|Date of Birth||22 July 1962, Bay of Islands, New Zealand|
|Height||5' 5½" (1.66 m)|
Mini Bio (1)
Rena lead performance in the 1994 New Zealand (NZ) cult-classic feature film, Once Were Warriors, garnered her universal rave reviews and multiple international Best Actress Awards.
One of 9 children, she was born and bred in the Bay of Islands, NZ to a Maori/Welsh Father and a European Mother. Throughout her youth she was active in the Maori Culture Club entertaining Tourists with singing and Dancing. She was published at 8 when she won a national children's poetry contest. Her first stage role was at 15 in South Pacific followed by the leading role in Calamity Jane. Despite knowing her talents and passion were in creativity, upon graduating, the Arts were not considered a viable career. At 18, she moved to Auckland to pursue a Nursing Career and 3 years later qualified as a General & Obstetric Nurse (RGN). In 1983, she went on her OE (overseas experience), a common Kiwi pursuit, and landed in London. Awed by the huge city and the bright lights of the entertainment world, the temptations that came with it easily seduced the naive 21 year old. But this life changing period led her back to a creative career.
In 1985, Rena enrolled in the Actors Institute of London. During those early years she worked in all aspects of the theater. The first stage play she wrote, "The River That Ran Away" was produced by Clean Break. Directed by the reputable award-winning British Actress, Ann Mitchell with Rena in the leading role, it enjoyed a successful London tour and was later published by NZ Playmarket (1991). Other UK highlights include, Voices from Prison for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Outside In which debuted at the Edinburgh Festival. Ann Mitchell was an instrumental mentor and friend in Rena's formative years as a professional actor and writer.
On her return to NZ in 1989, Rena acted in two dramas for Television NZ's E Tipu E Rea Series. A first of its kind, the series was written, acted, directed and produced by Maori. In constant pursuit of learning and honing her craft, she continued to work extensively in theatre; acting, writing, directing, working as a dramaturgy, and was a founding member of Taki Rua Theatre. She also wrote and recorded short stories for Radio NZ, wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed stage play; Daddy's Girl while playing reoccurring roles in two NZ TV series; Betty's Bunch and Shark in the Park.
Rena's first feature film was a supporting role in the Kevin Reynolds/Kevin Costner film, Rapa Nui (1993), followed by the lead in Once Were Warriors. Voted one of Time Magazine's top 10 films in 1994, the film garnered over 30 International Awards and screened in 66 countries. It propelled Rena onto the international film platform and earned her Best Actress awards at the Montreal, Oporto, Seattle & San Diego Film Festivals, as well as the Cannes Film Festival's Spirit Award. While in NZ, she was awarded the Benny Award for Excellence in Film and the Toast Masters Communicator of the Year Award.
Following a year long tour of the international film festival circuit and multiple press junkets to promote Once Were Warriors, Rena return to NZ Theater to act in two Stephen Berkoff plays; East West and Kvetch, while she guest starred and earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in the NZ TV Series, Coverstory. Rena then played a leading role in Australia's Network 10 TV Drama Series, Medivac (1996-1998). In 1998, she played a leading role in Garth Maxwell's feature film; When Love Comes, and a supporting role in Rolf De Heer's critically acclaimed; Dance Me To My Song which was in competition at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival and earned her an Australian Film Institute (AFI) Best Supporting Actress nomination.
In 2000, Rena set up a base in Los Angeles to learn more about filmmaking. She played Taun We in George Lucas' Star Wars Attack of the Clones, Nee Alavar in Star Wars Revenge of the Sith, and a cameo role in Steven Spielberg's A.I, making her one of only five actors in the world to have worked with both Lucas and Spielberg. Whilst playing a reoccurring role in WB's Angel, Rena played supporting and cameo roles in multiple international independent films. Highlights include the NZ/Canadian co-production, Nemesis Game, Vincent Ward's acclaimed Rain Of The Children, NZ TV film, A Piece Of My Heart and US thriller, Alyce Kills.
In 2010, Rena played a 3 month role on NZ's longest running TV series; Shortland Street. For this role she won the Best Supporting Actress Award at the 2011 Aotearoa Film and Television Awards (AFTA), while her reoccurring role in the award-winning Australian TV series, East West 101 earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Australian Academy of Cinema & Television Arts (AACTA), and a Best Actress nomination at the Monte Carlo International Television Festival in 2012.
Recent theatre credits include starring in the classic NZ plays, Haruru Mai for the NZ International Arts Festival and playing the lead in Bruce Mason's, The Pohutukawa Tree. Both plays were directed by renown theater director, Colin McColl. In the USA, Rena has acted in multiple stage readings for Native Voices at the Autry in LA and at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, and charity stage readings for the City of West Hollywood. She also played the lead in a Hawaiian play called Fine Dancing, and adapted and directed Toa Fraser's play, Bare for the Asian American Theatre Company in San Francisco (AATC).
Rena played the Matriarch opposite Brian Cox's Patriarch of a multi-ethnic crime family set in the Torres Strait Islands for an ABC TV Series fondly called; "The Sopranos In Thongs!" The Hollywood Reporter voted The Straits one of the Top Ten Series to binge watch on Hulu. She played a pivotal role in a 2014 documentary celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Once Were Warriors, Where Are They Now? Her latest USA film, The Well premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June and she was cast in a reoccurring role for A&E's TV series; Longmire. Her last NZ film; The Dead Lands had a Special Presentation at this years Toronto Film Festival. The film garnered rave reviews, sold to multiple territories, and is now NZ's contender for the 2015 Oscars Best Foreign Language Film. Rena just completed a role on the Sundance TV Series, The Red Road. Her next film role will be in a Lionsgate/Summit fantasy action drama.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Publicist Jan Kean