I Thought I Recognised Her - Luciane Buchanan
My Mum is Tongan and my Dad is from New Zealand. He has Scottish ancestry. People are like, what part of Scotland? I’m like, OK, his family have lived here for years. Mount Albert is my hood. I moved there towards the end of primary school and all my friends from school are from that area, so we proudly rep Mt Albert. The MA heights we call it, even though it’s just a mountain. As much as we’re getting into our mid-20s we all lived at home for a really long time and we spent most of our days at Rocket Park listening to music, talking and wasting time. Even if we do move out of Mt Albert, we still come back together. We’ve got a friends house we call the 'Mt Albert Marae' and we stay way too long, it’s just our place to come together.
For a really long time I was really uncomfortable saying I’m an actress. I have become a bit more confident in saying, ‘Yeah, this is what I do, this is what I love.’ Instead of saying, ‘Oh yeah sometimes I act, but normally I’m just auditioning or I’m a Uni student.’ People wanna know how I make money, or some people see it as make-believe so they don’t see the point of it. The more you do it, the more the more you see why you’ve always wanted to do it. I find it really interesting out here in LA, because everyone is a bloody actor.
I did a double major in psychology and drama. It was a nice balance. It could get quite science-y and a lot of statistics on one end, and then I’d go into drama and sit on the floor and we’d walk across the room crying.
For me, [acting] is about telling stories, and I think that’s something that Polynesian, Māori and indigenous cultures do naturally. Whether we’re talking about our cousin who was drunk on the weekend, we’ll over-exaggerate and elaborate to make it sound way funnier than it is. We do that so naturally. I think that is already in us to begin with, whether it’s music or art or drama. For me, it’s just a whole other thing when you take on a character that you care about and that you understand. It’s something magical, because screen acting is so collaborative. You can’t do anything without the man or woman behind the camera. You need an editor to bring their talent, you need music, so many people coming together to make magic that you later see on screen. There’s just something about film and television that achieves that, so many people working together for this one moment to work. It can make you think about things you wouldn’t have thought about before because it’s visual and it’s emotive.
Probably one of the biggest topics in our industry at the moment is diversity on screen. My grandma has no idea what’s going on, you know, she’s like ‘I saw you on an ad, what’s going on? What are you doing kissing a girl?’ But when my grandma said, with her limited English, ‘It’s really great to see a Tongan face on TV’ it was a proud moment. You want to make sure you do what you love because they sacrificed so much to come here and had to work really hard for us to be where we are and you don't want to take that for granted. It's weird what you think is a personal or individual goal turns out to be bigger than that because you undoubtedly represent your family and your people.
My hope is when people see faces like mine and Frankie Adams and Beulah Koale and KJ Apa that they can be like, ‘I can do that, easy’. Because that’s what I would do when I was younger, if I saw someone that was like me I’d be like, 'Cool, if they can do it, then I can too'. I think we are really lucky in the time that we are working, because there are more doors open for us. Not all doors, but more than the generation before us. Even just my younger cousins, it’s cool that they can take what I do as a job and be proud of that.
Filthy Rich was my training ground to learn how to be on set. I felt so lucky to be able to play a 15-16 year old who is rich, I mean, I can’t relate to a rich girl, and it was a lot of fun and it offered me a lot of opportunity to have skills on set and do things on the job. I wouldn’t be able to do things like The Legend of the Monkey, or the next job if I didn’t have that experience.
I moved to LA because I got a little bit of interest from here, I got a manager when I was doing Legend of the Monkey and they were like, you really need to come here. I have never wanted to ever live here. I’m really passionate about the stories we’re telling at home. But coming here, there’s so much I can learn from Americans. I do like living here. If there are things I can take home about what I’ve learnt here that’d be awesome. Even to just learn from the auditioning process.
I did a short film 'My Friend Michael Jones' before I came here which touches on teenage suicide. It was heavy, I was nervous to play it, but it was one of the best experiences I’ve had on set. I’ve never personally been there myself, and I wanted to do it justice, I didn’t want to glamorise it like other shows. It talks about homosexuality in the Pacific household, and how you can’t talk about those things, and mental illness. It’s sparking conversation. Samson Rambo and Ian Leaupepe are so talented and have so much to tell within that story.
I realised doing the short film that as much as I wanted to do social work to help youth in our community, I feel I can do that through film because it's a platform to talk about things that can't really be talked about easily in our communities. Being part of such powerful stories is your contribution, or dedication, to those people who live these lives. It is not about you as an actor, you're just the vessel or mouthpiece for these stories, and that's when it's the most rewarding.
I’m really excited about Baby Mamas Club. It’s so awesome seeing one of my friends Hanelle Harris, a Māori filmmaker and director, that’s revolutionary, we need more of that happening, and having a full brown cast is amazing. It’s just a story that we’re really passionate about. It’s more than just ‘Who’s the Daddy?’ It’s more about the women and the role of being a mother, and that it’s OK, and how people negatively stereotype them in other shows. We’re giving the torch back to them, because it’s based off the actresses in the show, apart from me I’m not a Mum, but it’s celebrating them and what they have lived through.
I'm also passionate about climate change. Two years ago I went to a conference in Fiji, my uncle was working behind the scenes, so I went and checked it out. Listening to people’s stories about their homelands and how much climate change is affecting them, it’s so heartbreaking because I feel like we’re so unaware of what happens in our motherlands. They don’t have the resources to act on something they don’t even contribute to. So it’s very personal to me. But also without an environment we don’t get to do anything that we’re doing now. I don’t see a separation between the earth and the people. We are one.