Vampire better fit than cringe roles
GRAMMY winner Jemaine Clement says some of his earliest New Zealand TV roles left him "ashamed" after "running down" his Maori culture.
In an interview with British paper the Guardian, Clement talks of his embarrassment at playing a series of characters on the Skitz TV comedy show, which ran between 1993-97.
Although the gags might have caused laughter from the show's audience, Clement was left cringing.
"I was only 21 when they started it and remember, because I was part-Maori, I had to play things like the street kids and the glue sniffers. That's not my experience at all," he said. "I've never sniffed glue. I find the whole idea of drugs horrible. I would always insist on having a hood because I was so ashamed to be taking down my race like that."
Clement - who along with Bret McKenzie earned worldwide fame after creating and starring in Flight of the Conchords - is a direct descendant of Wairarapa chief Iraia Te Whaiti, after whom his 6-year-old son is named.
"Everyone in my family for generations has had at least one Maori name; can't break it now," says the actor whose middle names Atea and Mahana mean universe and heat.
Five years on from the end of Flight of the Conchords' two-season run, Clement's newest creation, vampire comedy film What We Do in the Shadows, continues to get rave reviews.
He not only produced and directed the box office success but also wrote and starred in it, playing a vampire called Vladislav.
The film follows the lives of vampires Viago, Vladislav and Deacon as they struggle to adjust to life in the 21st century while flatting in the Wellington suburb of Te Aro.
Clement recently announced he will also play the lead in People, Places and Things, James Strouse's new film about a graphic novelist.
And HBO, who produced the Flight of the Conchords TV show has commissioned a new, four-episode comedy show from Clement and Taika Waititi.
"It was supposed to be this year but then we decided to put What We Do in the Shadows out ourselves," says Clement.