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Pua Magasiva’s body double

Shortland Street star Pua Magasiva and his brother reveal their unbreakable bond.
Shortland Street actor Pua Magasiva and his twin brother Tanu.

They say twins have a special bond and that’s certainly the case for Shortland Street actor Pua Magasiva and his brother Tanu.

“We’ve always been really tight,” says Pua of his twin. “I can’t remember a time when Tanu wasn’t there for me,” adds the 35-year-old, who’s best known for his long-running role as nice-guy nurse Vinnie Kruse.

As the twins laugh and joke their way through our interview, it’s clear they’re close. The only problem is convincing others of it. “Because we look so different, no-one believes we’re twins,” says Tanu. “People think we’re having them on.”

Tanu reckons he takes after his younger brothers Stevan and Miki, while Pua looks more like their oldest brother, fellow actor Robbie Magasiva. They also have a sister, Trina.

“You and Robbie think you’re the good-looking ones,” jokes Tanu.

“That’s because we are,” Pua shoots back, before the pair dissolves into giggles.

“Because Pua lives in Auckland and I’m in Wellington, we don’t see each other that much any more,” says Tanu. “But when we do, we sit in the corner, laughing like hyenas!”

Like many twins, the cheeky duo have always shared a close bond.

Born in Apia, Samoa, Tanu and Pua were just two years old when the family moved to Wellington. Growing up, the pair did everything together.

“Being a twin means you always have someone to hang out with,” explains Pua. That included playing rugby for St Patrick’s College and getting into the usual boyhood scrapes.

“We weren’t terrible kids, but we weren’t angels either,” recalls Pua. “Our parents had six kids to feed and there wasn’t that much money to go around, so I became really good at stealing other kids’ toys and bringing them home for Tanu!”

“And Mum never found out,” adds his brother.

Left: Pua (left) and Tanu were named after their community in Samoa, Tanupua. Right: The twins with Robbie.

It’s not just in their looks that this loveable pair are chalk and cheese – they also have very different personalities.

“I’ve always been the extrovert – the show-off of the family – while Tanu hates being centre of attention,” admits Pua.

Tanu, who started his own building firm 18 months ago, admits he’s not surprised at his twin’s choice of career or his success.

“I always knew he’d end up doing this and have a high profile. Pua is even more of an extrovert than Robbie. It’s what he’s been heading to all his life.”

But it could just as easily have been Tanu’s name in lights. Robbie – who also starred on Shortland Street as doctor Maxwell Avia – signed up both brothers to an acting agency when they were still at college.

“We were both extras for TV shows that Robbie was acting in. It was a bit of a laugh and we’d save all our money to buy Sega gaming consoles,” recalls Pua.

But when bigger roles came up and they were required to audition, Tanu realised he wasn’t cut out for acting.

“I would get tongue-tied and realised I didn’t like being in front of the cameras. But Pua loved it so he chose that path and I spent seven years working for a bank.”

Five years ago, Tanu signed up for a building apprenticeship and is now happy doing renovations and new builds all over Wellington.

“Do I wish I had kept acting? Hell, no! I love what I do and Pua loves what he does. We both won the career lottery.”

Tanu, left, who was born five minutes before Pua, is used to his little brother stealing the limelight.

Despite their differences, the pair do share a love of rugby, action movies and music – “R&B all the way,” says Pua.

Since becoming fathers – Pua and his wife Kourtney’s daughter Jasmine is four, while Tanu has a 12-year-old son, Adam, with his wife Shelley – they admit they appreciate their family bond even more.

“All our siblings’ kids get on well, which is great to see,” says Pua. “We were taught from a young age that family is the most important thing, and we’ve passed that onto our kids.”

Boasting a CV packed with stage and screen roles, Pua says he’s happy to stay on Shortland Street “as long as they’ll have me”.

“I want to be the next Chris Warner,” he jokes, referring to the role actor Michael Galvin has played almost continuously since 1992. “Shortland Street has given me a platform for what I want to do and a realisation that acting is what makes me happiest.”

While extrovert Pua loves to show-off, Tanu hates being the centre of attention.

Having such a high-profile role means the affable actor, who’s also a qualified personal trainer, is often asked for photos or autographs.

“It comes with the job, and while I’d prefer not to have my daughter photographed when we’re out having family time, I’m always happy to pose with fans.”

In fact, Tanu says he’s so used to being asked to take a photo of his twin when they’re out that he’s become a good photographer.

“Fans will often recognise Pua and want a photo with him. I reckon I should start charging for it,” he jokes, which is a cue for the twins to crack up laughing once again.

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