TV star's stage fright

DANIEL MARKHAM
Last updated 05:00 21/05/2010
STAR
STAR FACTOR: Faye Smythe is a familiar face on TV.
TALENTED
TALENTED BUNCH: Faye Smythe, centre, with the rest of the Raising the Titanics cast. From left: Francis Kora, Wesley Dowdell, Bronwyn Turei, Miriama McDowell and Tama Waipara.

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SHORTLAND Street star Faye Smythe is about to face one of her greatest fears.

The 24-year-old has played nurse Tania Jefferies on TV for nearly six years but is terrified by the thought of taking to the stage.

"I've always said that I'm not interested in doing theatre at all," she says. "It's mainly because I'm absolutely petrified of it."

Faye finally plucked up the courage to audition for a theatrical role earlier this year and will make her stage debut next month in Raising the Titanics – a homage to the great Maori showbands of yesteryear.

"I actually put my name forward for another production and didn't get the part. But the Titanics' producers heard that I was keen to get into theatre after that and asked me to audition. I almost left the city that weekend – I was just so scared."

A bit of gentle prodding from her partner, fellow actor Te Kohe Tuhaka, gave her the encouragement she needed to step on to the stage.

"He comes from a theatre background and has always said: `You'd be great, just trust me'."

Faye and Te Kohe, who played Tania's boyfriend and gang leader Kingi on Shortland Street, met on set and it wasn't long before their love affair spilled off screen.

The couple live together near the soap's Henderson studio and Faye feels right at home out west.

"I love it," she says. "I moved here when I got my job at Shorty in 2005. I wasn't driving at the time so the closer I could get the better. I liked it so much that I've stayed."

The qualified fitness instructor was born in South Africa and came to New Zealand with her family at the age of 11. The Smythes settled in Takapuna on the North Shore and Faye found her new surroundings to be quite a culture shock.

"It was very different," she says.

"I feel much more comfortable in the west because it's more like where I'm from."

Faye is often mistaken for being of Maori or Pacific Island descent but her ethnic make-up is far more varied.

"My mum's side is black African, Dutch, French and Spanish while my father's is black African and Portuguese. I can understand why people get confused because I used to do kapa haka and speak a little bit of Maori."

Faye is excited about playing a Maori character in Raising the Titanics, which runs at the Tapac theatre from June 23 to 27.

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"I love the culture and have completely immersed myself in it. It will be nice to use what I've learned."

She is not the only familiar face taking part in the production.

New Lynn resident and Outrageous Fortune star Wesley Dowdell, who plays lovable loser Aaron Spiller on the hit TV show, is also a cast member.

"I couldn't imagine a better group of people to jump on stage with for the first time," Faye says.

But she is not about to give up her day job on Shortland Street and says Tania is an interesting character to play.

"She's had a lot of ups and downs. She's been addicted to drugs, abducted, gotten into the gang scene – all sorts of things. It's been a real rollercoaster for me as an actor. I've learned so much."

She can't wait to face her fear and find out what it feels like to be on stage.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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