Kawakawa Fox-Reo joins Home And Away as the youngest member of the Australian soap’s first Mori family just months after graduating from the New Zealand theatre school Toi Whakaari.
Three years later, the Hawke’s Bay actor was accepting this year’s Logie for the most watched television drama on stage with his co-stars.
The first television awards ceremony conducted since the pandemic started in 2020 was attended by some of Australia’s most well-known figures, and the 24-year-old said she was both nervous and excited about being there.
The victory, according to Fox-Reo, was the product of a great deal of effort put forward by everyone associated with what is now, following the cancellation of Neighbours, Australasia’s longest-running soap opera.
It was obviously a team effort, he says, adding that he didn’t stop grinning the entire night. “I was very blessed to be in that situation and have the opportunity to get up there.
When Fox-Reo discovered he had been chosen to play troubled teen Nikau Parata, he had just secured a seat at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. Fox-Reo has also had roles in Wellington Paranormal and The Dead Lands.
He decided against travelling to the United States and instead made his way to Sydney. As the youngest member of the Parata family, he made his Summer Bay debut in the early months of 2020.
His mother Gemma was portrayed by former Shortland Street star Bree Peters, and his uncles Ari and Tane were portrayed by Rob Kipa-Williams of 800 Words and newcomer Ethan Browne.
Peters left shortly after making her debut, and Kipa-Williams left at the beginning of this year.
But Browne and Fox-Reo are still still firmly planted in the bay.
According to Fox-Reo, his time on Home And Away had a profound effect on him.
“It’s a fantastic chance, and although though I really missed my family in New Zealand, this is what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m incredibly appreciative.
Ask him how he handles the renown that comes with the role, though, and he seems a little perplexed.
It still doesn’t feel like it to him, he admits.
He acknowledges that in their nearly three years in the bay, he and his character have undergone significant change, and that for Nikau, at least, more changes are in the works.
The young man is attempting to figure out his own future while trying to preserve a long-distance relationship with his fiancée Bella (Courtney Miller), who relocated to New York for a photographic career.
According to Fox-Reo, maintaining a relationship while thousands of kilometres away would be challenging. “As far as he’s concerned, he’s going to spend the rest of his life with Bella but there are difficulties,” he admits.
Nikau is actually about to purchase a ticket to New York to meet Bella when an incident that occurred while he was working as a lifeguard causes him to reconsider.
After he prevents a young woman from drowning and receives a permanent position as a professional lifeguard, Bella exhorts him to remain in the bay and take use of the opportunity.
Fox-Reo believes that playing a lifeguard is a fantastic fit for him and his character, and he freely admits that it was both demanding and enjoyable to film the dramatic rescue.
I’m not a good swimmer, but the staff was understanding of my situation. We managed to finish it despite spending the entire day on the ocean, he says, confessing that lying on the beach all day is his ideal day job.
It’s really enjoyable. Nikau and I both struggle to think of anything negative to say about it. I believe that being able to help others and give back to the community—both of which he enjoys doing—really fulfils him. He won’t be leaving that job any time soon, in my opinion.
Fox-Reo is hesitant to speculate on what may happen to his character in the future, but he is optimistic that his new work will help him forge new connections and advance in his life.
“He has to kind of open himself to new people, but I think that process will be a little bit challenging for him.”