Mental health advocate Mike King opens up about his daughter Alex following in his footsteps

Mike and Alex tell why she’s following in his footsteps.

By Amy Prebble
Promising young actress Alex King has inherited a lot from her famous dad, Kiwi comedian and mental health advocate Mike, including a wide smile, breezy candour and effortless charisma.
It's little wonder then that she's following in his footsteps and forging a career in the entertainment industry. At 21, she's already the host of radio station Flava's day show and she's just landed her first big theatre role.
Alex has always loved acting, but after finishing school thought it would be prudent to do a law degree at Victoria University.
"It was a bit of shock to everyone," she laughs.
"Everyone knew me as the drama and music girl. They were kind of like, 'Ah, okay, what are you doing?' But I did it anyway."
Yet, it quickly became clear to Alex and her family that her heart wasn't in it.
"I went down and dragged her out," says Mike.
"I didn't put her through schooling to go down there and hate what she's doing. I watched her become more and more isolated and confused. The effect it was having on Alex's mental health just wasn't worth it. I wanted her to do something she was actually passionate about."
'He's a great dad. He has always grounded me'
So Mike (57) packed Alex up and shifted her back to Auckland, where she found a flat with three others, got a retail job to tide her over and threw herself into studying with American actor Michael Saccente.
It was through that course that Alex got an acting agent and met radio host Sarah Gandy, who used to be part of the The Hits breakfast team with Sam Wallace and Toni Street.
"Sarah knew I hated my job," tells Alex. "She said I should try to get a job as a roadrunner or promo girl for Flava and got me a meeting."
Alex lost out on the promo gig, but after a meeting with the station boss, ended up working weekends on air. Then, in November last year, she was offered the day position – 9am to 3pm every weekday.
"I love my job, but my boss knows that acting is my main passion," she says frankly.
"He's been really amazing because I need time off to go to auditions or rehearsals. But acting is something I want to do for the rest of my life."
Alex is clearly delighted to have landed a role in Silo Theatre's production of The Wolves, which follows nine teenage girls who train and play soccer together.
They discuss a variety of topics including sanitary pads, the coach's hangover, the Khmer Rouge and Harry Potter.
The director, Sophie Roberts, has mostly cast actual teenagers to play the roles. "It's a really young cast," Alex says.
"We go from 16 to 21. And rather than it be about young people just being self-absorbed, it's about girls going through real stuff, going through their first break-up, dealing with their parents. It's a really fun play."
And her dad couldn't be happier for her.
"I'm super, super-proud," beams Mike.
"It's a hard path. On the outside, it all looks really glamorous,but we've talked a lot about what goes on behind the scenes. With the accolades comes the criticism, especially in New Zealand. It's about being armed with the right tools to deal with that."
He hasn't offered too much advice on her career, though.
"If I did, she'd go, 'You're a hypocrite, you didn't follow any of that,'" he chuckles.
"I always tried to stay humble and grounded when I was doing television, but it's really hard when people are blowing smoke up your butt and telling you that you're amazing. Ally knows this – everyone loves you when you're on top and you've got something they need, but the second you become dispensable, they will cross the road to avoid you. That's the industry. It wasn't until I left the entertainment game that I realised how toxic it was."
Their bond is no act! Alex and Mike are proud of each other, and not afraid to show or tell it!
Alex admits that her mum, Rosemary Nathan (59), a deputy principal at Bream Bay College, would have preferred she had something sensible – such as a law degree – under her belt, but is also very supportive.
"She's a mum! She's always worried if I'm going to make a living. She's the one who's like, 'You've got to have a plan B in case plan A doesn't work out.' And Dad's the person who's like, 'If you focus on plan B too much, you won't get plan A'."
For Mike, who was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to mental health awareness and suicide prevention this year, becoming an advocate was never part of the plan.
But he couldn't be happier to be able to make a difference and is also secretly chuffed to have be named New Zealander of the Year.
"As New Zealanders, we are really good at praising other people, but getting praise ourselves is really, really hard to take. I'm incredibly proud and I've even, late at night when I'm by myself, patted myself on the back," he grins.
Alex is also very proud of her dad. "He's a great dad. He has always grounded me and always reminded me that you have to be grateful for your opportunities. And I am."
There is one talent Alex boasts that Mike can't take any credit for, though. She's currently working on an EP with producer Edy and hopes to release something by the end of the year.
"I'm writing all of the songs and singing them," tells Alex. "We're just playing around with a lot of stuff in the studio at the moment."
So what's Mike's singing voice like?
"It's like a dog howling at the moon," laughs Mike, "in five different octaves!"

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