Ethan Browne, a star of Home and Away, debuted in Summer Bay in 2020 as Tane Parata and quickly won over fans.
The on-screen Mori whnau of the Kiwi actor was the first typical indigenous family to appear on the soap, a distinction that Ethan hasn’t taken lightly.
He spoke candidly to Yahoo Lifestyle about his personal connection to the show, the “pressure” of respectfully portraying Mori culture, and the reasons his daughter doesn’t watch the soap opera.
On the show, Ari Parata (Rob Kipa-Williamscharacter )’s passed away earlier this year, leaving behind his nephew Nikau Parata (Kawakawa Fox-Reo) and younger brother Ethan, who is played by Ethan.
Ari’s emotional farewell stunned Australia, and the funeral episode of the show earned script executive and writer Louise Bowes a nomination for an Australian Writers Guild Award.
‘There’s a lot of pressure’
A cultural advisor was hired because the producers wanted to treat the tangihanga or tangi (a Maori funeral) with respect.
The cultural advisor provided the writers with direction, and they also drew on Ethan and Kawakawa’s personal tangi experience.
“It was crucial to portray it accurately. We wanted to get every detail right, right down to the type of clothing we would wear and having water available at the door for hand washing, Ethan recalls. It was challenging because there was so much pressure to complete the task correctly.
A personal connection to one of the songs performed by the family at Ari’s on-screen tangi was also disclosed by the celebrity.
I had the good fortune to sing one of my uncle’s songs just as he had passed away. It’s a lovely Mori song. It was very appropriate.
In addition, tangi is significant in Mori culture, so it hit home…quite a bit, he says.
Ethan and Kawakawa had another emotional scene to shoot before Ari left the soap.
Ethan’s character taught his on-screen nephew the Taiaha as he prepared to take over as the family’s head.
Ethan tells us that the two spent hours practicing the Taiaha, a traditional Mori weapon, before the scene was filmed.
He says, “We began working with Kawa’s cousin who teaches Taiaha. “We began communicating via Zoom with our cultural advisor as a result of the [Covid] lockdowns. Due to the fact that I was never really taught Taiaha growing up, I was watching YouTube videos.
The stirring scene won over viewers, who praised the actors’ moving performances.
“Showcasing the Mori culture’s warrior side was fantastic. He says, “It was very special to portray.
‘Didn’t want those stereotypes’
The actors didn’t want to be reduced to a stereotype, according to Ethan, even though the family was initially portrayed as “bad boys” in Summer Bay.
He acknowledges that the stereotype of the criminal being a person of color is still prevalent and says, “We wanted to play off of that.”
The authors concurred that wasn’t their intention at all. Everything revolved around altering our course and going from being the bad guy to being the good guy.
He claims that the characters’ increased depth was “important” and that the actors are fortunate to communicate with the writers.
The actor praises the cast and crew for the little touches that help to maintain an authentic feel throughout.
You’ll never see the Parata family inside the house with shoes on.
“That’s simply how we were raised. It’s out of respect that we’re not permitted to wear shoes inside the house, Ethan explains.
He chuckles, “I remember getting a little smack on the hand if I wore shoes in my grandmother’s house.
‘Opened doors for diversity’
Ethan hopes that the addition of a Mori family to Home and Away will lead to the continued telling of diverse stories on television.
There is obviously a demand for these kinds of tales given the popularity of Australian shows like Netflix’s Heartbreak High reboot.
“I believe that Australia is a very diverse country; there are many different cultures here…
The arrival of a Mori family was only a matter of time. I believe it was a logical step to be taken,” he claims.
“It [has] hopefully opened doors for diversity. I certainly hope so, as I believe it has.
It’s not surprising that his friends and family in Wairoa have been supportive given how popular New Zealand is for Home and Away.
It’s different in some ways. I believe it’s a good thing because they can relate to it a little better because they can see characters from their culture on screen.
Aaylah, his 14-year-old daughter, is the sole exception.
“My daughter no longer really watches it. He chuckles, “I think she likes to watch other shows, like Stranger Things or something.
Which is great. Most likely too many kisses; it might be strange for her.