Ben Mitchell and his family, wife Kate and children Mila Mitchell, Sofia Mitchell, Nico Mitchell, with Aitutaki tour guide Ali who Benjamin shared a special bond and connection with. SUPPLIED/22111819
Ben Mitchell has visited the Cook Islands several times but it was during a recent trip that he felt a connection which brought him closer to his ‘ancestral homeland’.
Best known for his role as Dr. TK Samuels in New Zealand’s longest running soap
opera, Shortland Street, Mitchell and his family – wife Kate and children Mila,
Sofia and Nico – spent some quality time in Rarotonga and Aitutaki “recharging”
before returning to the studios.
has done this many times before, but his latest visit was different and
special, he says.
“I feel a real
connection to my ancestors from here, I have similar feeling of Tahiti, but
when I was here and when I’m in Aitutaki, it’s different. It’s very hard to
explain, the locals will understand. It’s like coming back to Hawaiki where my
ancestors stayed, it’s like coming back home when I’m in Aitutaki or even in
Rarotonga in the lagoon here.
“This is the place
where my ancestors set off, they came all the way down to Aotearoa … and there
is such a missing link down there, but here the culture is very strong.
“It is a very
special place for my family, it has taken me 44 years, but probably it has
taken a tourist in me to understand and appreciate too, otherwise I wouldn’t
have appreciated it.”
speaks fluent Te Reo Maori, says his great grandparents hail from Fiji and he
has “6 per cent Tongan blood”, but considers himself a “Polynesian at heart”.
“I have been on
this journey looking at a subconscious level, thinking where I am from, not
just where I grew up or where my parents grew up, not even where my
grandparents grew up, but where my generations come from.
“They didn’t just
come from somewhere or just from this and that tribe … they were great
Polynesian voyagers from places like Rarotonga right through to the Marquesas,
but here I feel special and I know this is it.”
Getting off the
plane in Rarotonga, the sound of drums and the “welcome home” greetings give
Mitchell the warmth that he gets from those close to him.
In an interview
with Stuff, Mitchell ranked “listening to Rarotongan drums” as one of his
He tells Cook
Islands News: “It’s the drum, I don’t know why, you might say it’s just the
drums, but for me it’s something ancient in my brain, in my body, in my heart.
It’s like I knew this knowledge, and it’s just subconsciously waking.”
“Literally I have
been going to every single (island) shows, the dancers, they’re phenomenal,
sensational dancers, and drumming is next level. They get me up on the stage
for a bit of dancing and to beat the drums, and I have made a decision that my
girls, my daughters, are going to learn (drumming) when they get back home.”
joined the Shortland Street, initially as a reporter in 2000 – fresh after
winning the Mr New Zealand title in 1999.
In 2006 he
rejoined the Shortland Street cast as Dr TK Samuels, becoming one of the
longest running characters – after Chris Warner (played by Michael Galvin) – in
New Zealand’s prime-time soap opera, centering on the fictitious Shortland
Over the years his
character has grown from a young doctor joining the Emergency Department, to
now the CEO of Shortland Street.
A humbled Mitchell
thanks his co-stars, directors and writers for keeping him going and help make
his character one of the most loved in the show which has been running for
“It’s been a
privilege, I have worked with some of the best actors in the country who have
gone on to do amazing things internationally, the directors, and fantastic
script writers and I get to do what I love every single day. It’s been blessing
man, I can’t describe it, brother,” he says.
“I didn’t grow up
wanting to be an actor, I was kind of like ‘Ah what would it be like to be in
movies’, and I did a couple of things here and there (before Shortland). In
hindsight when I look back, I can’t believe my journey has been so long but I
never think of it that way, you’re just on the go and I’m just getting
Mitchell, who is
looking to venture into producing and teaching, is already planning to return
to Rarotonga next year with his family.
“Thank you so much
for the support from everyone here, there is a lot of support here and there is
also a Fiji community here who I connected with over some kava up the road from
my resort … I had about seven or eight bowls, luckily my resort was a 500 metre
drive home,” he shares with a laugh.
“I’ll be back home
next year, 100 per cent, and I’ll come back to see everyone.”