Who is an happy mix of Chinese, Hawaiian, Spanish and Filipino origins and remains an active Siren? Tia Carrere, of course. Who would’ve known that an young exotic actress debuting in General Hospital would become a cult personality in the years to come? Not many, but to our delight, Tia is one of those actresses always welcome in any kind of project.
She was born on January 2, 1967, in Honolulu, Hawaii, under the name Althea Rae Duhinio Janairo, Tia being the diminutive form of Althea. Her parents are now divorced and she has a younger sister named Alesaundra. She enrolled in a private school for girls and had every intention of becoming a successful singer. It may be appropriate to note that her first credit is for an horror movie titled Zombie Nightmare in 1986, starring former Batman Adam West and real-life muscle-bound rocker Jon-Mikl Thor as a resurrected guy seeking revenge on his assassins. With a heavy metal score typical of the time (needless to say, performed by Thor), this is an erratic low-budget production filmed, believe it or not, in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, not very far from where I live!
Tia was (re)discovered at the time she was finishing high school back home, as she was in as romantic a place as a grocery store. The parents of a producer working on a shoot in Hawaii were impressed by her beauty and proposed to contact their son for a chance for her to be in Aloha Summer. As simple as that. Of course, Tia found herself a member of the cast for this innocent movie depicting teenagers on vacation in the sixties. It was rumored that she chose the name Carrere to pay homage to beautiful and exotic unofficial Bond Girl Barbara Carrera. True or false?
Soon after, Tia traveled to California to pursue an eventual full-time acting career. As it often happens, she would guest-star in many television series to learn her craft. She played nurse Jade Soong Chung for three seasons on the popular soap General Hospital. The beginning of the nineties would present Tia in some action movies, like Showdown in Little Tokyo with Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee, and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man with Don Johnson and Mickey Rourke (and the late, great Big John Studd).
Tia would find more exposure to the general public in 1992 for her part in Wayne’s World, a movie based on Saturday Night Live characters portrayed by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, two rock’n’roll dimwits falling for a young singer played by Tia. Can we blame their taste? Including a surprise appearance by Alice Cooper, the movie was a box-office hit and a significant help in Tia’s career (not counting the renewed popularity of the word “babe”). The timing was thus right for Tia to release her first musical album, Dream. She had a good part as a computer expert in Rising Sun with Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes and would once again become Cassandra for Wayne’s World 2, all this in 1993.
James Cameron hired her the next year for his True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger, a genuine hit (airing over and over these days on the A&E channel). Tia would continue to appear in more modest productions alongside major ones, as she does to this day. In 1995, she took part in the miserable Jury Duty with the unbearable Pauly Shore, an embarrassing satire of the then-topical O.J. Simpson murder trial. The same year, Tia was the star of an interactive computer game, The Daedalus Encounter. A more successful comedy followed, High School High, presenting a still sexy Tia sporting a shorter haircut.
In the summer of 1997, an adventure film based on the works of Robert E. Howard made its debut; it would soon be mercilessly taken apart by critics, as Kull the Conqueror drew comparisons to star Kevin Sorbo’s popular TV show, Hercules. Still, Tia as the witch Akivasha remains an inspiring vision worthy of a hard-working Siren. At that point, it was the closest we ever came to seeing her nude, in an alluring scene where she shows her bare back.
1999 saw the coming of the Relic Hunter TV series, starring Tia as intrepid Sydney Fox, archeology teacher, martial arts black belt and adventurer. This show became a success and its episodes can still be seen somewhere on TV, its principal appeal being Tia’s presence in an action role reminiscent of an Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider character. Isn’t it nice to know that Tia can visit you each week in the comfort of your living room? At the end of 1999, Tia divorced her husband of seven years, Elie Samaha, who was also her manager. They still continue to co-own their Irish pub, Dublin’s.
A big project for Tia that was stuck in development hell for too many years remains the adaptation of William Tucci’s comic book Shi, where she would’ve portrayed the martial arts warrior. As of this writing, alas, Tia’s name doesn’t seem to be attached to the production anymore (if it still exists). Recently, she gave her voice to the Disney hit Lilo & Stitch for, appropriately, an Hawaiian character. To the surprise and (I hope) delight of her fans, Tia was the subject of a photo shoot for the January 2003 issue of Playboy magazine, an amazing visual experience, as was her participation on a season of Dancing with the Stars. I only hope that she will remain active in many more years to come.
1986 Zombie Nightmare 1988 Aloha Summer 1990 Instant Karma; Fatal Mission 1991 Showdown in Little Tokyo; Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man 1992 Wayne’s World; Little Sister 1993 Rising Sun; Wayne’s World 2; Quick 1994 True Lies; Treacherous; Hostile Intentions 1995 Jury Duty; My Teacher’s Wife; The Immortals; Hollow Point 1996 High School High 1997 Kull the Conqueror; Top of the World 1998 Scar City; 20 Dates; Operation Delta Force III: Clear Target 1999 Fives Aces; Merlin: The Return; Meet Prince Charming 2004 Torn Apart 2005 Back in the Day 2008 Dark Honeymoon 2009 Wild Cherry 2010 Hard Breakers 2011 You May Not Kiss the Bride 2012 Collision Course