For a girl who grew up in a home without a television, Tai Berdinner-Blades is doing well.
The 22-year-old scored the part of loveable klutz Bennie Keegan in the fifth series of Go Girls in exactly the same week as she completed her degree at Toi Whakaari New Zealand Drama School – but while she thought the move from her hometown of Wellington to Auckland might be a bit strange, working on the hit TV2 show turned out to be more of a college reunion than a new beginning.
“I didn’t know anything about the North Shore [where the show is set] when I moved up, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel, being so far away from home,” says Tai. “But it seems like half my class have come up too!”
No sooner had Tai started work on the show, she found out she’d be co-starring with fellow drama student Leon Wadham, who plays Levi. Also filming down the corridor was former pupil Cameron Jones – Dallas in the hit TV2 soap Shortland Street.
“It’s fantastic having people I know around me – it’s always hard moving to a new city, but it’s nice not being on my own.”
It’s not just Cameron and Leon making Tai feel at home – George Mason, who plays her older brother Ted, has taken to the role remarkably well.
“I love George. I think he’s great,” says Tai, who has four real-life siblings of her own – half-sister Arawhetu (29), sister Celeste (17) and brothers Baxter (7) and four-year-old Benjamin.
“He teases me mercilessly though. The other day when I had hiccups, George thought he’d help by scaring them out of me, which made me jump so much I spilled water over myself.”
Tai – full name Tai-Brooke – is Pakeha by heritage, but was given a Maori name by her family to help her “feel more connected” to Arawhetu. And their father, a pounamu-crafter by trade, made her a bespoke greenstone for her 21st birthday.
“We’re really close as a family, which I love – and everyone is fanatical about Go Girls!”