front row of the theatre, Jay describes the comedy as “Fawlty Towers on rollerskates” and is thrilled it is one that you can take your family to, as the children’s presenter is a believer in enriching young people’s lives beyond handheld devices.
“Our children grew up coming to the theatre – you have to invest in their broad look at the world. But many children today are voyeurs who look at screens and do not participate in the world around them. With Peter Pan
Goes Wrong, you can interact with us, boo and cheer.
“It is us making a comical
statement about all of those high school shows we had to attend where out of 20 kids, two were good and the rest were rubbish. It is going to be controlled chaos. It’s fun – and you never work a day in your life if you love the job you do.”
Indeed, the prolific teller of “dad jokes” has seen two of his children immersed in the arts. Iosefa, 20 – who was named after Samoan baritone Iosefa Enari – is a musician and vocalist training to be a conductor, and 17-year-old Tana is a trumpet player who is into jazz and musical theatre. They live at home with 18-year-old Jessica, a netball and touch rugby state rep, Georgia Rose, 13, Katie 11, and Bella, “who is nine going on 27”, jokes Jay.
His elder sons are Jeremy, 35, an Auckland-based translator, and Matthew, who at 26 has just opened a café with a friend in Sydney.
“I have always encouraged my children to do what makes them happy. They must get their qualifications first – you have to have a job to pay rent – but if it can be something you love doing, then you will be fulfilled. I am 55 years old, and I’m playing with play dough and dressing as a pirate!”
Ahoy, matey! Jay is having shiploads of fun in his latest theatrical role.