After making his mark on Kiwi culture as Munter in Outrageous Fortune, Tammy Davis has remained one of Aotearoa's most charming stars. When the Weekly chats to Tammy over the phone from his home in Auckland's Point Chevalier, it's like catching up with an old friend as he jokes he's going to be in trouble with his wife for not mowing the lawns.
So, when the affable Tammy signed up to play a gang leader in the Shortland Street special summer series Retribution, he was apprehensive about being able to pull off the dark role.
"To tell you the truth, I was really nervous," he admits. "There were a couple of moments where I really thought I couldn't do it. I was doubting my ability, especially because I haven't been doing a lot of acting recently."
But his old friend and former co-star Oliver Driver, who now serves as a producer on Shortland Street, gave Tammy, 47, the confidence boost he needed to make the role his own.
"He said, 'Dude, you've got this. You're amazing and the reason we cast you is because you've got the skills to do this.' He had a lot of faith in me."
The series, which is the soap's first foray into R-rated territory, follows a pregnant Esther Samuels (played by Ngahuia Piripi) as she surprises boyfriend Curtis (Jayden Daniels) in Christchurch, only to discover his police work has led him to become entrenched in a local gang under the violent leadership of Chomp (Tammy).
Shrugging off the shady character at the end of each day was possible thanks to Tammy's loving family at home and losing the gang leathers.
"I'm thankful that I have a supportive household and my wife is amazing," Tammy shares. "Because it's later in my career, I find that process easier. Once I took everything off, I just left him there."
He laughs, adding that his wife of eight years, Cyprus, might disagree.
"I'm pretty sure my wife might say something different. I would come home with the tattoos on my face and my head all shaven, and she would say, 'Oh, my God!' I looked pretty intimidating."
Tammy is also one of the hosts of the George FM breakfast show, and his shaved head earned some odd looks around the office and a bit of stick from his co-host General Lee.
"People would look at me like, 'What's Tammy up to?' But they're all really supportive. They joke about all the acting stuff I do and I got a bit of grief for how I looked, but they really support me."
Tammy has been all over Kiwi screens this year, also competing in the most recent season of the TVNZ 2 hit reality show Celebrity Treasure Island, which The Whale Rider star describes as "one of the weirdest challenges I've set for myself".
Though he didn't take out the competition, Tammy says his stint on the show was a nice time for his teen and young adult kids Mary, Paeumu and Amohaere to have a "break from their embarrassing dad. I sing and talk really loud in public, so they're like, 'Just shut up and don't do anything dumb!' They think it's awesome that I did the show."
In his 20-year career, Tammy has appeared in some of the most iconic Kiwi films like Eagle vs Shark and Black Sheep. But none of his projects compare to Outrageous Fortune, which boosted his profile after its 2005 release.
Tammy reveals his life changed overnight and to this day people still stop him on the street to talk about Munter. "I went from doing normal stuff to being famous in New Zealand. It was a bit weird.
"It's mostly the older generation that stops me now, but there's still that recognition. It's good to know that people respect what you did, even though it was so many years ago and that's because of how strong the show was."
As the father-of-three reflects on Outrageous Fortune's pivotal role in his life and career, he explains it will always remain one of his biggest achievements.
"I couldn't be prouder of the fact that I was a part of it," enthuses Tammy. "When I go out to South Pacific Pictures [the production company that made the show], the jacket I wore hangs proudly in the reception. It's one of the first things you see when you walk into the building.
"It allowed me to feel and experience things that most actors in New Zealand don't get to, so I'm pretty stoked that I was a part of it."
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