East West 101: articles

Aaron Fa'aoso

Aaron Fa'aoso

Aaron Fa'aoso finds meaning in East West 101

AARON Fa'aoso lives by a motto that in just a few years has seen him go from being a health worker in northern Queensland to a successful actor.

The East West 101 star, who first appeared on our screens in RAN alongside Susie Porter, refers to the mantra "you don't want to die wondering'' when he's contemplating a new path.

Fa'aoso was originally planning a career in rugby league when a series of twists and turns and "being in the right place at the right time'' took him to acting.

"I was going towards sport, trying my hand at league, which I did for a couple of seasons in Sydney after I left high school,'' he says.

"I was contracted to a couple of clubs for a few years, but things didn't work out and in the end I headed home, back to Cairns and the Torres Strait, and I was working as a health worker in a community at the tip of Cape York.

"They were casting RAN and I saw an email and decided I would go to Thursday Island. I got lucky, and it's gone from there.

"Susie and I got on really well on RAN; that was where we met. She contacted her agent and when we completed shooting they flew me down and asked if I would move to Sydney on a full-time basis.

"You have to take a risk, and I thought I can always go home, and you don't want to die wondering. So I took a leap of faith.''

Fa'aoso says though the first few months "were really tough'' and had him wondering if he had made the right decision, a couple of interesting opportunities came his way that showed him it was the best move.

One of those jobs was East West 101, in which he plays a police detective with a Samoan background opposite Don Hany, William McInnes and Porter.

Fa'aoso says that with the "level of cultural diversity'' that's portrayed in the series, it has turned out to be an "edgy and hard-hitting'' production.

"It's in your face and it doesn't leave you much time to breathe,'' he says. "Apart from being a good drama and a good cop show, it highlights the race factors that exist in this country: how we perceive each other and how we are perceived inside the law and outside the law.

"If you're from an ethnic background, or with Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage, these are issues you have grown up with. It's racism and it's not subtle, but that's how things really are.

"This series is based on fact but with fictionalised characters, and I hope it will be an eye-opener of what goes on in Sydney, and that's what makes good drama.

"This is the kind of stuff that happens everywhere.''

When Fa'aoso was cast in East West 101, he set out to make his police detective different from the many others who have appeared on Australian television over the years.

"We have seen in the past people such as Aaron Pedersen and Jay Laga'aia playing Aboriginal or Islander cop roles, but I think mine is a bit more street-wise,'' Fa'aoso says. "It also goes into showing that cultural aspect of being a minority working in a mainstream organisation.

"Once you get into the series you get to see a bit of that Samoan culture, but you also see the conflict of him being a police officer and how he's wrestling with that.

"He's walking a fine line. He's placing one foot in the mainstream and one foot in his cultural life. So he's always in both worlds, and he can't go all mainstream because he's selling out his culture and his people and if he goes the other way he isn't going to win over the mainstream.

"In my life I am always walking with one foot in the mainstream and one foot in my culture,'' he says.

By Sarah Nicholson
January 09, 2008
Herald Sun