An Interview With Jaimee Kaire Gataulu

INTRO
It is with great pleasure that THETRIBE.CO.UK gives a big Mall Rat welcome to Jaimee Kaire Gataulu. As one of the youngest members of the tribe we were treated to an entirely different perspective on events as, through Cloe’s eyes, we saw her struggle to integrate fully with the tribe and how she forged a new family unit alongside her closest friend.

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Cloe provided viewers with something that you very rarely get to see on screen, something that is usually relegated to long running soaps and dramas, which is that unique visual treat as you get to witness an individual grow and learn (both the character and the actor behind it) throughout the course of a show. It has quite an impact on our affinity and attachment to that character.

It might be hard to describe, but what was it like to basically grow up on set? We know that – through glimpses at the behind the scenes footage – filming was strictly monitored for minors and you were also taking classes alongside the show, but what was that all like? Just how much of a whirlwind was the show?

JAIMEE KAIRE GATAULU

Growing up on set was in hindsight and at the time a big challenge. As a young child you were working in an adult world with its demands and expectations, around mostly older cast (when the series was first starting) and it was hard. For me, the hardest parts were going through all the changes puberty brings with it in front of the camera, living away from home in cast houses, and not being able to honestly express your feelings (because early on you were practically in a world of strangers).

As for juggling classes, I really thrived on the correspondence school and was able to juggle acting work with schooling easily 😊. On a positive note, growing up on THE TRIBE and being part of the original cast- it was a real interesting experience to go from pre-production where no one in the cast knew how the show was going to go, to a few series in where merchandise was coming out, going to the recording studio to take part in the music album, interviews were being requested from overseas – that was definitely an interesting element that came with being involved in THE TRIBE.

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Even though you were really young, you were quite accomplished on screen and it all felt very natural to you. Did you have any prior work that we are not aware of?

We know that several other cast members were on Raymond Thompson’s radar for the show due to previous appearances in his other works, like A Twist In The Tale and William Tell, but how did your original audition for the character actually come about?

JAIMEE KAIRE GATAULU

I think you’re probably aware of my early onscreen work – most notably the Telecom Spot The Dog commercials, as well as some New Zealand tv episodes for mini series. My original audition was actually, in my opinion, an interesting story!

So my agent had let me know about an audition for a new series and I went for my audition dressed nice and tidily and I’d learnt my lines well. Then on my call back, I wasn’t given much notice and so went straight for the call back audition after playing a game of netball for my school – needless to say I was scruffy and I was the only brown person in the room at the callbacks, so I for sure thought I’d not get the role since I was messy and everyone else looked different to me.

However, as you’re aware I did get the part, and it was quite touching because all the sketches for pre-production had Cloe as a white young girl and Salene as a brown girl – but they were able to swap that around. 😊

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As its core, THE TRIBE continuously provided a very positive message to the audience about holding onto their hopes and dreams, and of what could be accomplished by working together. But that wasn’t relegated to just the older cast. One of the greatest scenes in the show’s history is something that fans still love to this day – the scene where Cloe simply cannot abandon her best friend, and wants to be ‘virused’ alongside Patsy, spurring the others on to do the same.

What was it like working alongside the cast your own age, like Sarah Major and Zachary Best? Do you have any fond memories from set? And what did you find the most difficult to do from your time on the show?

JAIMEE KAIRE GATAULU

Working around the cast my own age in the first few series was a definite rollercoaster, but I look back on those times and realise we all did really well as children, strangers, figuring out how to get along and work together when we were only 10.

Some of my fond memories would have to be working with Bluebell, getting lost in the woods and having Tai San find me – as working outside was something I thoroughly enjoyed, leaving and then coming back onto the show and my character had definitely grown up so there was a change in costume and attitude, and in the final series I was involved with I have a lot of fond memories working with Dan, especially the casino scenes where I got all “dolled” up. 😊

CLOE TRYING TO PROTECT BLUEBELL AS LEX FINDS OUT ABOUT HER

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How has
THE TRIBE impacted your life?

JAIMEE KAIRE GATAULU

THE TRIBE impacted my life in many ways – it gave me unique experiences at a young age that not many people get to have, it gave me insight into how filming on set or location works, and that there is so much hard work and dedication from pre-production to post production from the cast, crew, directors, writers and producers etc.

As far as the cast go, I met so many different personalities and to this day have admiration, respect and love for 3 of the cast in particular 😊 who I worked with. THE TRIBE also impacted my life in a way where at an older age I’ve had to look back and let go of some issues around expectations that were truly challenging to my inner thoughts.

One of the most awesome things to come out of being on THE TRIBE is hearing from fans, even still – in fact my friend Emma is awesome and I wouldn’t have gotten to know her if I hadn’t been on THE TRIBE. 😊

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As we mentioned before, seeing a character grow onscreen is a fantastic experience, and it was never more profound than when Cloe made a sudden reappearance right at the end of series 3. This also led to a new dynamic for the character as we saw more of a teenage angst ‘Romeo and Juliet’ scenario with herself and Ved.

This also began to reflect into your own life.

How did the real life relationship with Dan Weekes (Ved) come about? Was it something that just ‘happened’, or was a spark building due to all of the interactions between your characters?

JAIMEE KAIRE GATAULU

In my opinion and from my perspective, being a teenager in real life who was just starting to become interested in boys, combined with being on set and having a storyline that pushed my character Cloe into the arms of Ved – definitely added to sparks flying.

But of course there was offset interaction that was building up so in the end it was just a big jumble of teenage love emotions, I don’t see it as something that just happened, it was a special relationship in my life at that time and I still have some fond memories.

In addition, me and Dan both lived in the same cast house when he first joined the show so we were spending lots of time together onset and offset, and being of similar age, and with characters who were going to work together, we naturally gravitated towards each other.

VED AND CLOE ON THEIR DATE AT THE BEACH

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Unfortunately, this also ultimately led to both characters being released from the show. The official line was that you both missed a day’s filming, effectively halting production and incurring a lot of cost for the show. It couldn’t have been an easy decision, but from your own perspective, what exactly happened? Were you simply unaware of greater consequences due your emotional involvement? And, reflecting back, do you have any regrets?

JAIMEE KAIRE GATAULU

I definitely don’t want to get into details because I wasn’t the only person involved in how this all came about, so out of respect to Dan I’m not going to share my perspective. What I will say is reflecting back, I was a teenager things were tough and ultimately I made a decision that had consequences.

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On the story and character development side of the equation, Ved was certainly being set up to overthrow Ram, and with Cloe’s relationship with him, we had in place the beginnings of a really engaging storyline to lead us into series 5 and the ongoing fight against the Technos.

If things had worked out differently, what would you have liked to have done with your character? Do you think Cloe could have persuaded Ved to step away from the Technos in the end? Or would Cloe have become a Techno herself? Do you think the two were always destined to be a tragic love story or could you see a happy ending on the horizon?

JAIMEE KAIRE GATAULU

From ideas that were being floated around at one point in time, Cloe was definitely on the way to becoming a Techno. I would’ve like to have seen Cloe as a Techno who was just hanging on Ved’s every word, ultimately losing her own identity from being caught up in a relationship, but then she would realise who she truly was and that her Mall Rat beginnings were important to her and she would go back – and because Ved would realise that he was actually more in love with her then he knew he would want to be a Mall Rat too and they’d live happily ever after. 😊

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I always personally felt that you had a great career ahead of you if you had continued to pursue it, and it felt like such a shame that you didn’t. What exactly was the decision behind leaving acting entirely? And Is it something that you would ever go back to?

JAIMEE KAIRE GATAULU

Leaving acting entirely was due to becoming a young mother – I was still doing the odd audition when my first son was young, but then I realised I was more passionate about being a mother than being involved in the acting scene.

I am now a solo mother and caregiver to three beautiful boys who are diagnosed with severe autism – so this has had a huge impact on my life, they are my priority and there’s really been no time to pursue anything for myself these past 5 years – I’m undecided as to whether I would try and go back into acting.

JAIMEE LOOKING STUNNING

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What have been you up to since leaving THE TRIBE? What hobbies do you still enjoy undertaking, and what do you find you are still really passionate about?

JAIMEE KAIRE GATAULU

Since leaving THE TRIBE, I have become a mother of three boys who are my world! They’re all affected by autism, and this has had a huge impact on my life – you see a really different side of society when your life is affected by a disability. I’m very passionate about inclusion – and my ultimate dream is for society to be more inclusive of all people with disability!

I’ve also been doing a lot of reflecting in these past 5 years when it comes to navigating life – I recently started a blog where this is the main focus – my journey, and figuring out how to live the best life possible and the challenges that come with being a solo mum to three boys with severe autism and their high needs – if anyone wants to follow it they’re welcome – jaimeeraeblog.wordpress.com.

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Is there anything special you want to say to all your fans?

JAIMEE KAIRE GATAULU

To all THE TRIBE fans out there, I admire your loyalty and dedication to keeping the dream alive! Thank you to all the fans who’ve sent me messages in the past and a shout out to SimonArty whose fan art is so impressive – I love seeing what he comes up with with Cloe!

Also, I’m on Instagram (irregularly) so you can find me there if you want. 😊

OUTRO
Another amazing thank you to Jaimee for taking the time to participate in this interview!

Don’t forget that you can follow Jaimee’s personal journey over on her blog, and you can also find her on Instagram.