Underappreciated Actress of Color #15: Mamaengaroa

Uh-uh, y'all; the folks Down Under aren't exempt.  Maori-blooded Miss Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell (don't you just love her name?!) got her stellar, break-out role at the age of 16...by accident.  As Grace Heke in the acclaimed Once Were Warriors (depicted left), she brought tragedy and vulnerability to a violent tale of familial dysfunction and post-colonial cultural identity struggle.

And yet, even though she kept acting after that, I still can't find a decent publicity photo of the womanPourquoi?  When she did what she did at 16, in 1994, in one of the most visceral and heart-wrenching films of that decade, why wasn't Hollywood blowing up her number?  You could say, "But, like, dude, she's, like, foreign or whatever."  Uh...does that's stop Hollywood from wooing and overpaying white actresses from Western Europe, Australia, and Canada?  I don't think so!

Comments

  1. Oh man. "Once Were Warriors" is one helluva film. It's not often that I get teary in a movie, but seeing what happens to Grace Heke is one of those times.

    Regarding lack of further success in films, I wonder if it hurts her to have a name that wouldn't easily roll off the tongue for most audiences. I figure that's part of the reason why actors like Chiwetel Ejiofor and Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje aren't household names.
    Nice to see that Temuera Morrison got some Hollywood love out of that movie though.

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  2. LOL - Probably because his name is waaaay easier to say. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. The brutal rape scene of Mamaengaroa Kerr-Bell's character brought me to tears. I can't believe she was only 16 years-old at the time. She was very convincing.

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  4. @ leigh204,

    I couldn't believe it either. I was shocked at how different the rules are in New Zealand. I didn't know a they'd let a 16-year-old do all that in a movie!

    I think she's glorious. I'd love to know what she looks like now. I bet she's stunning.

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  5. I cried watching the rape scene as well and I am a crusty old dude. What an amazing young talent. Why she hasn't been in many more films since is beyond me though I don't doubt that race has something to do with it. No pictures of her, very little bio available about her, and the last thing she is listed as having acted in was 2002. Just whets my curiosity rather than assuaging it. This dearth of information also makes me hope she is doing well in her life, that she is prospering and growing.

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  6. I too would love to see how she looks now or know more about her.. She did an awesome job. And Ive read that she had never acted before once were warriors.. Im so glad shes on here. I would love to see more from her!!

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  7. Was just thinking where in the world this beautiful actress has gone. She showed great talent in Once Were Warriors & even if were by accident she got the role, she did an awesome job. Looking forward to seeing a more recent photo of her & see where she is now

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    1. Once Were Warriors had me in tears , so sad ! So heartbreaking!

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  8. you can find her in the tv series "mataku" she was awesome in that too! and also "staunch" and a short stint on "shortland street" all new zealand shows i am nz maori woman just like mamaengaroa i was the same age as her when the movie came out i tell you the movie flipped our people upside down because it was a truth not for all but it does happen not only in our culture but many cultures and damn did she play grace heke so well! i love to hate once were warriors but i am a huge fan of gracies :)

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    1. Just wondering...why would u "love to hate once were warriors"?

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    2. I understand the "love to hate" reference in regards to the movie, but for me it's probably more of a "hate to love" situation. It's hard to watch this derogatory representation of my culture that unfortunately a lot of people think is typical (which it isn't) but at the same time am filled with a sense of pride and patriotism for the international acclaim the movie has received. I gues i hate and love the movie or hate that i love it. Mamaengaroa went to the audition as moral support for her friend whos brother had done some acting and gave her some instruction hoping she would do well, while Mamaengaroa was waiting for her friend to audition she played a game of Pool. Some one there thought she had the right look, invited her to audition and somewhere down the track she was given the part.

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