• Industry

Pacific Islander Actress Frankie Adams – Wants Her Work to Speak to People

Pacific Islander actress Frankie Adams will be playing next to Sigourney Weaver and Alycia Dednam-Carey in the adaptation of Holly Ringland’s debut novel The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart. The seven-part series follows a young woman named Alice, who moves to live with her grandmother after a family tragedy and whose adult life is highly affected by a violent past. Frankie Adams plays Candy Blue, Alice’s aunt, who is also a flamboyant character with lots of swagger and her own troubles to deal with.



Although she is only 28, Frankie Adams has been a professional actress for more than a decade. The New Zealand-Samoan actress’ breakout role came at the age of 16 in the New Zealand series Shortland Street, in which she played the troubled teen Ulla Levi. Four years later, she went on to play the role of the young incarcerated Aboriginal woman Tasha Goodwin in the Australian TV series Wentworth. Her career then expanded to America, where she landed the role of Martian Marine Bobbie Draper in Season 2 of Syfy’s space drama series The Expanse, set 200 years into the future and based on the best-selling books by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. We spoke to Frankie Adams from her home in Auckland, where her mother had just served her a bowl of warm chicken soup to help her get over a cold.

You are soon to be seen in the series, in which you play the role of Candy Blue. What can you tell us about your character?

Candy Blue gets adopted into the family and she is Alice’s aunt. She was an enigma, and that is what attracted me to her. She is very dolled up. She has the blue hair, the dresses and she is like a pin-up girl, but at the same time, she had experienced a lot of trauma that molded her into the woman that she is today, and I just really wanted to explore all those aspects of her and at the same time play dress up, because that is always a lot of fun.

In the series, Sigourney Weaver – famous for playing Ripley in the Alien franchise – plays June Hart, the grandmother who raises Alice. What was it like working with a fellow actor who has played a legendary sci-fi hero similar to the one you played in The Expanse?

Yes, I do hear that Bobbie Draper is a bit like Ripley. I did end up having quite a lot of scenes with Sigourney because I play her adoptive daughter. It was just wonderful. She is a pro and charming and incredibly smart. She was so warm and welcoming. I have been acting for more than 10 years and she has been doing it for so long, so I just wanted to learn from her, and we ended up becoming very close and laughing a lot and being really silly. Hopefully, we made some beautiful work together.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is based on a novel from 2018, which became a bestseller. Why do you think this story appeals to so many people?

I think what is so special about it is that it is about this flower farm which is always going to be appealing to the eye, but also the flower farm is a refuge for women who go and do their own work there and heal and get a lot of support from each other and it becomes this place for women who have had really difficult lives to come together and find strength in each other. That was very appealing: to find all these flawed women with a lot of colorful pasts and having them all in one place and have them raise children together.

You are also in Taika Waititi’s upcoming film Next Goal Wins. What is your role in this film?

Yes, I only went on set for a couple of days, but it was certainly a lot of fun. I am only in it for a brief moment, but I play a reporter called Frangipani from Samoa, and she is pretty funny.

How significant has Taika Waititi been in terms of opening the doors for Pacific Islanders and Māori people in the industry?

He has really paved the way for us. He has given us a lot of exposure and that has been a big help because we have always been here. For centuries, Polynesian and Pacific Island people have been performing and dancing and singing, but we got exposure through people like Taika. He does tend to cast a lot of Pacific Islander talent and Māori talent, so he is pushing us out on to the world stage and making sure that people see us.

You were part of the Teine Sā The Ancient Ones, which is a five-part horror series in which modern women have encounters with the ancient Pacific Island goddesses and learn from them. What did this series teach you about your cultural heritage?

I hope that most of the work that I do does something for people who look like me. I think as a modern, young Pacific Islander woman a lot of those parts of history were things I heard as a child but did not really explore as an adult, so it was important for me as an adult to learn about that. Also, us making that show made us able to teach all our fellow Pacific Islanders about our cultural heritage.

You were also part of The Panthers, which is a series about the founding of the Polynesian Panthers in the 1970s. How did you connect with the character of Tessa, who is a mother and a sex worker?

When I heard that project was happening, I just had to be part of it. I have always admired the Polynesian Panthers and what they have done for our people. Tessa was a smaller role, but I felt like she was a representation of so many women at that time, who would do anything for their children, and despite their circumstances found their way to make it work even though it was at the detriment of their own health and safety. I felt like it was an incredible story to have a young woman working really hard to make sure her child eats and lives and at the same time trying to live her own life and trying to find her own way romantically. I wanted to play her so badly and I was very happy the producers agreed.

You were cast as an Aboriginal woman in the Australian TV series Wentworth. In Australia, these roles are only cast with Aboriginals. What did you learn about your Aboriginal roots from this experience?

That was honestly one of the best parts of the job because I was brought up by my Samoan mother and my dad passed away when I was younger, so I did not have a chance to explore that part of me, so when I got Wentworth, it was an opportunity for me to go and talk to my cousins and learn about where I was from and talk about the history. It was quite a lot to hear about how terribly the Indigenous People had been treated there and the trickle effect and the generational trauma because of that, but I also feel very lucky to explore it through work. A lot of my work has taught me things that I needed to know that maybe I would not have explored on my own had I not had these opportunities.

It sounds like an amazing way to learn about yourself in terms of your roots.

I am only 28, and for anyone, this is such a learning time: it can be challenging and wonderful and surprising at once and I have done that throughout by being an actor. So it has gone hand in hand, which is a blessing, but also a bit odd sometimes.

How significant is it for you to tell stories about your cultural heritage? Is it important to you?

Absolutely. When there is a role for a specifically Polynesian character, I fight really hard on those auditions because they are far and few in between and sometimes we can be miscast. I think it’s like that for all the young people like me, and all the other brown actors, who are working their asses off. They are kicking down doors for the rest of us, who should all be on a world stage and be telling our stories. It is still not popularized in a way that I would like to see: there are not a lot of Polynesian actors on screen, but I think it is slowly happening – and we should all be on stage because we are really talented and beautiful and funny.

You have been part of the Syfy series The Expanse since Season 2, playing Bobbie Draper. This was your first role in the US and now this has come to an end. How was this experience for you? Do you think it will leave a mark on your career, so to speak?

I do think it will leave a mark on my career because when I started we were a little unsure where it would go and now we have this amazing following. People have followed the show to the very end, and they were very invested in the characters, and off set I made some lifelong friends and connections that I will hold close to my heart forever. I was so young when I started on the show, and I cannot believe that they took the risk of having me there. They were so nurturing and kind and passionate and really helped me by trusting me and believing in what I was doing. They guided me in the right direction, and I will take so many things from this job moving forward – I even learned how to conduct myself on set. A lot of young actors, who feel so fortunate being on a set, tend to shy away from having an opinion or feeling confident enough to speak up, and they really taught me that it is okay to discuss things, and I felt I could have a strong opinion without feeling like I was silenced or anything. In the beginning, I was not going to say anything but just try my best and hope that people liked me, but it does not have to be that way, it can be very collaborative. I will hopefully keep a lot of the things that I learned on that show and carry it with me in my career so that it is useful on future shows.

I know that when you first came to LA to make your name internationally, you had a hard time with visa issues, but you soon turned that around and made it a success story. What has it been like for you to come to the US?

The first time I went I was 20 and I had a blind, naïve belief that I would make it. It was actually the best way to start out, because otherwise, why go? I was reflecting on that time recently, and how well I have done for someone from Auckland, New Zealand, you know? None of my family are actors, so I am pretty proud that I did that. I think that if you really set your mind on something, things can start to happen; The things that you want and hope for.

What are your career goals? Where do you see yourself 20 years from now?

I would love to start a production company, write and direct and support other artists, who want to create. I want to continue to make work that I am proud of. If I read something that I connect with, I want to continue doing that and hopefully, it speaks to people.