This is how I get stuff done – Mario Gaoa

Today, we are absolutely delighted to introduce you to Mario Gaoa, who is a hard-working, talented and dark horse creative, in that he is one of those people whose mellifluous voice and face you’ve heard before but can’t quite place because he acts, writes, directs and produces on screen and onstage. We first saw Mario onstage in 1997 at the first “Naked Samoans” show at the Auckland Town Hall and actually thought he was Indian, not Samoan. He’s also an incredibly nice, hilarious and loyal person in real life. Fa’afetai tele lava/Many thanks Mario for sharing your wisdoms, experiences and wit with us.

We’ll let his words speak for themselves in our interview. Enjoy!

Mario Gaoa. Photo courtesy Ⓒ The Conch.

Can you please introduce yourself in 25 words or under? (family whakapapa and title
you use for your work)

Talofa lava, my name is Mario Gaoa, I am a proud Samoan who dabbles in the arts. I
am a writer, producer and director. Like a lot of Island families from back in the day, I
hail from a large family nest. 9 Brothers and 1 Sister. Dogs called Bruno and Apollo and
a chicken called Penelope.


When did you know you were creative? Was it a singular moment or more gradual?
When I was in primary school I was good at story telling because it would come in handy
when I was trying to dodge getting a hiding from one of my brothers. There was no
“eureka” moment that I suddenly became an actor. I just found myself in a place where I
was working more industry jobs than my normal day job answering phones at Sky TV
and being abused for peoples sky sport channel dropping out during an All Black game.

What made you get involved with creative projects?
My first flat was a crash pad. A four bed room flat up in Ponsonby but sometimes there
would be 15 of us living there. One of my flat mates was in the University theatre group.
She used to bribe me and Shimpal Lelisi with a tray of beer to come to their theatre
workshops, to hug trees and get emotional in front of people we barely knew. We were
weak so we took the deal. I met David Fane in that group. Guess that made it three
weak guys.

What does a typical day look like working with you?
Very boring actually. At the moment it’s a lot of reading. A lot of sitting in front of a
computer. A bit of looking at scripts. A bit of face book. A bit of working on scripts. A bit
of Instagram. A cup of coffee and a masi samoa and then if I’m lucky some one will
shout me some lunch.

What have been the top 3 (It can only be one or two if you like) highlights of your
creative practice?

The first has to be forming the theatre group called the Naked Samoans with Oscar
Kightley, David Fane and Shimpal Lelisi. 4 broke ass actors who were tired of being cast
as burglers and murderers in main screen television so decided to form their own theatre
group, write their own plays and cast themselves as the stories hero’s and love interests
for the very first time in their acting careers.


The second is starting a production company with a director mate of mine. It’s a start up,
and as you can guess it’s all geared toward getting more Pasifika stories told in film and
television, and that can only be a good thing.


What do you do for self-care/time out?

Might sound a little lame but I read a lot of Japanese and Korean light novels.
Otherwise a gin and a karaoke mic to wreck my neighbours week end.

Is anyone in your family also creative? If so, do you work together or not and if so, why?
My wife is a producer and my son is starting to flex his appreciation for the arts as well.

What are your top 3 tips for finishing a creative project?
I only have one tip really. Surround yourself with good people. People who want to see
you do well and believe in your talent and the project. You don’t have to be the best
writer/director/producer in the world because if you have the right people around you,
chances are you are going to complete the project regardless, and your creative kung fu
will be the better for it.

How do you measure your creative success?
If I’m on set and I see a cast and crew full of islanders I am a happy
writer/director/producer.


Are you superstitious or religious? If so, what rituals/ beliefs do you do/ have/or not?
Both. I was brought up in the Mormon church, but I still find myself covering mirrors in
hotel rooms so Teine Sa doesn’t come through.

How do you close out or finish a project?
I always like to take a moment and acknowledge the powers that brought us all to that
moment. I think about what we could have done better. Where I messed up and what I
need to learn. It’s only a moment….. and then Gin and Bob Marley.

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