In the past two decades, Miriama Smith and Teuila Blakely have gone head to head dozens of times for roles. As self-described “brown actresses in a small industry”, there’s no avoiding the fact they’re often chasing the same jobs.
But rather than bitter rivals, the duo – who first met through mutual friends in the ’90s – have become firm friends since Teuila, 42, bagged a role alongside leading lady Miriama on TVNZ 2’s Filthy Rich.
“As soon as I read the new script and saw the character of Malia, I said, ‘This is Teuila!’” tells Miriama, 41. “I rang up my agent and said, ‘Please tell me Teuila is auditioning for Malia. In fact, why are they even bothering to see anyone else?’”
The free-spirited actress, who is mum to four-year-old Rauaroha, has travelled the world, including spending a few years in France with her then-fiancé, former All Black Frank Bunce, and another stint working on super yachts. Her conversations are peppered with crazy tales from far-flung lands.
In contrast, solo mother Teuila has been firmly tethered to Auckland, struggling to raise her son Jared, who she gave birth to at 17, while establishing a career as an actress.
But these days, the women laugh they have effectively “flipped lives”. Bay of Plenty-based Miriama, who is also a yoga instructor and marriage celebrant, has settled into family life with little Rauaroha and her husband Dylan Marychurch. Meanwhile, Teuila – whose 25-year-old son Jared is now a university student – is finally getting ready to spread her wings and explore the world.
“I have so much respect for Teuila going off into the world in her 40s and as a solo mum,” tells Miriama.
“I have so much respect for all solo parents actually and I am so grateful I have my partner. Man, it would be hard to do it alone.”
With Jared in a steady relationship, Teuila – who is currently single – has finally moved out on her own and bought herself a little home in Auckland. She is working on a screenplay, but it’s been put on hold while she films season two of Filthy Rich, which kicked off on July 11.
When her screenplay is completed, Teuila will be heading overseas, but she admits that in the meantime, she is suffering from empty nest syndrome – big time!
“It’s intense, it’s hard, but I know I have to let go,” she says with a smile, telling how Miriama’s wanderlust has been an inspiration for her next phase.
“I’ve always admired Miri’s life and her free spirit, and if I hadn’t had my son so young, maybe I would have travelled,” she explains. “It was such a beautiful thing to come together, and acknowledge that we have basically swapped lives and how perfect the timing is for both of us.”
She adds, “The best thing about us being on the show together is that this time, it’s not even about us being brown any more – it’s just about us being strong women. Especially the scenes where it was just the two of us!
“One time, I said to Miri, ‘Hey, Miri, look at us!’ It was everything, that moment,” she tells.
“Although, I think they should have had way more scenes with just the two of us.”
Nodding in agreement, Miriama adds, “We’re both open books who wear our hearts on our sleeves and because of that, we stuff up sometimes. But it doesn’t define us – it refines us! It’s about being real. That’s why we get on so well.”
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