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10 Greatest Polynesian Actors in Science Fiction

Game of Thrones - Drago (Jason Momoa)
Recently a picture of Aquaman from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released and it's full of symbolism of Polynesian culture. This isn't surprising since the actor, Jason Momoa has said that his Polynesian heritage will influence the character. He said "the greatest thing for me is that Polynesians, our gods, Kahoali, Maui, all these water gods, so it's really cool and a honor to be playing a [water] character. And there's not too many brown superheroes, so I'm really looking forward to representing the Polynesians, the natives."

The Polynesian people consists of various ethnic groups that speak Polynesian languages and inhabit a small amount of land spread over a very large portion of the mid and southern Pacific Ocean. Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island.

Here are the most influential Polynesian actors in science fiction films.

#10 - Russell Crowe

Russell Ira Crowe was born in Wellington, New Zealand, to Jocelyn Yvonne (née Wemyss) and John Alexander Crowe. Russell Crowe's great grandmother, Erana Putiputi Hayes Heihi, was Maori making him Polynesian. His best known role is as the Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius in Gladiator (2000), directed by Ridley Scott. He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for the role. He actually started out as a musician with New Zealand singles including "I Just Want To Be Like Marlon Brando", "Pier 13", "Shattered Glass". He became an actor in Austrailia with TV and movie roles before coming to the US and co-starring in his first film in 1995. It was the science-fiction thriller Virtuosity with Denzel Washington where Crowe played a virtual reality serial killer. Russell Crowe starred in several Oscar nominated films like A Beautiful Mind, L.A. Confidential and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Recently, he played Jor-El in Man of Steel.

Starting in 2009, Crowe and several other well-known Austrailian actors appeared in a series of special edition postage stamps called "Legends of the Screen", even though he doesn't have Australian citizenship.

#9 - Jason Scott Lee

Jason Scott Lee was born November 19, 1966 and is an actor and martial artist of Hawaiian and Chinese descent. His first big break was as a minor role playing the character Chester "Whitey" Nogura in Back to the Future Part II, who was part of Griff's gang. He was the guy that said hoverboards don't work "unless you've got power!" Lee also appeared in Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision.

Jason Scott Lee's first lead role was playing Bruce Lee in the biopic Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993). His mixed ethnicity has allowed him to play multiple races from an Inuit Eskimo (Map of the Human Heart), a Polynesian prince (Rapa Nui) and an Indian (Jungle Book). He was named by Goldsea, the Asian American website as one of "The 130 Most Inspiring Asian Americans of All Time".

#8 - Julian Arahanga

Julian Arahanga is a New Zealand film and television actor born on December 18, 1972 in Raetihi, New Zealand. He's best known for playing best known for his role in the movie Once Were Warriors from 1994, where he plays Nig Heke, the son of Jake "the Muss" and Beth Heke. He had a minor role as the hacker Apoc in The Matrix (1999) but he made it his own.

#7 - Jay Laga'aia

Jay Laga'aia was born 10 September 1963 and is a New Zealand-Australian actor of Samoan descent. He’s best known as Captain Typho in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. He also played the role of Draco in several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess. The Star Wars films are a huge break for him because of his attitude and cool eye patch.

Back in his native Australia, he spoke out against the perceived racism of Australian television by casting mostly White actors instead of Natives. After he lost his job on Home and Away, he blasted the show on Twitter saying, "I think commercial TV should take a leaf out of children's TV in this country. We are a rainbow nation in kids' TV. No tokens here." At least we know racism on television isn't just an American thing.

#6 - Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves was born in Beirut, Lebanon, the son of Patricia Bond (née Taylor), and Samuel Nowlin Reeves, Jr. who's of Native Hawaiian, Chinese, and Portuguese ancestry. Reeves said, "My grandmother is Chinese and Hawaiian, so I was around Chinese art, furniture and cuisine when I was growing up." He's best known for movies like Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), Speed (1994), and The Matrix trilogy.

As for keeping in touch with his Hawaiian heritage, Reeve's father left them when he was young and Keanu hasn't spoken to his father in decades. Keanu's father said, "I pretty much know what he's doing, but he's made it clear that he wants nothing to do with me."

#5 - Manu Bennett

Jonathan Manu Bennett (also known as John Bennett or Jon Bennett) is an Australian actor born on 10 October 1969 in Rotorua, New Zealand. He’s best known for playing the gladiator Crixus in Spartacus, Azog the Defiler in the The Hobbit movies and Deathstroke in Arrow. Bennett is of Māori - specifically Te Arawa and Ngāti Kahungunu - and Irish descent on his father’s side, but his mother is Scottish. At the 2012 Comic Con Bennett explained, and then demonstrated a traditional Polynesian "Haka" in true ear-splitting fashion. The Haka is a traditional ancestral war cry, dance, or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. It was originally performed by warriors before a battle to intimidate their opponent with their display of strength and prowess.

He says he enjoys going back to work in New Zealand because ''it allowed me to re-source my Maori identity and history."

#4 - Rena Owen

Rena Owen was born in New Zeland on July 22, 1962 and is best known in America as Taun We in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Owen's father is Maori and her mother is White and regularly performed in local Maori Culture groups and performed in dramas and musicals while in high school.“Acting wasn’t considered a career then, particularly not for a little Maori girl from the country – I was supposed to be either a secretary or a teacher or a nurse." But, the culture of New Zealand entertainment discouraged her from taking up a career in acting. Owen said, "There were no brown faces on the New Zealand screens of the ’60s or ’70s, apart from a newscaster or two. It simply wasn’t an option.” She continued in acting and her breakthrough film Once Were Warriors earned her multiple international awards including Best Actress at the Montreal World Film Festival.

She took on the voice of the Kamino Cloner Taun We and got to work with her Once Were Warriors co-star, Temuera Morrison who played Jango Fett. When talking about her role on the Star Wars franchise she said, "even though my role is small, that I have become a part of the Star Wars legacy."

#3 - Temuera Morrison

Temuera Morrison is of Māori, Scottish, and Irish descent and is best known as the bounty hunter Jango Fett and the Clone Troopers in the Star Wars series. He  was born in the town of Rotorua, in the North Island of New Zealand, the son of Hana (née Stafford) and Laurie Morrison, a musician. He received two Best Actor award from the New Zealand Film Awards for his role as the violent and abusive Māori husband Jake Heke in Once Were Warriors in 1994 and the sequel. He also portrayed Abin Sur in the 2011 superhero film Green Lantern. When he was inducted as a Mandalorian Mercs Honorary Member at Dragon*Con 2011 he did a traditional Maori Haka dance.

You can watch it here:

#2 - Jason Momoa

Jason Momoa was born Joseph Jason Namakaeha Momoa in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 1, 1979. His father is Hawaiian painter Joseph Momoa,and his mother is Coni Lemke. Known for his television roles as Ronon Dex on the military science fiction television series Stargate: Atlantis (2004) and as Khal Drogo in the HBO fantasy television series Game of Thrones (2011). He also starred in Conan the Barbarian (2011).

When he went to his audition for Game of Thrones a friend suggested doing the Polynesian Haka dance even though it wasn't in the script.
You can watch it here:

Recently a picture of his role of Aquaman from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice revealed a heavily tattooed and armored superhero. The tribal tattoos are packed with Polynesian symbolism which Screen Rant broke down like shark teeth and arrows. "A lot of things are very black and white. Aquaman is especially cool because being a Kanaka Maoli—being Hawaiian—our Gods are Kanaloa and Maui, and the Earth is 71 percent water, so I get to represent that. And I’m someone who gets to represent all the islanders, not some blond-haired superhero. It’s cool that there’s a brown-skinned superhero."

#1 - Dwayne Johnson

Dwayne The Rock Johnson is one of the all-time greatest wrestlers and action heroes. His first lead role was in the movie The Scorpion King and then he moved into movies like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and the upcoming Shazam movie. Johnson was born in Hayward, California on May 2nd 1972 to  his mother Samoan Ata Johnson (née Maivia) who's a descendant of Samoan chiefs, and Canadian-born professional wrestler Rocky "Soul Man" Johnson.

He's proud of his Samoan heritage and, because of his mother and in recognition of his service to the Samoan people, Malietoa Tanumafili II bestowed upon Johnson the noble title of Seiuli during his visit there in July 2004. In 2003, he followed the Samoan tradition of having his family historytattooed on his arm.

Who's your favorite Polynesian actor?

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  1. There were a lot of Polynesians in those Star Wars prequels.

  2. Great list, I was unaware of some of these. I love The Rock as much as the next guy, but Manu Bennett was Deathstroke. All the lines in the Hobbit films done in the Orc language was great.

  3. The first RoboCop was epic, second one just a good action flick.
    WYR Answers:

    #1 Rich and die happy!
    #2 Pausing time has a lot of practical applications.
    #3 Fly, I wouldn't want to know what people really thought of me.

  4. #1 Immortality. Every time.
    #2 Reverse time. Less useful but more amusing.
    #3 Fly. I don't need to read minds - I have Facebook...

  5. Emerson GonzalezMarch 3, 2015 at 8:44 PM

    I would like faster methods of transport. Beam me up!

  6. I didn't not realize that Russel Crowe was part Samoan. Wow, the things you learn. Jason Momoa is of course my favorite. He's married to Lisa Bonet. They have two adorable little ones.

  7. He fulfilled his childhood dream to marry a Huxtable. ;)

  8. They all have fascinating stories Medeia!

  9. You wouldn’t know it to look at him although his eyes look very Asian now that I look at him.

  10. Manu really has done a lot of epic sci-fi David!

  11. I thought the same thing Pat, but I still don’t know why.

  12. Affordable binoculars with night vision.

  13. I would like to see a self running house where it automatically knew what had to be cleaned and did it for you.

  14. most def i would love to see hover boards become reality even though id probably break my neck trying to ride it.

  15. I want a real robot house cleaner folds clothes puts them away dishes even does windows

  16. Space Travel to distant stars.

  17. I've always been a big fan of Dwayne Johnson (as well as his dad) and think he made the right choice transitioning over to acting.

    Momoa will make a pretty cool Aquaman, in my opinion. Looking forward to that.

  18. Flying cars! I'm tired of sitting in traffic!

  19. I would love to see something clean my house. Thank you

  20. Thee Fanboy SlayerMarch 5, 2015 at 2:33 PM

    Teleportion device please? I'll take 2.

  21. Lightsabers from star wars

  22. An all in one body scan device that could find and treat ANY ailment..

  23. I want to see a house cleaning robot!

  24. i would like to see a car that can fly to where you want to go

  25. I would love to see how laptops, tablets and smart phones fare in the future.

  26. The only one I didn't suspect was Crowe. How cool is this.

  27. I would argue that the newer Robocop was at least exploring a question I think about a lot, which is probably too long to get into here, but deals with the merging of man with the machine, and at what point is it just a machine.

    Immortality is a curse, I think. Will I end up floating on the cinder of the earth long after the

  28. Stupid thing posted in the middle of my comment. I was going to say, ahem, that immortality is awful if it means you can't die. Long after the sun goes out and the earth is a burnt cinder orbiting a white dwarf there would be you, all alone and unable to die. Ugh. We all need an end.

    Still, 5 years sucks. I think I could rule the world eventually if I hang around ling enough. I'll go with immortality and hope that it had limits.

    Pausing time is pretty useless if your drowning in the middle of the ocean. I'd choose to reverse it.

    If I could turn it off I'd choose to read minds. If I couldn't I'd pick flying.

    Btw - I've enjoyed the first two eps. Hope you keep doing these.


Thanks for commenting!.