Ac­tor Jay’s 30-year love af­fair

The ac­tor spills on mar­riage, mu­si­cals and lov­ing your work

Woman’s Day (NZ) - - Contents -

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.”

Fam­ily first

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.

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