Rena Owen

Rena Owen (born 22 July 1962) is a New Zealand actress in theatre, television and film. Owen is best known for her leading role as Beth Heke in Lee Tamahori's Once Were Warriors and as Taun We in George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.

Rena Owen
Born (1962-07-22) 22 July 1962
NationalityNew Zealand
OccupationActress, writer, director, producer
Years active1990–present

Early life

Born in the New Zealand Bay of Islands, Owen is of Maori, Welsh, and other European descent. One of nine children, she grew up in Moerewa, raised Catholic in a small rural town in the North Island's Bay of Islands.[1] She regularly performed in local Maori culture groups and performed in dramas and musicals while in high school. Owen pursued a medical career and trained as a nurse at Auckland Hospital for three and a half years. Once she qualified as a registered nurse, Owen moved to London, England.[2]


Owen trained at the Actors Institute in London in the mid-1980s and worked extensively in British theatre.[3] Highlights include Voices From Prison for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Co-Existences for the Elephant Theatre and Outside in for Theater New Zealand, which debuted at the Edinburgh Festival. Owen wrote and starred in Te Awa i Tahuti (The River That Ran Away), which had a successful London tour and was later published by NZ Playmarket in 1991.[4]

On her return to New Zealand in 1989, Owen acted in two dramas for Television NZ's E Tipu E Rea series. A first of its kind, the series was written, acted, directed & produced by Maori, telling Maori stories. She worked extensively in theatre; acting, writing, directing, working as a dramaturge, and was a founding member of Taki Rua Theatre. Owen wrote and starred in Daddy's Girl,[4] while also playing reoccurring roles in two TV series; Betty's Bunch & Shark in the Park. Recent theatre credits include starring in the classic NZ plays, Haruru Mai for the NZ International Arts Festival and The Pohutukawa Tree for ATC.[5] In the USA, she has acted in multiple stage readings for Native Voices at the Autry in LA, and a charity stage reading of Vagina Monologues for the City of West Hollywood. She also played the lead in a Hawaiian play called Fine Dancing,[6] adapted and directed Toa Fraser's play Bare for the Asian American Theatre Company in San Francisco (AATC).

In Once Were Warriors, Owen played the leading role of Beth Heke alongside Temuera Morrison, who played her husband. Once Were Warriors is predominantly narrated from Beth's perspective,[7] and her performance was praised as "classic".[7] Owen reprised the role in the film's sequel, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? (1999).

Owen played Taun We in George Lucas' Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Nee Alavar in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, and a cameo role in Steven Spielberg's A.I.[8] Whilst playing a reoccurring role in WB's Angel, Owen played supporting and cameo roles in multiple international independent films. Highlights include the NZ Canadian co-production, Nemesis Game, Garth Maxwell's When Love Comes, Rolf de Heer's acclaimed Dance Me to My Song, Vincent Ward's acclaimed Rain of the Children,[9] and US thrillers Alyce Kills & The Well.[10][11] She played leading roles in the Australian TV drama series, Medivac in 1998, and recently in ABC's, The Straits, a multi-ethnic crime family drama. She also appeared in A&E's Longmire.[12]

Recently Owen and Morrison completed work on a documentary celebrating the 20-year anniversary of Once Were Warriors.[13]

In 2016, Rena was cast in the Freeform thriller series' Siren as Helen, which was premiered on March 29, 2018.[14][15]

Star Wars

Owen acted as Taun We in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) (in which Morrison played Jango Fett) and acted in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) as Nee Alavar. She also worked with the Star Wars Expanded Universe when she reprised her role as Taun We in the video game Star Wars: Republic Commando and also an uncredited role as Jedi Master Tionne Solusar in the video game Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron.


Her role in Once Were Warriors earned Owen rave reviews and multiple international awards including Best Actress at the Montreal World Film Festival, Oporto Film Festival, San Diego International Film Festival, and the Cannes Film Festival Spirit Award.[16] In New Zealand, she was awarded a Special Benny Award for Excellence in Film, and the Toastmasters Communicator of the Year Award.[3]

Further acting accolades include a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in the 1997 New Zealand TV Series, Coverstory and an AFI Best Supporting Actress nomination in 1998 for her role in Rolf de Heer's film, Dance Me to My Song.[17] She won the Best Supporting Actress Award at the 2012 Aotearoa Film and Television Awards (AFTA) for her role as Hine Ryan in the New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street.[18][19][20] She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her recurring role as Mere Hahunga in the award-winning Australian TV series, East West 101, at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts,[21] and nominated for Best Actress at the Montecarlo International Television Festival.[22]



Year Title Role Notes
1994 Hinekaro Goes on a Picnic and Blows Up Another Obelisk Hinekaro Short
1994 Rapa Nui Hitirenga
1994 Once Were Warriors Beth Heke
1995 The Call Up Emily Broughton
1995 Savage Play Takiora
1998 Dance Me to My Song Rix
1998 When Love Comes Along Katie
1999 I'll Make You Happy Mickie
1999 What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? Beth Heke
1999 9 Across Short
2000 Her Iliad Lena
2001 A.I. Artificial Intelligence Ticket Taker
2001 Soul Assassin Karina
2002 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones Taun We (voice)
2002 sIDney Clarissa Short
2003 Red Zone Mac's Mom
2003 Nemesis Game Emily Gray
2004 The Land Has Eyes Warrior Woman
2005 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith Nee Alavar
2005 The Crow: Wicked Prayer Mary
2005 Mee-Shee: The Water Giant 'Crazy' Norma
2005 Freezerburn Lee
2006 Leela Mother Short
2006 The Horrible Flowers Linda
2006 The Iron Man Dolores
2008 Ocean of Pearls Anna Berisha
2008 A Beautiful Life Sam
2008 Amusement Psychiatrist
2008 Finding Red Cloud Barfly
2009 Veronika Decides to Die Nurse Josephine
2009 Prison Break: The Final Break Shu C.O. Video
2009 Spout Oma Short
2011 Alyce Kills Danielle
2011 Absolute Killers Judge Irwin
2014 The Last Survivors Claire
2014 The Dead Lands Grandmother
2015 The Last Witch Hunter Glaeser
2016 Lost Girls Cop Short
2017 Asomatous Mordeya
TBA The Exquisite Continent Narrator Documentary


Year Title Role Notes
1990 Betty's Bunch Shirley Gardner
1990–91 Shark in the Park Ngaire Recurring role
1995 High Tide Kara Gibson Episode: "Regarding Joey"
1996 Cover Story Mairanga Episode: "The Cult"
1996 G.P. Hilary Harper Episode: "Fire and Water"
1996–1998 Medivac Macy Fields Main role
2000 All-American Girl: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story Soona Fualau TV film
2000 Dark Knight Rock Witch "Golden Bird"
2001 Gideon's Crossing Tara "Flashpoint"
2002 Angel Dinza "Ground State"
2005 Star Wars: Republic Commando Taun We (voice) Video game
2009 Piece of My Heart Kat TV film
2009 Prison Break SHU C.O. "Free"
2009 Fear Clinic Brett's Mom Episode: "Hydrophobia"
2009–2011 East West 101 Mere Hahunga Episodes: "Ice in the Veins", "The Price of Salvation"
2011 Shortland Street Hine Ryan Recurring role
2012 The Straits Kitty Montebello Main role
2014–15 Longmire Medicine Woman Episodes: "Counting Coup", "The Calling Back"
2015 The Red Road Medicine Woman "Graves"
2016 Joy Kaylee Episode: "California Soul
2017–2019 The Orville Heveena Episodes: "About A Girl", "Sanctuary"
2018–present Siren Helen Main role


  • Lead Role: Pohutukawa Tree, Auckland Theatre Company, New Zealand (2009)[25]


  1. Johnson, Brian D. "Ogopogo gets drawn Down Under", Maclean's, 31 July 2006, vol. 119, issue 29, page 56.
  2. Rich, B. Ruby (1 February 1995). "A Bette Davis from Down Under". Elle Magazine.
  3. Reed, Nicol (16 November 2003). "Rena Owen: Acting her age". Sunday Star Times.
  4. Eugene Benson; L.W. Conolly (30 November 2004). Ency Post-Colonial Lit Eng 2v. Routledge. pp. 397, 398. ISBN 978-1-134-46848-5.
  5. Knight, Kim (30 August 2009). "The way we were". Sunday Star Times. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  6. Harada, Wayne (11 March 2005). "Fijian family's tale told through 'Eyes' of a camera". Honolulu Advertiser.
  7. Valerie Alia; Simone Bull (2005). Media and Ethnic Minorities. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 52–56. ISBN 978-0-7486-2069-2.
  8. Castles, Helen (8 May 2007). "Rena's happy in Hollywood". Northern News. Fairfax New Zealand Limited.
  9. Gilchrist, Shane (13 September 2008). "Rena Owen returns to rural roots". Otago Daily Times. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  10. Gonzalez, Ed (17 May 2013). "Alyce Kills Film Review by Chuck Bowen". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  11. Lowe, Justin (15 June 2014). "'The Well': LAFF Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  12. Hale, Mike (14 December 2012). "'The Straits,' an Australian Series at". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  13. "Kiwis pick favourite movie". Stuff. 25 January 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
  14. Petski, Denise (24 August 2016). "The Deep Pilot Casts Eline Powell & Rena Owen; Claws Adds Jason Antoon". Deadline. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  15. Ramos, Dino-Ray (8 October 2017). "Freeform's Mermaid Drama 'Siren' Gets Premiere Date, Casts Duo, Releases Clip".
  16. Jane Sloan (26 March 2007). Reel Women: An International Directory of Contemporary Feature Films about Women. Scarecrow Press. pp. 163–. ISBN 978-1-4616-7082-7.
  17. "Dance Me to mMy Song". South Australian Film Corporation. Archived from the original on 12 August 2014. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  18. Anstiss, Celeste Gorrell (13 November 2011). "Stars' time to shine at AFTA Awards – NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  19. "NZ screen stars and creators celebrate at awards". 3 News. 13 November 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  20. "Congrats to Rena Owen!". TVNZ on demand. 16 April 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  21. "Award Winners and Nominations" (PDF). Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA). Australian Film Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 January 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  22. Wightman, Catriona (20 April 2011). "In Full: Monte Carlo TV Festival fiction nominees". Digital Spy. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  23. Fleming, Donna (7 December 2011). "Rena Owen follows her heart home". New Zealand Woman's Weekly.
  24. "Chicago critics stand own ground with film nominations". The Daily Herald. 15 January 1996. p. 36. Retrieved 8 August 2014 via
  25. "The Pohutukawa Tree". The Big Idea. 20 August 2009. Retrieved 7 August 2014.
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