Reuben Milner – On Acting & Creating Maori Role Models
At this point in modern society, I don’t think there is any single New Zealander above the age of about five who hasn’t heard of Shortland Street. It might not be Shakespeare, but it’s ours. First broadcast in 1992 and immediately hitting cult status with the iconic line from Carrie Burton (Lisa Crittenden) to Temuera Morrison’s Dr. Hone Ropata: “You’re not in Guatemala now, Doctor Ropata,” Shortland Street garnered a special place in many Kiwis’ hearts, so it’s no surprise that this year marks the 25th anniversary of being on air. Now, the show has expanded and broadened from those humble beginnings and offers many local talents their first shot at a proper role. Reuben Milner was one of those talents, and now has been a part of the show since 2014 as Jack Hannah.
Recently, we sat down after he was put through his modeling paces at a Converse photo shoot, wearing the All Star ‘70 sneakers – a vintage, comfortable shoe. It’s the shoe everyone can envision at their childhood home next to the front door, an image that radiates nostalgia so much so that you can almost smell Mum’s homecooked roast.
Growing up in Whangarei, Reuben was called a “drama queen” by probably the harshest critic of them all – Mum. Of course it wasn’t meant to hurt or offend, and it was this that actually nudged him toward taking up drama throughout his school life. He had a good teacher as well, which no doubt helped fuel the fire of wanting to act.
When I asked him who his heroes are, and what draws him to them, he didn’t take much time to consider. Cliff Curtis was the prompt reply – he’s a Maori man who has made it big in the acting world, no small feat. Curtis also has great morals, something Reuben respects greatly. “It’s so amazing to see someone of the same nationality go overseas and kill it as well as he has, and act as well as he has… He’s someone who I can look up to.”
Creating is part of an actor’s life, it’s essentially what they do. They create a new person out of nothing, and its not an easy thing to do. I asked Reuben what inspires him to create, and it’s the reaction of his acting that drives him. He wants to “inspire people. I want to reach out to people and inspire them, so they can feel things. “By acting, I can express to people feelings that they themselves might not have experienced.”
Preparing for acting on Shortland Street isn’t a far stretch from how Reuben himself presents himself as a person. The way Jack “moves, acts and talks, is very similar to how I move and act and talk.” In terms of getting into that headspace, it doesn’t take much for Reuben to become Jack. It’s a (relatively) simple matter of getting himself into how Jack would be feeling in any given scene, the tougher ones obviously being the more emotional scenes. The cameras quickly become part of the background for Reuben though, which is definitely one of the bigger things that would distract me.
Moving away from Shortland Street, what would Reuben teach everyone in the world, if he could only teach them one thing? Well the man has a heart of gold, so it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that he would teach everyone equality. There wasn’t much thinking time needed there, either. Which is good!
And finally, the most important question out of any question ever: Converse Chuck Taylors high tops or low tops?
“Definitely high tops. I used to own white low tops, all white but with a red and blue stripe around it… I was in love with those eh. But it does boil down to what you’re wearing. There are some things you can’t wear with high tops and some things you can’t wear with lows, but I always go for highs.”
There you go, Jack Hannah likes Chuck Taylor high tops. That’s good enough for me.
Reuben is wearing: Tee by Cocar (Cotton on); watch by nixon; pants by Park Hallensteins; the Chuck Taylor All Star ‘70 by Converse.