Home and Away: Look out Summer Bay! The Parata are moving in!

By Aroha Mane

Former Shortland Street actor Bree Peters is set to hit screens in Australia. The Ngāpuhi/Ngāti Wai descendant who is best known for her villain character Pania Stevens on New Zealand's favourite soap opera Shortland Street is about to embark on a new role on Australian's soap opera "Home and Away", as the matriarch of the Parata whānau, the first Māori family to reside in Summer Bay.

“My character's name is Gemma Parata. I'm the mother of a young boy on the show and he's got his uncles with him, so it's sort of just that family unit. I'm a widow, yeah so it's just all the boys and me,” says actress Bree Peters.

We've seen her on Māori Television's "Find Me a Māori Bride," TVNZ's "Shortland Street" and the "Enemy Within." Peters says the best way to describe the Parata whānau is tight, funny and loyal.

“I think when we started this show, the writers and creators of the show didn't really have a huge idea of what Māori could bring. They have an idea in Australia of all our best bits but there are other little bits that we bring that are authentically us. So they were really open to us bring as much of our culture as we can and the authenticity, so we brought a few of those things in.”

This is "Home and Aways" first Māori whānau and even though there have been aboriginal characters on the show, there has never been an aboriginal family.

“I am proud to represent kids whose faces look like mine and who sound like me. So I feel like that's where I put my heart and soul in this whole journey and the boys did as well. All I hope is that (and the boys do as well) we've set up lines of communication for other cultures including our aboriginal brothers and sisters to come through.”

Peters says Taika Waititi's reference to indigenous at the Oscars was beautiful.

“I have the feeling of wanting to tell stories, we just have it in us. That love to play, that love to communicate and stuff. I think it's a beautiful thing that he sort of said that to indigenous kids. I would love to connect more of that, the way we tell stories.”

Her passion for the arts also stretches out to the theatre, she's currently working in a play about a female poet.

“It's called a show called Emilia and it's directed by Miriama McDowell. It's about the dark lady in Shakespeare's sonnets and it's bringing her voice to that stage.”

Peters encourages rangatahi pursuing a career in the arts to give everything a go and if it fails, laugh it off and try again.