By Matt Collins
Former Play School host and Star Wars actor Jay Laga’aia juggles many balls in his life. A professional career in front of the cameras and a busy family life with eight kids, the host of new SBS series Lost for Words has his hands full. In their chat, Laga’aia shares with Matt why he doesn’t have any great parenting advice, the embarrassing first meeting with Star Wars director George Lucas and his struggle to read as a boy.
Matt Collins: I was surprised to read you had some literary challenges when you grew up?
Jay Laga’aia: I think the thing is on the surface there are a lot of people who are compensating for things they are not good at. Growing up I always thought I was going to be an All Black. Like a lot of sportspeople you lean towards sports a lot. Academically you are not engaged in class, when you realize you are not as good as you thought you were you are stuck.
MC: You don’t need to know how to read to be an All Black Jay.
JL: You just need to know how to hold the ball and run.
MC: You spent a lot of time on Play School, reading a lot of children’s books. Is that when your reading improved?
JL: The audition for Play School was simply read a book to camera, tell a story and sing a song. They were things I had been doing for years for my kids.
MC: You have eight kids. I can only imagine what your world is like. What is the best advice you have ever passed on to them?
JL: The best advice I have has come from my wife. She once told me depending how old the child is, is how long you have to explain something to the child. So if they are three, you have three seconds to get your point across.
MC: What is the best question you have ever been asked by a three-year-old?
JL: The old saying goes if you want to know what is going on in the world, you ask a three-year-old. Some of my best experiences were when young adults came up to me. I once had a young Somalian gentleman come up to me – he was probably in his mid-20s. He said, ‘you taught me how to read. I am now a resident doctor.’ For me, the idea of children’s shows is one of the most powerful in the country.
MC: You are creating doctors Jay. That is pretty impressive.
JL: It really is.
MC: It would be remiss of me not to ask you about your journey on Star Wars. Tell us about the first time you met George Lucas.
JL: He is just so down to earth. He made a comment that he really enjoyed working with the Australian crews. But the first time I met him I was obviously nervous. He shook my hand and said, ‘Jay, it really great to have you on board.’ I was so flustered and I went, ‘thank you Sir.’ He said, ‘call me George.’ So I said, ‘thank you Sir George.’
Catch Matt Collins on weekday afternoons from 2pm for the Drive Show on Crow FM 90.7 and listen to the rest of his chat with Jay on your favourite podcast platform.