As I sit here trying to figure out how a girl like me ended up writing an article for The Whatitdo, interviewing a modern day warrior and living icon, I feel like a barefoot, potbellied, island kid in the middle of a typhoon… SCARED! Talking to Tanoa’i Tasi Ae Afe Reed was like talking to a real life action hero. There is a lot at stake here; plain and simple – I must uphold the reputation of Tanoa’i Reed, the super hero.
Born in Hawaii on February 17, 1974, Reed is of Norwegian and Samoan descent. Raised on the North Shore, Reed identifies his humble beginnings by staying true to his Laie boy roots. “I did not want to be famous; I just wanted to be successful. I already accomplished all my goals. I have a wife, a son, a house, and that is all I ever wanted.” Reed has been married to his wife Suzanne Wailani for 14 years, and they have an 11-year-old son namedSamson. When asked if Reed thinks of himself as a sex symbol, the relaxed Laie boy with his heavy pidgin accent quickly rejects the question. “A sex symbol? No way. My wife still thinks I am sexy even after 14 years of marriage and that is amazing to me!” Besides his great looks and superb physique, Reed’s main attributes are self-described as being “consistent, humble, faith[ful], [and having] an alofa (love) for all.”
At the age of 19 he landed a job as a laborer on the set of “Water World” in 1994. Upon receiving his first paycheck, the wide-eyed actor thought, “Are you seriously paying me to have fun?” The producers offered to keep the budding actor for the duration of filming. “I was supposed to finish my senior year, and not mess up my scholarship. I gave up my senior year, which I regretted, but I kept focused on my career. I had a taste of success and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.” What people may not know is that Mr. Tanoa’i Reed is the official stunt double to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Yes, ladies, I said it. He makes our beloved “Rock” look good!!!
You have to give respect to get respect.
In 2005, Reed won the Stuntman of the Year award for the movie “The Rundown.” When asked if the superstar felt like this was the turning point, he replied, “It meant so much to me. I gained the respect of my peers.” This drove the actor to “perfect his craft and drive harder.” Reed was not only destined for greatness but also is a pioneer to those who want to follow in his footsteps. The actor explains, “I thought I was a commodity to doing stunts because I was so agile. With [my] athletic edge, I stuck out more than everyone else. The stunt coordinators were like, ‘I never saw a guy your size!’ Our background matters in this industry. Because of the fa’a Samoa and fa’a Polinisia, we are raised [to be] respect[ful]; That is going to get you just as far as the athleticism. You have to give respect to get respect.”
As real as the air he breathes, Reed passionately describes the important role that culture plays in his life and how he instills these values into his son, Samson Iosefa Tamasese. “It’s very important. Our parents and grandparents came from the islands to build a better life, but a lot of youth today try to assimilate with everything around them. My son is 11 years old and he knows everything about my grandmother, and I instill everything in him. We hardly have to scold my son, which is what my grandmother instilled in me… a conscience and culture. Just these stories alone in my family are enough to keep you going.”
This article is dedicated to all those who have laid the foundation for the many generations to come. For generations like Tanoa’i Tasi Ae Afe Reed! Fa’afetai tele lava! Malo ‘aupito! Vinaka sara vakelevu! Mahalo nui loa! Mauruuru roa! Nga mihi nui koutou! Thank you!
Article Written By: Shanna Uhilamoelangi
*Photos courtesy of Tanoa’i Reed and Sue Reed
*YouTube video courtesty of sportsimproper2008