Feb 4, 2016 Theatre
France Morton profiles Auckland actor JJ Fong ahead of her appearance in Auckland Theatre Company’s Polo.
This article was first published in the January 2016 issue of Metro. Photo: Stephen Langdon
The tide is turning in a way that hopefully, very soon, it’ll be completely unremarkable that JJ Fong is cast in a play like Auckland Theatre Company’s Polo. On paper, Fong’s character, Sally Hunt, is a white girl from Glenfield who ends up out of her depth as an event organiser among Parnell’s glitterati. In the ATC production of Dean Parker’s piquant summer satire, Hunt is still from Glenfield, but she’s no longer white.
“Colin [director Colin McColl] has overlooked that, which I think is fantastic,” says Fong. “I was really happy about it.”
Three years ago, Fong and some mates got together to make the web comedy series Flat3, partly due to the dearth of relatable Kiwi-Asian roles. Since then, she’s noticed a move towards what she calls “creating diverse content” in New Zealand and internationally. “We want to be at the forefront of that,” she says.
They look set to continue. Flat3 Productions has funding from NZ on Air for a new series of 30 short, sharp episodes inspired by what goes down on a night out in Auckland, called Friday Night Bites. The same team just released Sugar Hit, one of 10 short films for the K’ Rd Stories project, celebrating the city’s most infamous street. In it, Fong gets to dance.
Always set on being a performer, she went to dance school in Wellington and had a brief foray as a recording artist before falling into acting aged 24. She’s been core cast in TV shows Go Girls and Step Dave and called on that dance training again for her first outing with ATC in last year’s cabaret Rupert, playing Wendy Deng Murdoch.
She grew up “a farm girl” in Pukekohe and now lives in the central city, so she can relate to Sally Hunt’s sense of cross-city displacement. “I sort of understand that whole thing,” she says. “But I’ve never been to the polo.”