Water Rats: profiles

Jay Laga'aia as Tommy Tavita

Jay Laga'aia

Tommy Tavita is the senior member of the three-person boat crew and, growing up on the water with his dad working as a harbour trawler fisherman, he knows Sydney Harbour and its tributaries like the back of his hand. There is a downside, however, to his dad being in a position to teach him. Occasionally, he can't help but get caught up in a conflict of loyalties between his police duties, his dad's work and his dad's commercial competitors. He tries, he really does but, even in the police service, blood is thicker than water.

Tommy has been a cop long enough to know that not everything is what it first seems. He likes to measure up a situation carefully before jumping in but, if that's the way he decides to go, then he'll be first in line to risk life and limb. He might look and sound more like a footballer on first meeting, yet he's actually a thinker, someone more likely to file an emotion or piece of information away in his brain than let it go public. If something ignites what he's been bottling up, however, watch out. He's likely to explode.

Jay Laga'aia is extremely pleased to have been cast on the right side of the law in WATER RATS. "Back home in New Zealand, I'm always being cast as a thug or someone who's violent," he says. "I wanted to make Tommy a character with many levels. He's very intelligent but I didn't want to make him a super cop. I wanted him to be a character with failings too."

As much as Tommy is a thinker, Jay is the joker on set. He's a natural entertainer with an irrepressible energy and is very enthusiastic about being part of a long running show. "You can make new things happen each day in television which is something you can't do in theatre," he says.

Jay first came into the business in a pretty roundabout way. One of his first jobs was as a council worker teaching streetkids to play musical instruments. When Television New Zealand made a documentary about the kids, Jay became the liaison officer. A little later the director rang him… and suddenly he found himself in a series called HEROES about four young men who form a band.

WATER RATS is Jay's first big role in Australia, but he's visited before as part of a touring production of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. Here he played Simon. Back in New Zealand he was cast as Judas. He also performed was Wesley in LADIES NIGHT. His television credits include OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE, THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE BLACK STALLION and, most recently the American production XENA WARRIOR PRINCESS and the English mini series SOLDIER, SOLDIER.

Jay was born in Samoa into a family of ten. One brother is a court bailiff and a sister works as a prison officer. "But I've and equal number of relations on the other side of the law," he says with a grin.