Rena Owen on being Beth Heke

Posted on 18 December 2008

Actor Rena Owen came to international fame through her role as matriarch Beth Heke in the hard-hitting feature film, Once Were Warriors, based on the Alan Duff novel about a Māori family struggling with domestic violence, gang culture and urban alienation. She is currently living and working in Los Angeles and and is developing an adaptation of the novel, Behind the Tattooed Face by Heretaunga Pat Baker. Behind the Tattooed Face was the first novel written by a Māori about pre-European Māori. Owen hopes to return to NZ to film it once the financing is in place. Owen was back in New Zealand recently to work on Vincent Ward's Rain of the Children and Fiona Samuel's upcoming TV drama, Piece of My Heart. In this interview she talks with Clare O'Leary about:

  • her beginnings in theatre as an actor and playwright;
  • her many television drama roles and how she got her break on the landmark drama series, E Tipu E Rea;
  • her role as Beth in Warriors;
  • making a living as a Kiwi actor overseas;
  • working on New Zealand stories (Behind the Tattooed Face, Piece of My Heart);
  • the significance of working with Māori creative teams and crew.

Find out more about Rena Owen on NZ On Screen. This interview is available to download and distribute in two parts (Part One and Part Two) on YouTube. 



rena owen, once were warriors, actor, beth heke, maori drama, television, e tipu e rea, maori


by della baird on 07 February 2009 at 3:56 am

dear rena owen, i was excited to see your interview.i had seen "once were warriors" at an arts theatre and it was packed with brought out so much visible and verbal emotion in the theatre.i have bought the film.having lived thru a similar childhood, i believe that every area of that lifestyle was brought to the forefront as it need to be.thank you all to all involved.kudos! i wish to come to your country one day.i hope to meet you also Rena. canada.

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