A company casting extras for a new TV series starring Hollywood heart-throb Jason Momoa which is set to be filmed in the Bay of Islands has been swamped with thousands of applications.
The AppleTV+ series Yenedakine will be based on true story of a warrior chief caught up in the colonisation of Hawaii in the late 1700s.
The tale will be told from an indigenous point of view, and reflects Honolulu-born Momoa’s passion for his Polynesian heritage.
The series will be shot in Northland, Auckland and Hawaii, with filming for the Bay of Islands scenes due to start in late January.
Sarah Hart, founder of Kiwi casting company HeyCast, put out a call for “background actors” of all ages to portray Hawaiians and people of Pacific Island descent.
In a Facebook post, Hart said she’d been overwhelmed by the response, with thousands of applications coming through in the first few days.
She would spend the next few weeks working through a mountain of applications.
Interest was so huge she’d been forced to turn off commenting on her personal page, but would-be extras were still welcome to apply or share her casting call.
Momoa, who has starred in the fantasy series Game of Thrones and the 2018 movie Aquaman – plus its sequel, due out next year – is co-writing, co-producing and starring in the new series.
The towering actor, who stands 1.93-metres (6 feet and 4 inches) tall, visited the Bay of Islands in October for a formal welcome by local hapū Ngāti Kuta and Patukeha.
Hundreds of people attended the pōwhiri at Te Rāwhiti Marae, about 25 kilometres east of Russell, with even the invitees unaware until the last minute that Momoa was on the guest list.
As well as mingling with proud locals, Momoa planted a kōwhai tree and shared a hākari [feast].
In a post on social media at the time, Momoa said he’d been drawn to New Zealand ever since seeing pictures of the country as a young child.
According to family tradition, his ancestors had travelled from Hawaii to Aotearoa and back nine generations ago — which explained his sense of connection.
“It’s the only place on Earth I’ve set foot and felt this is exactly where I’m from,” he said.
Blandy Witehira, who organised the welcome at Rāwhiti, said the event was about whanaungatanga [building relationships] between two peoples who shared the same motherland in Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa [the Pacific Ocean].
Momoa understood that connection well, Witehira said.
He believed the Bay of Islands had been chosen as a location because in ways it looked “more Hawaiian than Hawaii”.
Casting for the Hawaiian scenes started in August, with hundreds turning out to a sports park on the Big Island hoping to land a role. More sessions followed on Oahu in September, with the casting poster calling for “athletic, male and female warrior types”.
According to a plot summary, the eight-part “epic adventure”, also known by the working title ‘Chief of War’, will begin at the turn of the 18th century, when the four kingdoms of Hawaii were in a state of war.
“Based on the true story of Ka’iana, a war chieftain who travels to the outside world and learns more about the men invading his island home. Knowing the separate kingdoms will eventually crumble under the weight of foreign interests, he returns home and joins a bloody campaign to unite the warring islands in order to save them from destruction,” the summary stated.
The unification of Hawaii took place from 1782-1810 under King Kamehameha I.
Momoa – whose father is native Hawaiian, while his mother hails from Iowa – will play the role of Ka’iana.
His commitment to native Hawaiian causes included taking part in protests against the construction of a giant telescope atop the sacred mountain Mauna Kea.
The series’ release date is not yet known.