National | Actor

James Rolleston thriving in acting career, despite challenges

A car accident that nearly took his life four years ago hasn’t stopped Māori actor James Rolleston from thriving in his acting career.

Most recently Rolleston appeared in the film Lowdown Dirty Criminals, in cinemas now, and also in the second season of Golden Boy, which was released today.

Lowdown Dirty Criminals is a New Zealand comedy, crime caper that tells the tale of two naïve young men searching for a better life through crime.

Rolleston plays one of the young men Freddy, who loses his pizza delivery job. So he and his best friend Marvin, played by Samuel Austin, naively decide on a life of crime to fix their problems.

“They think they can live this lavish life of getting lots of money and lots of 'honeys' but they’re not the sharpest tools in the shed, so they tend to not make the smartest decisions,”  Rolleston says.

"A particularly funny time during the filming of Lowdown Dirty Criminals was the night scene where we run over the cake. We were there for a few hours. The energy levels were getting a bit low but it was a very funny night."

Rolleston found fame in Taika Waititi's film Boy, followed by the drama The Dark Horse. He also featured in Deadlands and The Breaker Upperers.

He hit a milestone two months ago when he completed rehabilitation he'd been doing ever since the accident. During the accident in July 2016 a car driven by Rolleston crashed into a bridge near his home Ōpōtiki. He was in a coma for a month, with a fractured leg and brain injury, so he had to learn how to walk and talk again.

Acting in Lowdown Dirty Criminals was his second film since the accident.

“It was awesome filming again and being back on set and in the environment around everyone but it was difficult because of my memory and fatigue. I definitely did have to have the odd break and I had to have fizz sticks to keep me energised throughout the day and keep me charging but I got through it and it was alright.”

Rolleston says learning a script has been much more challenging now than before the accident, but his determination has helped him thrive.

“What really helps me with the script is just drilling it over and over. I need to drill it more than I did before, a lot more than I did before - my memory isn’t the best.”

Rolleston has played a variety of different roles in drama and comedy films.

“I love both. I love a good laugh. I always love to laugh. I love to make people laugh but I do like action. I love a bit of action and a bit of just pushing the body to the limit and stuff like that.”

He says when people watch Lowdown Dirty Criminals they can expect a whole lot of laughs.

"Robbie Magasiva, Cohon Holloway, Samuel Austin, who plays Marvin, he's awesome, Rebecca Gibney – there's a whole lot of cast there. People will really enjoy it. It's a bit like pulp fiction meets Dumb and Dumber -  the two best friends."

The second season of Golden Boy also came out today in which Rolleston plays Tama, a lead character. The series follows the life of a small-town girl, Mitch, as she lives in the constant shadow of her rugby star brother Tama.

“That’ll be awesome. A lot of fun Kiwi humour in that and also another film coming up hence why I’m growing out this little mustache but yea it should be good.”