Dominic Ona-Ariki is riding high.
That’s partly because of his leading role in Sundance Now’s “One Lane Bridge.”
“I have never played a lead role before,” he says in a recent interview. “I had never experienced what that entails and a matter of being on every day. It was a challenge that I was ready for, both mentally and physically.”
A new episode of the series is released each Thursday on Sundance Now. It originally aired in Australia.
The series follows the ambitious young Maori detective, Ariki Davi, played by Ona-Ariki, as he arrives in Queenstown, New Zealand, with high hopes for his future.
When local legend Grub Ryder is found dead at the bottom of the infamous One Lane Bridge, Davi joins the investigation led by his boss, the respected Detective Senior Sgt. Stephen Tremaine, played by Joel Tobeck.
The mysterious One Lane Bridge is a historic Queenstown landmark synonymous with murder, suicide and fatal accidents.
During the investigation, Davi inadvertently unlocks his Matakite – a supernatural ability akin to second sight that he hasn’t experienced since his youth.
Davi quickly finds out that his spiritual gift threatens to endanger the case, his career and his life.
Ona-Ariki was drawn to the series because of Davi’s character.
“It was more of a question of about Ariki’s background, making the move to a new place and that plays into what he is running away from,” he says.
Ona-Ariki found himself quickly immersed in the entire story.
“You have a complex supernatural aspect, all while he’s trying to leave a good impression with his sergeant,” he says.
As the season progresses, Ona-Ariki says there are numerous layers to the story and Davi himself.
“You start to follow Ariki’s journey,” he says. “Pulling back the layers of the community happens as well.”
Filming took place for three months in New Zealand.
Ona-Ariki took in the scenery, which also became a character in the series.
“Filming there, it has this weird eeriness, but it’s beautiful,” he says. “It’s quite ominous. It sets place and tone. The area quickly became a character of the show. It added exactly what we needed.”
Ona-Ariki also connected with Davi’s way of pushing through boundaries.
“Sometimes you might just be at a dead end,” he says. “I connected with the way he absorbs all of the information. You found that out in drips and drops. Sometimes it might have been a little show, but as the series progresses, it picks up the pace. By episode three, we start shifting gears.”
With a lead role in hand, Ona-Ariki not only wanted to do well, but he also wanted to make an impression.
His days were jampacked, and he often looked forward to the end of the day, when he would get a mental debriefing.
“When I got this job, I was used to having downtime,” he says. “I often would get paid for waiting, which is why I thought, ‘I’m going to learn an instrument down here.’ That never happened, because I was always on the go.”
Sundance Now is airing the series, allowing it to reach more people.
“It’s nice that you all are getting a chance to see this journey a whole world away,” he says.