Mario Gaoa is best known for voicing the characters of Sione Tapili and God in the animated series bro'Town, which he also co-wrote.
Gaoa grew up in Auckland's Mount Roskill. He attended Balmoral Intermediate School where he met fellow Naked Samoan Shimpal Lelisi.
The two attended Mt Albert Grammar School before joining the Pacific Theatre group. This led them to meet David Fane and Oscar Kightley, the other founding members of The Naked Samoans. Beginning in the late 90s, this troupe of Aotearoa-raised Pacific Islanders mined comedy from their experiences of growing up brown and misunderstood. The Samoans were centre stage in this episode of Tagata Pasifika, and appeared in this episode of arts show The Living Room.
After watching the first Naked Samoan shows, Elizabeth Mitchell suggested the group's portrayals of polynesian teens might make good material for an animated TV series, partly because she couldn't see the ensemble could pull off playing teenagers. bro'Town's portrait of life for a group of un-PC Pacific Island and Māori kids proved a major hit, spawning five seasons.
"In the writing process we weren't thinking about anybody else," Gaoa told the NZ Herald in 2009. "The characters had to be funny and if we laughed, it was a pretty good indicator. We had a running battle with the network as far as scripts go but they let us run with crazy things we probably wouldn't have got away with elsewhere."
Gaoa's screen credits date back long before bro' Town. He began winning small acting roles on screen in the mid 90s — in the same period he wrote two episodes of anthology series Tala Pasifika. Gaoa wrote the script for drama A Day in the Life, which follows a teenager on a far from ordinary day as he awaits his exam results. It won two awards at Canadian indigenous festival Dreamspeakers, including Best Short Film.
Gaoa had a small role in big-screen hit Sione's Wedding and its sequel (as Eugene), which featured many of his Naked Samoan mates. He has also acted in various television shows including Hercules.
In 2008 Gaoa had an ongoing role as self-styled ladykiller Malepe Fa'auigaese, in madcap James Griffin comedy Diplomatic Immunity. Gaoa played one of the staff of the embassy of a fictional Pacific Island nation.
In 2010, after working with his fellow Naked Samoans over five seasons of bro'Town, Gaoa and many of the team reunited for sketch show Radiradira.
Mario is also a voiceover artist, singer and radio DJ.
Profile updated on 20 March 2019
Trudie McConnoghie, 'Never 4 life' (Interview) - NZ Herald, 20 April 20 2009