In high school, Beulah Koale was like most other Kiwi teenage boys; sports-mad and obsessed with rugby. Fast forward four years to the present day, however and Koale is now a professional actor, claiming leading stage and screen roles. Many of you will recognise Koale from Shortland Street, where he plays the role of Jared Afeaki.
Koale was in Year 13 at Otara’s Tangaroa College when an English teacher offered him the chance to attend a drama programme run by Auckland-based theatre company, Massive Company. He wasn’t keen at first, thinking that drama was “for wusses,” but then found he could “skip three periods,” and changed his mind.
“Throughout the classes, I started to enjoy it more,” Koale explains. “Slowly, I found something that I thought was really cool.”
He later attended holiday workshops and “fell in love with the acting thing.”
Starting off at “ground zero”, he attended workshops and created theatre pieces in his early days with Massive Company, before being cast in his first show.
Four years later, he's now able to share his expertise with others. “Now that I’ve learnt a little bit about the company and how they work, I’ve been taken on as a tutor. So now I can teach other little Beulahs,” he laughs.
Koale made the transition to Shortland Street in 2012. Following Massive’s show The Brave, he finally committed to becoming a professional actor.
“I was always sceptical about acting being a solid job. But in 2012, I made the decision to commit,” he says. “So when a casting director told me to audition for Shorty Street, I did and I got a call back the very same day.”
His first day on the job was nerve-wracking, but it was also very exciting. Koale attributes his mindset to a supportive upbringing, whereby game day was the day to “go out there and give it everything.”
“Before a sports game, I would never be nervous, just ready to smash it. So I went in to Shortland Street ready to do my job and do my best.”
Koale’s character on Shortland Street, Jared Afeaki, is a troubled young man who has endured a rough upbringing. While Koale’s own upbringing bears no resemblance to Afeaki’s, the actor says that much of the lighter side of Jared’s personality is himself.
“All of Jared is a bit of me, just coming out in different ways and pushed to the extreme,” he says.
His character’s story rings true with some of Koale’s friends and cousins who have found themselves “thrown into the normal world” having only ever known the “criminal life.”
This is a side of life which he hopes to make more New Zealanders aware of through his role.
Koale's talent and passion are obvious driving forces behind his rapid rise to stardom. He says many others have also helped him get to where he is today; his family, Massive and God. The 21-year-old also acknowledges Rene Naufahu, who taught him screen acting.
Koale says he loves theatre because of the intimacy between actor and audience: “With theatre you get a buzz that you don’t get from anything else. When you make a mistake, you have to try figure out a way to cover it up.”
Screen acting on the other hand, gives him the chance to really open up. “I’ve learnt to open up my soul. With screen, you have time to try to express different sides of yourself. With stage acting however, you have to do this in rehearsal.”
So which does he prefer? “Both, equally as much.”
Life is busy for Koale, with mornings and afternoons taken up by Shortland Street and nights dedicated to theatre rehearsals. Admittedly, the weekdays are “pretty busy and hectic,” so on the weekends he tries to wind down and spend time with family and friends.
Juggling it all can be hard but the actor manages to maintain a healthy balance by learning lines, getting to training on time and being prepared for each session.
So what would he be doing if he wasn’t the busy actor that he is today? He’d be continuing his university studies in Sport and Recreation, which he had put on hold to pursue his acting career. But Koale believes he has one of the best jobs in the world.
“Coming out of school, I didn’t care much for what I would do, so long as I could work for my family. I’ve now seen another part of life where you can earn money by doing something you love. It’s awesome.”
2013 is a busy year for the actor and he wants to push the limits and challenge himself. Having got this far already, it is only a matter of time before he reaches his goal of becoming Samoa’s answer to Cliff Curtis.