The star of Ahikāroa and Celebrity Treasure Island remembers the terrible day Claire McLeod died, fangirling on the set of Shortland Street and the magical power of Charmed.
Turia Schmidt-Peke (Ngāti Tamaterā, Ngāti Hauā, Ngāti Hāmoa) has only been on our screens for few years, but she’s already becoming one of Aotearoa’s brightest TV talents. The actor and presenter’s breakthrough role was as law student Geo on Ahikāroa, the award-winning bilingual drama that follows the dramatic lives of a group of urban rangatahi. She then went on to star in Shortland Street’s gritty summer spinoff Shortland Street: Retribution, where she played Steph, the gang girlfriend of undercover cop Curtis Hannah.
More recently, Schmidt-Peke delighted reality TV fans by making it to the final three in Celebrity Treasure Island, winning viewers over with her sassy sense of humour and witty one liners. She described the show as a “once in a lifetime” experience, but it seems her fondness for physical challenges isn’t over just yet. Schmidt-Peke is back on our screens in a different role, this time as team captain on the reo Māori season of Brain Busters, currently streaming on Whakaata Māori.
Brain Busters is New Zealand’s longest running kids quiz show, and Schmidt-Peke was impressed by the talents of the young quizzers. Not only do they speak te reo and have an impressive general knowledge, she reckons they also smash the legendary Brain Busters obstacle course a lot faster than she could. “I watched the kids just shoot through it. I was like, yes, I’m getting older. Obstacle courses aren’t for me now,” she concedes. “You know, our rangatahi just get better and better every year.”
As the Brain Busters reo Māori episodes hit our screens, self-confessed TV nerd Schmidt-Peke shares some of her most enduring television memories, including a traumatic McLeod’s Daughters tragedy and a spellbinding death on Charmed.
My earliest TV memory is… Pūkana. It’s a Māori language show on Whakaata Māori now, but it used to be on TV3 every Sunday morning. I used to wake up and watch What Now first on TV2, and as soon as it was nine o’clock, I would cross over to TV3 and watch Pukana. I went to kohanga and kura kaupapa so I grew up speaking Māori, and that was one of the only shows around that was catering to me and all my friends.
The TV show I used to rush home from school to watch was… Dragonball Z on TV3 on Sticky TV. We used to finish school at 3:20pm, so I would have 20 minutes to get home, make me a sandwich and Weetbix and watch my cartoon.
My early TV crush was… Max from Roswell. My sister is seven years older, so I got into the shows that she was watching. Roswell was a huge one.
The TV ad I can’t stop thinking about is… You know how sometimes you’d get cut off if you didn’t pay your phone bill? I actually can’t remember in detail what the ad is, but all I know is that this chick jumps on a landline and says “it’s my cousin’s fault”. That’s one ad that me and all my mates can remember. I don’t even know what company it was for, but we can remember that line.
The TV moment that haunts me is… When Claire died on McLeod’s Daughters. She went off the cliff and was stuck in the car and I remember crying so much. My bedtime was at 8:30pm but there were certain nights I was allowed to stay up, and I remember it was a Thursday at 8.30pm when Claire died. The show wasn’t the same after that.
My favourite TV moment of all time is… When Prue died on Charmed and they found Paige. I loved Charmed growing up, because I had one older sister and one younger sister. I was like, “hey, the storyline doesn’t make sense”, but the fact that the show was still going and Paige was there, I loved that. After Prue died, I remember me and my best friend were so sad. You know how they would just write anything that rhymed and it would have become a spell? We used to do that. I was 10 and I would find a lighter in the house and burn it, and me and her would send the spell out into the world. I don’t even know what our spells were about.
My favourite TV character of all time is… Van from Outrageous Fortune. I’m absolutely obsessed. Anthony Starr, what an incredible actor. He plays two different people in Outrageous Fortune, and he plays them so well that you believe there are two people. Van’s just so funny, everything was a joke to him but when Aurora died, you saw this whole different person.
My favourite TV projects that I’ve ever been involved with are… Ahikāroa, because it’s the reason I started this journey, and I loved that it was my first time ever acting. No experience, just jumped in. But the Shortland Street: Retribution web series was the first time I got to play something else, and I was more settled at acting. I got to be a gangster character, Tammy Davis played my dad and I fangirled over him, Ngahuia Piripi and Jayden Daniels.
The TV show that defined my lockdown was… Ragnarok on Netflix. I usually watch my TV shows quietly, but I didn’t know that I was yelling at the TV. My flatmates were like, “what are you watching?” I loved it, and then I went deep. Searched all the actors on the credits, stalked all their Instagrams, watched all the interviews about how they made it. Spoilers, I got ya.
The TV show I wish I’d been involved with is… The Panthers. I kind of fell into this industry. It took me three years to get an agent, but I wish I got my act together a bit faster so I could have gone for some roles there, even just as an extra. They had so many cool characters and how they filmed it was really edgy. It was something New Zealand TV hadn’t seen, and definitely not something New Zealand TV had produced before.
My most watched TV show of all time is… Friends. I’ve probably seen that every episode at least three times. Shows like Charmed and Roswell and Lost, I’ve never missed an episode.
My controversial TV opinion is… I can’t believe that Judd and Pascalle got together on Outrageous Fortune. That just killed me. They should have woken up and it was a dream. Honestly, I just can’t believe that happened. Kirk Torrance played my dad on Ahikāroa and I wanted to bring it up with him so bad.
The show I’ll never watch, no matter how many people tell me to is… Bridgerton. I think it’s because it went so big and I turn away from things that everyone is watching, but it was so huge. That and Money Heist. I’ve tried, but I just can’t get into it.
The last thing I watched on TV was… From, on TVNZ+. It’s by the creators of Lost, so it’s got that kind of mystery that Lost had, but I think it’s already a bit better than Lost. I’m obsessed with it. The first season was definitely stronger than the second, but the season two finale was amazing.
Brain Busters streams on MĀORI+.