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Actor Xavier Horan tells all on acting with his daughter, Peyton

The Kiwi actor says his new co-star, his daughter Peyton, is a talent to watch out for
Pictures: Michelle Hyslop

Kiwi actor Xavier Horan says he “treasured the opportunity” to work alongside his nine-year-old daughter Peyton on skit series Only In Aotearoa – and it turns out the pair are quite the comedy act off screen.

During our photoshoot, Peyton jokes that the best part of working on the show with her dad was “all the snacks I got”. The worst part? “Having him watch me like this,” she says, mimicking his intense stare. “I was like, ‘Can you give me some space please?!’”

When asked if his girl takes direction well, Xavier laughs, “Not from me.”

The 42-year-old has starred in TV shows like Westside, Shortland Street and Vegas, as well as movies The Dark Horse and Muru, plus both the big- and small-screen versions of The Dead Lands.

His latest role is playing several characters in the new third season of comedy Only In Aotearoa. Women, including comedians Kura Forrester and Janaye Henry, uniquely tell the story from an indigenous perspective. Xavier’s wife Nicole, who also worked on Far North and The Panthers, produced the show.

The actor stars in four hilarious skits throughout the six episodes, while Peyton appears in one as a bossy kid back-chatting a grown-up.

Xavier laughs, “That guy was no less than Dominic Ona-Ariki. He’d won Best Actor in the New Zealand Television Awards only the night before. She had to really lay down the law to him.”

On Westside with Pana Hema-Taylor.

Peyton says the role felt quite natural. “That person is me, actually,” she grins cheekily. “But I’m not like that to my friends – just to Dad.”

Xavier describes his relationship with Peyton, the youngest of his and Nicole’s three children, as “playful”. They pepper their conversation with jibes, laughter, and good-natured ribbing.

“We have a lot of fun together every day, but we have our ups and downs,” he says. “I can get grumpy, especially when the chores don’t get done.”

Rolling her eyes, Peyton confirms her dad does get “growly” over the dishwasher not being emptied and when she spends too much time playing games online. “As for dad jokes? Don’t get me started on those!”

In The Dead Lands with Te Kohe Tuhaka.

In preparation for her role in Only In Aotearoa, Xavier and Nicole gave Peyton a few tips on her technique. While her dad says she did well, he adds that her focus could do with some work. This earned him another eye roll from his daughter.

Xavier explains, “She needs to stop deflecting when the spotlight is on her. These poses are just that little awkwardness of, ‘Oh, now everyone’s looking at me.’”

Peyton takes the criticism on the chin and admits self- consciousness sometimes got the better of her when the cameras were rolling, but overall, she enjoyed the experience.

“I liked my lines because they weren’t too big or too short. I liked the set because everything matched and I liked my personality in the role I played. It was a nice experience and I’d do it again.”

Did she learn anything new by working on the show? “I learnt that being a good actor isn’t about just doing lines – it’s about your facials.”

With Ben Barrington in The Brokenwood Mysteries.

Xavier, who has Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Pikiao heritage, says he sees a lot of his young self in his daughter.

While he “stumbled” into acting early on, he has no regrets, despite the financial struggles and long hours.

“Acting is a beautiful thing,” he enthuses. “Once you realise you have that ability and talent to perform, the power to play characters and tell stories that can move and uplift people, it’s like nothing else.”

Does he think Peyton will follow in his footsteps?

“She can definitely act. It’s in our DNA to be performers. but I don’t necessarily think it’s a good thing as a career. Look at all the kids who get lost in the system of TV and film. Peyton definitely has the potential, but she’s pretty switched on about the realities.”

Sharing the spotlight with his girl was blooming lovely!

Nodding, Payton adds, “I don’t think it pays that good.”

For now, she’s considering becoming a teacher because she loves kids and teaching words to her young nephew.

She admits she’s a little anxious about seeing herself on Only In Aotearoa when her episode airs. “I’m nervous about what people will think. I have no wish to see myself, but I know I have to.”

But at least she had some laughs on set? “No, only when I forgot my lines,” she replies with deadpan delivery and an appropriate “facial” that sets her dad off laughing.

There’s no doubt performing is in Peyton’s genes – and perhaps maybe her future too.

Only In Aotearoa screens 8pm Thursdays on Whakaata Māori and streams on Māori+.

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