Rena Gives Up Money for Love
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Rena Gives Up Money for Love

12 Aug 2014, Posted by in ARTICLES & INTERVIEWS

Rena Gives Up Money for Love
by Vicky Tyler
New Idea Magazine, January 1, 2001


Kiwi actress Rena Owen has just returned to our shores to renew her commitment to her Maori roots. Rena has turned down starring in a high-paying action movie to take the lead role in ground-breaking Maori television programme, The Aroha (Love) Series, which has a full Maori script. It will be the first New Zealand Maori drama series that is spoken totally in Maori.

The Aroha Series includes six one-off Maori love stories and other shows will include big names such as Temuera Morrison and Cliff Curtis.

Rena feels strongly about her role in Mataora (living face), which is a modern love story based on a Maori legend in which lovers – one from the underworld and the other from the upperworld – break up only to come together once again.

“I turned down a two-month job in Kuala Lumpur to do it because this one was personally more important to me,” she explains. “The one in Kuala Lumpur would have paid a lot more money but I call this one spiritual banking.”

“It’s totally in Te Reo, the Maori language, and there are just not enough drama programmes that are done in Te Reo. I see our language as a real treasure and one that needs to be preserved and film is a way of preserving one’s culture.”

Thankfully, Rena grew up in an environment where Maori was regularly around her, and she has a strong knowledge of the language.

The award-winning actor’s career has been going from strength to strength since she left New Zealand in July last year.

Rena has worked with names such as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg in the past year, something few actors can claim.

“When I left here in July, I had a few weeks in Australia on Star Wars, and one of my most magical days was visiting George Lucas’ ranch near San Francisco to do my voiceover work and I had a ball on his ranch for a day.

“I also had two amazing weeks with Spielberg, filming Artificial Intelligence. My agent was a bit reluctant for me to do it because the role was only three or four scenes.

“But I wanted the opportunity to work with phenomenal talent and to plant a seed for the future and build a relationship with Spielberg.

“The first day I turned up on set he raved about Once Were Warriors. He thought Lee Tamahori did a wonderful job and when the cinematographer recognised me from Once Were Warriors, Spielberg nudged him and said: ‘Yeah, she’s doing me a favour.'”

She has also been busy working on David E. Kelly’s latest medical drama Gideon’s Crossing, now screening on TV3 on Wednesdays.

Other strings to Rena’s bow include helping judge the Montreal Film Festival, starring in an American independent movie that was shot in Amsterdam, and performing her own stunts in a martial arts film in Hawaii.

“It’s been a very busy year. It’s been a great year. I love it in LA – it’s a great lifestyle and I never get bored with it because I’m on the road so much.”

And not only has Rena’s career been doing well, her love life has also been boosted by her move overseas. She has met an American man and has no plans to leave LA at this stage.

“I have a wonderful man in my life,” she grins.

But unfortunately, due to Rena’s filming commitments, the couple must spend a lot of time apart.

“I really miss him and he really misses me, but we both came into the relationship knowing these were the circumstances. Travel is a big part of my job and he also has to travel for his job. But we talk every second day.”

Rena says one of the things she likes best about the Mataora love story is the parallels with the Maori legend.

In the modern day story Rena plays the wife of a Kiwi SAS officer who blames himself for the loss of his mates in East Timor. He becomes so full of guilt and depression that Rena’s character must decide whether to leave him, [or] to try to make him snap out of it.

“It’s a lovely role. What I admire most about the character is her undying love for him and her constant loyalty to [him]. These days people have one argument and it’s all over.”

The Aroha Series – Mataora will screen on TV1.


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