A Conversation with Nick Afoa

Interview with the Actor Behind Collins in Rent the Musical's 2024 Australian Tour

From late next week, musical theatre afficionados will begin being able to enjoy the iconic music Rent, with  LPD Productions bringing the newest national tour to QPAC in Brisbane, Arts Centre Melbourne, Civic Theatre in Newcastle, His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth and the Canberra Theatre between January and June 2024. Not only have they got the iconic 90s musical touring the country, but they also have a recognisable cast of multitalented triple-threats from the creative arts industries. While still in the rehearsal room ahead of their first performance on 27 January, we have had the opportunity to interview a few members of the show’s cast – with them sharing a bit about themselves, their unique perspectives on Rent, and their all-important advice for those who wish to enter the industry themselves.

Following our interview with Thndo last week who is portraying the role of Joanne, we have now had the opportunity to pitch a few questions to Nick Afoa, who portrays the role of Collins. A New Zealand Samoan actor-singer, Afoa had a varied history leading up to this role, originally representing New Zealand in the field of rugby before an injury led him to pursue a career in community services as a Youth Counsellor. 10 years ago however, he made his break into the musical theatre industry, in the prolific role of Adult Simba in Disney Theatrical Productions’ most recent Australian tour of The Lion King – before spending five subsequent years on London’s West End. Since then he has cast and co-directed an original production, Pacifica the Musical, and starred in both a range of TV and film productions. Now he will be spending a little over the first half of 2024 touring as part of Rent the Musical.

Scroll down to read the full interview:


Was there anything specific which drew you to audition and ultimately get your part in Rent

I am familiar with the musical through the iconic song Seasons of Love and Rent, but when I was sent the song ‘I’ll Cover You’ I wondered why I had never heard it. I was struck by the soul and depth in the journey of this song. It drew me into want to know more, and then started my desire to get to know Tom Collins more and the world of Rent.

You are now in rehearsals ahead of Rent commencing at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre at the end of this month, and the wider Australian tour across 2024. How have things been going in preparation for the season, what was your first day of rehearsals like, and have there been any particular highlights of the process so far? 

The process of rehearsals has been everything you could imagine in putting together a musical, like RENT, in 3 weeks. The first day of rehearsals was very special. The cast had been anticipating the day since the cast were announced. It all became very real in the room, especially getting to know the people who we will be creating the story and touring with. The highlights have been in the rehearsal space, the daily discoveries in the layers we peel off in our characters and the story. Throwing ourselves into this community in 90s New York has been exciting and a beautiful challenge. Our cast has become quite close in a small amount of time. Its a show that demands a dedication to emotional truth and rawness. We have created such a supportive culture already to foster that.

Rent addresses themes like love, loss, and social issues. How do you think these themes resonate with audiences today, especially in the context of recent global events? And why do you think the musical has been able to stand the test of time? 

Rent stands the test of time because we constantly need reminders of the things in life that re most important to us. How do we fight for who and what we love? Through the characters’ journeys, we see the struggle in each of their situations, we see the breakdowns but we also see that there is no time to waste. Our time Is limited. We can lose sight of these things. With the global events that are affecting the world, it’s natural to feel helpless but if we remember that we have today and each other, the liberation is in just that. It gives us purpose.

Is there a particular aspect of Rent that you personally find most compelling or relatable? 

The concept of community is compelling to me. The community of Bohemia and these characters that don’t come from much. I grew up like this. In communities like this. Its why I got into social sciences, into youth counselling, social work. Yes I am an actor but my most meaningful/rewarding/challenging work has been with the communities that I was raised in. Helping people realise their potential. empowering youth to take charge of their lives and situations and using their story as their superpower.

A Conversation with Thndo 1
2024 Australian Cast of Rent – Image Credit: Wendell Teodoro

In adapting your own talents and nature to the role of Collins, have you added your own unique touches to your portrayal of the character? How have you gone about embodying the character on-stage? 

As I dive into who Tom Collins is, I am being enveloped by our similarities. Unique touches to the character just happen with the process. Especially when I let go in the space and be bold with choices that I feel he would make. Collins is the oldest among the bunch. He has lived just a little bit more life and has had some major life experiences. Some of which has meant I’ve needed to create this backstory. This history gives the depth that is needed for the impact of Angel’s entry into his life. Creating this story has given me many light bulb moments. Its exciting feeling these things suddenly come to life.

What is your advice for those who may be looking to follow in your footsteps and seek to forge a career for themselves in the performing arts?  

I believe your story is your power. No one else in the world, in history has your story. I say this because my journey through performing and story telling hasn’t been a conventional/linear journey. But it has been the diversions, the side streets, the unexpected curve balls in life that I can bring to the table when breathing life into a character. To see that there is liberation for others when we can be vulnerable. I am honoured not only to be in this position myself but to be alongside others who are doing that with this show. I would also say to try to remain open and teachable because even now, as someone who is heading toward 40 and working with so many young talented dedicated artists, the growth and learning never ends.

Is there an Australian Musical Theatre Performer that you look up to?

Graeme Isaako Purcell is a good friend of mine whom I met when I made my first professional debut in Lion King. We both played the role of Simba. I look up to him because I think he has paved the way for a lot of young Pacific island performers looking at theater as a possibility.

He had already done so much in the industry when we met. After The Lion King he went on to play Aladdin, was also cast in Moulin Rouge, and then we reunited again in Miss Saigon where we both played the role of John. One of the best triple threat performers that I know, and someone who is an integral part of company culture. The ‘family’ values that are needed for a cast to thrive, he upholds by just being him.


I would like to pass on my appreciation and thanks to Nick Afoa for their time in responding

to my questions during undoubtedly a busy period of rehearsals, and wish them all the best for the ongoing Australian tour of Rent. Furthermore, my sincerest thanks to the show’s national publicist, Sharonne Lipman from IP Publicity, for facilitating this conversation as well.

Keen on nabbing yourself tickets to Rent’s Australian tour? Ticketing information differs from venue to venue, but can be found either HERE on the show’s official website, or below in the nifty easy-to-use table:

Location (City)VenueDateBooking Platform
BrisbaneQPAC PlayhouseJan/Feb 2024HERE
MelbourneArts Centre Melbourne State TheatreFeb 2024HERE
NewcastleCivic TheatreMar 2024HERE
PerthHis Majesty’s TheatreMay 2024HERE
CanberraCanberra TheatreJun 2024HERE

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