It wasn’t long ago that James Trevena-Brown was at a low point in his life. Having lived in Germany for three years, playing professional ice hockey, the New Zealand representative came home in 2010 “lost” and without a clue as to what he wanted.
Now, after “winging” his way through it, the multi-talented Kapiti boy has landed a breakthrough role in TV3’s The Blue Rose, the girl of his dreams, and is still playing inline hockey.
Life is good, but if it wasn’t for the encouragement of hockey friend Wyatt Russell, son of Hollywood legends Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, there is every chance James (26) would still be at a loss.
“He was the first person I’d ever met that was involved with acting,” James says. “I’d never done it before or anything like that, but after discussing it with him and his mum and dad, I guess he just put the thought in my head that it could be a good move. “I answered an ad on an internet forum for a short film, had a few drinks before the audition and got the part.”
Having just returned from Los Angeles – where he and actress girlfriend Renee Cataldo stayed with the Russell family while they both met with agents, movie studios and TV networks – James is beginning to taste success with his acting career.
And he refuses to stop dreaming big – think Jurassic Park, Transformers and any other blockbuster that involves action scenes. But, for now, he’s more than happy in his new life with Renee (24).
The pair met on the set of Kiwi film Contract Killers in 2011, and after a month or two of relentless pursuit on James’ part – which involved poetry, romance and a specially crafted mix CD – he got the girl.
“He was cute,” Renee says. “We met during our screen test. I was auditioning as the love interest for James’ character.”
“I started emailing. A lot,” James says, before quickly adding, “but not in the stalker way! I was doing some serious chasing, but after a while
I managed to reel her in.”
James and Renee continued their romance on the set of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, where they both played goblins. But while co-stars hooking up is hardly
a rarity, the pair initially found it wasn’t working for them.
“Our entire relationship happened on sets,” says James. “We were spending so much time together. I think we sort of jumped into being in love without being friends first.”
They decided to split, only to rekindle the romance six months later after a chance meeting in Auckland, where they had both moved to further their acting careers.
“Before we got together again, we did our own thing. We actually talked and became mates,” says James. Eight months later, they’re stronger than ever. Despite busy schedules (James is studying to be a personal trainer and Renee is rehearsing for a role in Chicago at the Auckland Playhouse Theatre), the couple make time – even if date night means reading through scripts.
“Going out with another actor means you’ve got that built-in support,” says Renee. “If you have to be romantic with someone else in a scene, at least the other person understands. Well, kind of.”
“Renee’s still not allowed to do that stuff,” James jokes. Although he’s managed to make waves in Hollywood with his down-to-earth nature, James is still mad about sports. He says acting is “one of the best things” he’s ever done, but there’s always a back-up plan.
“If I’m not good enough, or it doesn’t work out, that’s fine. I didn’t start acting until I was 24, so if in a year’s time something else appeals, then I’ll do that.”
James has a project on the horizon already – the 2013 Inline Hockey World Championships in California in July, where he will lead the New Zealand men’s team.
“I’m really looking forward to that. At the moment, we’re trying to raise money to go. It costs about $5000 for each player,” he explains. “I’ll have to get [The Blue Rose co-stars] Siobhan [Marshall] and Antonia [Prebble] involved in a car wash!” he laughs.