Home And Away’s Nikau Parata may have agreed not to return to New Zealand, but Kawakawa Fox-Reo knows how difficult it was for his character to make the decision.
The pandemic of Covid-19 ensures that the 22-year-old actor who made his Home And Away debut at the beginning of this year will spend Christmas in Sydney instead of in Hawke’s Bay with his family.
“It’s a difficult time, uh, so we make the most of what we have,” he says, adding that he could easily understand why Nikau was tempted to come back home. “He’s a very family-oriented guy, and when they’re away from the thing that keeps them grounded, I think anyone who is family oriented feels a bit off.”
“It certainly didn’t make it easier, but I’m really, really thankful if anything for the opportunity to be here doing something I love,” he says. “I’m constantly on my mom’s phone and Home And Away keeps me busy and takes things away from my mind.”
The actor made the most of the break when Covid-19 halted production in March, and returned to New Zealand.
Before coming back here, I kind of jumped on the chance to get back home for a little bit, get as much family time as I could,” he says.”
“It was just after quarantine was introduced, so I did quarantine in New Zealand and then when I came back to Australia again.”
Fox-Reo, who is now the youngest cast member of Home And Away, was studying acting in the United States when he discovered he was one of four Kiwis who would become the first Māori family of Home And Away.
The Paratas started filming in 2019 with Nikau, his mother Gemma (Bree Peters, who played Shortland Street villain Dr. Pania Stevens), and his uncles Ari (800 Words ‘Rob Kipa-Williams) and Tane (newcomer Ethan Browne), and the family soon became firm favorites for fans. However, Gemma went back to New Zealand for her husband’s memorial service just a few months after her debut and never returned. Fox-Reo was furious that he saw Peters leaving.
“As an individual and also as a performer, she brought a lot to the family,” he says. “As an actor, I have learned so much from her and I have nothing but positive stuff to tell about that lady. She’s brilliant, she’s fantastic, and I just hope that at some point they’ll get her back.
Meanwhile with Nikau, he has no trouble naming himself.
“We are both definitely mamma’s boys, although Nikau is likely to get into a little more trouble than I am,” he says, smiling. My mom will probably give him a few smacks behind his ear, of course, but I think she would be proud of him, hopefully. He’s really trying to do the right thing and do the right thing for his family.
For Nikau, it has been an eventful year. The youngest Parata came to the Bay, crying that his father, who had been killed in a bank robbery, had gone wrong. He soon became involved with Bella (Courtney Miller), the troubled younger sister of Constable Colby Thorne (Tim Franklin), and was also caught up in the dispute between his Uncle Tane and a gang of drug traffickers.
With Colby now outed as the man who killed Bella’s abusive father, Ross Nixon (Justin Rosniak), Fox-Reo is tight-lipped about what the final weeks of this year will bring to Nikau and the rest of the residents of Summer Bay-and the much-awaited Christmas cliffhanger.
I have to be careful because I’m kind of running out of my mouth,” he says, admitting he was amused by fan ideas about what is in store for the 2020 season finale.”
It’s been pretty intense and exciting, and it’s pretty funny, too, because all the fans are really invested and all of us are texting,’ Come on, you gotta tell us what’s going on. What’s going to take place? ’
“It’s pretty cool. Having that kind of encouragement is very good and beautiful. I suppose everyone just has to tune in to find out what’s going to happen.