When you need a rugged and hard-hitting actor in film circles, the list isn’t very long when it comes to raw, unbridled energy. You probably think I’m talking about the Christian Bales or Daniel Day-Lewises of the world, but not today. I’d like to turn your attention to Temuera Morrison who is not only a very powerful and seasoned actor, but someone who you can see existing as their character, not just portraying one.
Tem, as they call him, got noticed back in the ’90s with a little picture called Once Were Warriors. Since then, if you needed rough and tumble, Tem was your man. He caught George Lucas’ eye, and, really, who better to play father to Boba Fett AND the entire Clone Army in the Star Wars universe?
Well, continuing that sci-fi kick, Morrison recently played the sadistic warden in one of our dear favorite films, Science Fiction Volume One: The Osiris Child (check out our review here and our interview with director Shane Abbess in the sidebar). That film not only got Tem back to his warrior roots, but now he’s adding more and more sci-fi projects to his resume.
GoSeeTalk: Mr. Morrison, very glad to be speaking with you. I am a big fan of what you did with Shane Abbess’ brilliant throwback ’80s epic, The Osiris Child.
Temuera Morrison: Really? You must be the only person who saw that movie. [Laughs] I have to say that working with Shane really blew me away. I really enjoyed the opportunity to work on that.
Originally, I was going to play Luke Ford’s character, one of those guys on the bus, but they changed it around at the last minute and they gave me the role of Warden Mourdain. They said, ”why don’t you play the warden?” And I said, “Oh, wow! Yeah, let’s give that a go!” He’s a very crazy character, and I loved it.
I’ve talked to Shane a couple times since the premiere at Fantastic Fest, and he loved my review of the film so much, he put my quote on the poster. When I discussed your character, he said he wanted to get you back to your roots and give you a role to give you that energy you showed back in Once Were Warriors.
Oh, I really liked The Osiris Child, too, and I thought Shane was great. He’s one of those directors who wants everybody there on set. He doesn’t want anyone talking, or on their cell phones. He wants you there, in character, from the moment you turn up, and he wanted all the production people to call you by your character name. He really wanted you to have the freedom to do anything you want, especially, for me, to go crazy. So I let it rip.
It was a groovy experience, and I learned a lot off of Shane. It reminded me about going back to the basics, the “roots” as he says. That’s what I’m trying to do now with my roles, to get back to that energy force that got me noticed in the first place. Shane awakened me to the kind of acting that I did and was happening when I first started in this business, and I’m glad to be back there again.
There’s a point in Occupation where are you confront one of the alien soldiers, and you ferociously attack him. The emotion and energy are so raw, and I know it’s a movie, and it’s staged, but how do you prepare for a scene like that? Do you perform a haka?
Yes, sometimes that helps. Other times just not knowing what you’re supposed to do helps you because your reaction is unique to the day, and not prepared in advance. When you have to be physical, sometimes it’s best not to think about it too much. To get back to what Shane was talking about, I have to draw on that Haka energy. The ”ha” is the breath, the ”ka” is fire. So Haka is a “fire breath.” Funny enough, there is a Cirque du Soleil show called KA. That is our Maori word for fire.
Occupation has a very long and involved plot. It’s more long-form story telling like The Walking Dead than something like Independence Day. How was the story pitched to you and what did you like most about it?
I liked filming on the Gold Coast. [Laughs] It gets cold here in New Zealand. Actually, I was screening The Osiris Child at a convention on the Gold Coast, and I had a meeting set up with Luke Sparke for Occupation, and knew very quickly that I liked him and would be happy working with him.
I think I was riding on The Osiris Child and because I really enjoyed working with Shane, I was very eager to give sci-fi another go. Sci-fi is one of those genres where there aren’t many rules. After doing The Osiris Child, I started to see some of the things that Shane was talking about throughout the production. I didn’t really get it until the end of the shoot.
So here was another opportunity that came up, and it really didn’t require that much pitching, and I really didn’t enjoy the script that much but there was enough for me to do. There were emotions, there was action, and I was surprised how things came off the page a little better than I thought.
When you have to have a hard edge, it’s easy to become typecast. But you have range, as well as a good sense of humor. I saw you sing the Max Merritt song, “Slipping Away” (click here to check that out). What would you like to try, musically, to get away from the more expected roles?
Funny you mention that, because I’ve just been offered a musical. I was on TV in Australia promoting Occupation, and a producer was there, telling me about the project, and I thought, “you know, I should give this a go.”
That’s the only way you learn, and, better, you’ll learn if you like something as well. So I’m looking at that, but I still prefer films. Doing theater work, you know, multiple shows and matinees, and the process of doing things over and over again is too much for me. Too much work. [Laughs]
Well, you come from a very famous musical family – it’s what got you into acting from what I’ve been told – so would you want to play one of your relatives in a theatrical biopic?
I do come from a famous family, and my uncle is like the Frank Sinatra of New Zealand. His name was Howard Morrison. He passed away, but he was knighted for his services in entertainment. Sir Howard Morrison (at left). It would be great to do a story about him because they were all singers – all of my uncles.
They were all pioneers in the ’60s and were influenced from all the group singers from America, like the Four Tops, Sammy Davis Jr. and those singers. They were all crooners, and it would be great to do.
Occupation and Aquaman are being released this year. The latter might get you your next action figure, so this sci-fi fare continues to pay off. [Laughs] On that note, let’s talk about convention appearances. My friend, Mark Walters, and I would love to have you back in Dallas again.
I love the conventions, and I just did one in Mexico. I try to go to them when I can. My last one in the States was a while ago; I was in San Jose for a big toy convention. The one in Monterrey, Mexico was a big one and I have so many Star Wars fans. But, I know Mark, he’s a great guy.
I was there in Dallas when Episode II premiered. I’m happy to come back, so we’ll see how and when that can happen. But tell him I said hello!
Thanks to Tem for his time. Occupation is available in theaters, VOD, and digital HD starting July 20, 2018. Beyond that, you can catch Temuera Morrison in Aquaman later this year, on December 21, and if we can get him back to Texas for a convention, we’ll be sure to let you all know.