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Joe Naufahu’s heartbreak: ‘I’m doing this for Mum’

The actor reveals his family's tragic diagnosis

When Joe Naufahu stepped out of the plane at Kerikeri on his way to film Celebrity Treasure Island, the Game Of Thrones star was greeted by a Northland tourism billboard featuring his own face.

“I grabbed a quick snap in front of it,” he grins. “That was a cool campaign. Ever since then, I’ve always used my holidays to come up north. I love it here. It’s beautiful, man.”

But Treasure Island won’t be a relaxing vacation for the 43-year-old actor and gym owner – Joe’s taking it seriously in order to raise money for Breast Cancer New Zealand, an organisation that’s been close to his heart since his beloved mother Agnes, 71, was diagnosed with the disease in 2011.

“My mum got through breast cancer and went into remission,” he tells. “But she got it back again a year ago. It’s in her lungs and bones now. We opted not to go through the whole invasive treatment this time, so we’re just enjoying every day we have with Mum. Man, she’s tough as boots. You wouldn’t know she was sick if you saw her walking down the street.”

Speaking of their special bond, Joe adds, “I’m an old man now, but my mum still treats me like a little baby.

I’m the youngest in the family and she’s never shy to tell the others I’m her favourite. We spend a lot of time together and I ring her every day. If I miss a call, she’ll blast me!”

Joe in new tv series Head High

Now starring in Head High, the father-of-two and former pro rugby player has been open about his struggles with anxiety and depression, but he’s confident his mental health won’t hold him back on Treasure Island.

“I’m just going to continue my normal daily routine of getting up early, meditating and doing some light exercise, which always makes me feel better,” he explains. “Hopefully, we’ll have pen and paper to write. Exercise and journaling are my go-tos if I feel anxious.”

The star – who is in a relationship with actress Olivia Hadlow, daughter of comedian Mark – adds that his greatest challenge will be anything in the sea.

“To be honest, I’m not a strong swimmer,” he confesses. “I’ve taken lessons before and I love being in the water, but doggy-paddling is the best I’ll probably do.

“My nickname at school was ‘Pb’, which is the chemical symbol for lead, because I’d get in the water and sink! I just panic sometimes.”

With co-star Emilia Clarkson on Game of Thrones

If you would like to donate to the Breast Cancer Foundation go to www.bcf.org.nz/donate

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