New Zealand is known for being a perfect setting for fantasy productions on screens large and small. And while many orcs and elves have been played by New Zealand actors, Kiwi webseries AFK is taking things to the next level by introducing the world to the very first elf of Māori descent in a fantasy setting. Serena, played by Te Puawaitanga Winterburn, is a newly arrived healer who discovers just how valuable support class characters can be.
Te Puawaitanga, an actor of Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, Ngāpuhi & Ngāti Porou affiliations is a recent graduate of Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School and has performed in productions like He Kura E Huna Ana (directed by Nancy Brunning); a production performed entirely in Te Reo Māori. So, what does it mean to be an elven character of Māori descent?
“I’m very passionate about our Māori language and culture,” Te Puawaitanga says; “my language and culture lives inside me and I was very fortunate to have grown up on my marae and around Māori language throughout my upbringing. I am proud to say that there are 5 generations of fluent Te Reo Māori speakers in my family which was my grandmother Oka Maria Houia’s dream.”
For Te Puawaitanga the casting process was a bit of a whirlwind.
“I was cast in 24 hours, a day before filming. Every other cast member had had access to the scripts much sooner, so this was a challenging process. I’m looking forward to infusing Serena’s Māoritanga into the character and really develop her further.”
AFK is a webseries which follows the misadventures of a group of gamers who mysteriously wake up in the bodies of their online characters. Gender swapped, confused and out of their element, they must work together to survive in a hostile new world. Orcs, elves, rangers, gnomes and other fantasy beings are now inhabited by the human beings who created them online. Season two, AFK: This World & The Next (launching late October 2018) finds the characters entering uncharted and dangerous new territory. With various parties racing to complete a quest that could open a portal back to the real world, only the smartest and the most ruthless will prevail.
Filmed entirely in New Zealand with a local cast and crew, AFK features a wealth of local acting talent who have also appeared in productions like Spartacus, The Legend of the Seeker, The King’s Speech, Mortal Engines and Mega Time Squad. AFK was created with the assistance of New Zealand on Air.