Miriama Smith spent much of her childhood learning dance. Encouraged to model, she found her calling after someone suggested she try acting instead. A couple of advertisements aside, her first dramatic role was as a teenager who leads a friend astray in a 1991 episode of police drama Shark in the Park.
Smith's career since then has been busy, balancing a long run of screen roles with presenting work, competing on Dancing with the Stars and time on the judging panel for New Zealand's Got Talent.
At high school she acted in fantasy series Mirror, Mirror and starred in TV's The Kina Factory. The programme was made as part of an international series in which varied youth encounter environmental problems. Smith did further roles while studying sport and fitness at Waikato University, then at 20 joined the cast of Shortland Street.
Playing Māori nurse Awhina Broughton provided a chance to hone her craft, but she did not enjoy the "surreal" experience of being constantly recognised in public. "Six months into the show, I didn't enjoy it anymore." At that level of fame, Smith worried that "you can't relax, you can't fail."
After time overseas, Smith returned home in 2000 to do a post-graduate course in communications and public relations, planning to work in sports marketing. That year she also rediscovered her passion for acting, joining international hit The Tribe, as the feisty leader of an all-female gang, and spending two months in Raratonga for missionary bio-pic The Other Side of Heaven.
In 2001 Smith scored a role that made her realise acting might actually be an ongoing career. Small town drama Mercy Peak saw her playing nurse and solo mother Dana McNichol over three seasons. A number of roles quickly followed, among them Geoff Murphy thriller Spooked, soap satire Serial Killers and a double role on Power Rangers, as a PVC-clad beauty and a school principal.
For actors, it can be handy to have a suitcase ready. In 2004 Smith was in Europe in the early stages of an extended OE when asked to audition for short-lived Australian series Last Man Standing. She flew to Melbourne, arriving on a Friday morning, and by the end of the day learnt she would be needed on set the following Monday. Smith played friend and female "reality check" to a cast of romantically-inept males.
Since then she has been award-nominated both for 2007 movie We're Here to Help – playing supportive partner to Erik Thomson's longtime battler with Inland Revenue – and Margaret Mahy TV fantasy Kaitangata Twitch, playing mother to the show's teen heroine. Direct from the challenges of learning two new dances a week on Dancing with the Stars (she made it to the final three), in 2008 Smith joined the judging panel on Prime Television's New Zealand's Got Talent.
She judges her most challenging acting role to date as lawyer Donna Hall in tele-movie Stolen, based on an infamous 2002 child-kidnapping case. She describes Hall as someone "who doesn't suffer fools gladly, she knows what she wants ... she doesn't sit there worrying about what people might think". Following Stolen, Smith acted in Kiwi-made Western Netherwood, and another true life story: in tele-movie Siege she won praise — and an NZ Television Award — for playing Delwyn Keefe, real-life partner to Napier gunman Jan Molenaar.
In 2015 she scored the role of a lifetime: as hairdresser turned corporate boss Brady Truebridge in high profile series Filthy Rich, whose partner plunges to his death in the first episode. “She believes in a hard day’s work and doesn’t believe in handouts," Smith said of Brady. "She’s very ballsy, pretty tough, witty, clever and actually pretty funny."
Having done time as a live master of ceremonies, Smith has also done presentation duties on a number of television shows, including dating show Finding Aroha, House and Garden, tourism show Destination New Zealand and on Māori Television coverage of Waitangi Day.
'Miriama Smith: On making acting a career' (Video Interview). NZ On Screen website. Director Andrew Whiteside. Loaded June 2012. Accessed 29 May 2012
Donna Fleming, 'Mercy me' (Interview) – The New Zealand Woman's Weekly, 30 July 2001
Shannon Huse, 'Don't take this lady for granted' (Interview) - The NZ Herald, (View liftout), 7 September 2008, page 9
Carmen Lichi, 'Miriama Smith's city-slicker comeback!' (Interview) - Woman's Day, 16 February 2015
'Miriama Smith' (Interview - broken link) TVNZ website. Accessed 29 May 2012
'Miriama Smith's stolen identity' (Interview - broken link) New Zealand Woman's Weekly website. Loaded 16 August 2010. Accessed 29 May 2012