May 18, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

Kiwi Cliff Curtis flies high in NBCs ‘Trauma’

3 min read

Where do you go when you want someone to play a cocky, American helicopter pilot who’s part of the daring, first-response paramedics? Why, New Zealand, of course. The folks over at NBC, where the thriller Trauma premieres Monday (9 p.m., Channels 7, 10), are not the first to cast Cliff Curtis in an exotic part.

trauma2Not only is Curtis a Kiwi, hes an indigenous Maori but hes played everything from an Arab to a Chechen and costarred in films like Whale Rider, The Piano, Training Day and Three Kings.

It never occurred to Curtis that he should act until hed already done it for 10 years. I was not driven or ambitious in that way, he says in his New Zealand accent. I danced competitively for a couple of years in my late teens and won a couple of nationals. And from there I joined up with the local theater group.

But acting was always a hobby to him. You don’t take these things seriously in New Zealand, he shakes his head.

Men are men, real men. This whole idea of getting into the arts no, no. But my job wasn’t challenging for me intellectually or creatively, and I saw a play, John Osbornes Look Back in Anger, and the lead character from that play is called Cliff. I just thought, Wow! I’m going to try that and I just did.

His father objected strongly, but that hardly mattered. Curtis had seen his father only briefly most of his life; his mother died when he was 3, and he was shuffled off to various relatives.

I moved around a lot so I got sort of like that gypsy thing in my blood. I move around a lot, hard to keep my feet in one place. I’m calming down. I have such a lifestyle that I can’t stay still if I wanted to because my work demands it of me. So unless I quit the business then I’d really find out if I could stay in one place for too long.

Curtis was rootless as a kid, but I had a surrogate-type father figure, the most wonderful man. His family really elevated for me the possibilities in life, and they really kind of gave me the possibility to see the potential in myself. They taught young boys, took them on a summer camp situation and taught us the tradition in Maori cultural things, says Curtis.

Before that he’d been raised a Catholic. It helped me as a child but for some reason failed me as a teenager and the church and those things didn’t seem to be making sense. I couldn’t differentiate between the ritual and the culture of the church and all of those elements and the spirituality of it, but I found it in this family who really helped me.

Though hes worked in the United States for 15 years, he still commutes. One little television film I did with Anthony Quinn and they flew me to L.A. to do my pre- and post-production. I thought, What am I doing here? I don’t want to be here. I want to be home. I’m homesick.

Curtis, 41, is married and has two children, a boy and a girl. He’s reluctant to talk about family, he says, because he wants to keep that part of his life private. But he does recall when he became a dad for the first time. It changed me in so many ways. I became a man, to my measure of a man. It’s a very deep experience.

You can check out pictures from Season One of Trauma here

And for the original article, please click here.

~ !!! ~Mean Cliff Curtis Mean ~ !!! ~

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