“I’m running towards the thing I’m scared of. That’s the rule. I’m always excited for the next project.” – Beulah Koale
Anyone with kids knows all too well that when you’re trying to get your little ones ready for bedtime, no one and nothing will stop that from happening. Not even a director who’s just called to talk about a potential role. That’s what happened when director Riley Stearns tried to get in touch with actor Beulah Koale. “Dude, you called me at the wrong time. I’m so sorry,” he said.
Thankfully, everything worked out and he was cast in the writer/directors latest project, Dual. The film stars Karen Gillan as a woman who chooses a cloning procedure after she receives a terminal diagnosis. But when she recovers and she tries to cancel the clone, a court orders a mandated duel to the death. Koale stars as her husband who falls in love with Gillan’s clone.
The New Zealand born actor became known in the states with his role in the 2017 film, Thank You for Your Service and has since gone on to star in Hawaii Five-0 as Officer Junior Reigns before leaving the series because, as he told me, “I’m always trying to challenge myself.”
In this interview, Koale talks about Dual, Hawaii-Five-0 and how he got cast in Thank You for Your Service while still living in New Zealand. These are edited excerpts from that conversation. For the full interview, check out the video below or on YouTube.
Can you tell me about the movie and your character, Peter?
Beulah Koale: The movie Dual is about living in a world where if you’re going to die, you have an option to make a clone of yourself, so your family doesn’t need to suffer the pain of losing you. That clone basically takes over your life, learns everything about you. But, Karen [Gillan’s] character doesn’t end up dying from the thing that she was diagnosed with, so contractually you’re supposed to fight to the death. And it’s kind of like in New Zealand a Saturday night rugby match or a football match in America. And whoever wins that duel gets to live out the rest of the life as that person.
And, and I play Karen’s husband. He’s a businessman who works overseas in the beginning of the film and they’ve kind of gone past the lovey-dovey stage and they’re a couple of years deep and all that glitz and glam has died away. When the clone comes in, he re-falls in love with Karen’s clone character.
How did you actually get the part? I’ve heard good things about the film.
Beulah Koale: Yeah, how I got the part was weird. I’d heard about the script and I’ve watched Riley’s work, my agent flicked through his script and I was like, “Man, I really would love to work with this guy.”
And it was basically a phone call. Riley ended up calling me at kind of the worst time I have twins. I have twin boys and they were probably three, about three years old around the time. I was in Hawaii and it was that time where you’re trying to get them from the dinner table to the bathroom. And Riley called me right in right in that little pocket, that sweet pocket there where it’s chaos. And he called me, “Hey man, Riley Stearns” I was like, “Dude, you called me at the wrong time. I’m so sorry.”
And I pretty much had like two minutes. I was like, “Buddy, are you a good person?” And he was like, “Yeah, I think I’m a good person.” I was like, “Well, I’m a good person and I kind of just wanna really work with good people. I hope we can make it work. I gotta go cause my son’s about to jump off the table. I’ll see you later, buddy.” And I hung up.
My agent asked me, “How’d it go?” And I was like, “Well, kind of terrible.” The next day Riley was like, “Yeah, man, you’re in the film.”
Do you like sci-fi movies?
Beulah Koale: Yeah. to be honest, I’m scared of it. I’ve never really delved into that. sci-fi dark comedy thriller kind of movie and I have a particular rule for myself as actor: if I’m scared of something that means I have to move towards that direction until I’m not scared of it. And now I’m not scared of it anymore. With the help of Riley and Karen and everyone else, they helped me figure out the genre.
It is different to what I’m used to. I can do a drama easily and doing like dark straight comedy sci-fi requires a particular set of skills. Especially for a Riley Stearns film, because he is very particular and he knows what he wants, which is awesome as an actor.
Since you haven’t done this kind of genre before, were you scared or nervous the first day or two on set?
Beulah Koale: I mean, I was scared throughout the whole time, man, to be honest because I never really done it. I’ve always been scared of comedy because I consider myself a dramatic actor. So doing the comedy thing, I’m like, “I dunno how to do this.” And I pretty much told Riley that. And he just kept telling me, “Don’t worry, man, I’m gonna walk you through it.”
Riley is very particular with how he writes, with how he makes his movies and he pretty much has all sorted out when you turn up on set. He’s like, “Just follow my leave and I’ll help you out.” It took a couple of takes where I was kind of doing my thing and Riley was kind of like, “I see some habits that you’re used to doing. I’m gonna cut that. Just let the words do the work.” Which was kind of awesome. I just said the words. I said the words and whatever was in my head at the time, was what we were playing with. It was that simple.
There are some lighter moments in like Hawaii Five-0. Not total comedy, but you’ve had those lighter moments.
Beulah Koale: Yeah, I’ve had those lighter moments. But even in Five-0, I was kind of like serious Navy Sealed guy. This was definitely a challenge. It was the challenge that I knew I needed and everything that I wanted.
Are you based out of New Zealand now?
Beulah Koale: Yeah. So, during COVID, I kind of just moved back to New Zealand. I put my kids in school here because school and kind of everything else in New Zealand is a lot greater than America. Like our school system and health system. So, I kind of wanted my kids have the childhood that I had.
How did you get your start in acting?
Beulah Koale: Like most actors, it was an accident. I played rugby my whole life in school. I went to a school where we couldn’t afford a drama department and then the last year of high school, an English teacher told me, “We have a drama department.” And I was the vice-captain of the rugby team and I was like, “Well, I’m not doing that. I’m the rugby guy.” And he was like, “Well, if you join and if you get more people to join you get to skip three classes on Mondays.” I was like, “Heck, yeah,” Then at the next team meeting, I told the entire rugby team, “We’re all joining the drama club and you have no choice.” So, everyone joined and that’s kind of where it started.
I remember doing it just for fun, just to skip some classes and then finding out, “Oh, this is, actually cool.” Because I played rugby to let out pain. I figured that out later when I was older, I played rugby to let out the pain in my life, to let out frustration. And then a teacher told me, “Well, you can let out more in drama. You can let out love, laughter a bunch of different emotions in bunch of different parts of your life.”
At what point did you get like Hawaii Five-0?
Beulah Koale: Well, my first movie was called, Thank You for Your Service, a Dreamworks film. It was with Miles Teller and it was by Jason Hall who wrote American Sniper. They looked at 1500 people all over the world and found me in New Zealand. I almost didn’t do the audition. I used my last 50 bucks of that week to do this audition just because I was just going through stuff in my life and I just wanted to use this audition to let out some anger. I couldn’t care about the audition. And then Jason was like, “Dude, that kids got something.”
And pretty much from that film, Peter Lenkov saw the trailer for Thank You for Your Service and he was like, “Who is that kid?” to Jason Hall. He was like, “He is this kid from New Zealand. You should put him in the show.” And that’s pretty much it.
Did you even have to audition for it?
Beulah Koale: No, I didn’t. Didn’t have for it, which is great. I remember my agent calling me up going, “You want to be in Five-0?” I was like, “I think this is the show my mother watches. Yeah, I’d love to be in it.” I thought it was just like a guest role, but they got me in as one of the main guys, which is awesome.
Obviously, I don’t work as near as much as you, but when I get a part in something there’s like a little while where I’m like, “Yes!” I’m just really happy. With the amount of stuff that you’ve done, when you get something now, do you still have those moments?
Beulah Koale: Yeah, I always get those. I think when I don’t get those moments, that’s when I will probably leave the job. I always try to do things that I know will make me happy. Like even now like doing Hawaii Five-0, someone tried to tell me now you’re a TV actor and that kind of irked me the wrong way. I was like, “Nah, now I’m just gonna do movies. Now you, you flicked the switch.”
I’m very competitive with myself. I remember leaving Five-0 and talking to some of the actors and they’re like, “Hey, what are you gonna do now?” I’m like, “I’m gonna do movies. I want to do the things that scare me.” And they all kind of just had a laugh and a giggle. And then two weeks later, I booked Riley’s film and I booked a couple of other films.
It’s always exciting because I’m always trying to challenge myself. I’ve always done this my whole life through sports and I guess I’m doing the same thing with films. I’m running towards the thing I’m scared of. That’s the rule. I’m always excited for the next project.
What’s been your worst audition ever?
Beulah Koale: Probably one of my first auditions. I walked in with the brightest colors and like a Stripe shirt and I didn’t know what was going on. I was freaking out at all the lights and I remember someone was asking me to turn profile and I didn’t know what that meant. She got me to read the lines and I suffer from dyslexia I think, and I couldn’t read it in front of her. And I was just like, it was terrible. It was the worst. And I remember going, “This acting thing sucks.” <laugh> But being the way I am. I was like, “Well, I gotta go back and at least get it right and then I’ll give up.” But then I kind of got it right. And kept getting it right. And here we are today.