Lani Tupu was born on November 4, 1955, in Auckland, New Zealand. He is a classically trained actor, and was educated at Rongotai College and Wellington Teacher's Training College. He was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Bursary in 1977 to enter New Zealand Drama School, where he graduated in 1978. Lani left New Zealand for Australia in 1985 to "branch out across the big pond".
He has been nominated for several awards throughout his career. These include the Best New Talent at the 1984 Feltex Television awards, several awards from the New Zealand Film Television Awards (1993) for Best Dramatic Performance and a Best Actor award for "Talk of the Town", which he also directed, at the Dreamaker Festival in Ontario, Canada. He was also finalist for the Male Performance Supporting Role at the 1986 Listener Film Television Awards for his work in the film "Send a Gorilla", and was nominated for Best Actor in 1985.
Lani Tupu participated in the foundation of an Australian theatre group called "The Walkers and Talkers", which is no longer running, and has also served as an acting coach and taught "Acting for the Camera" in Australia and New Zealand. He also runs weekly workshops on "Screen Acting" at the Actors Centre in Sydney, Australia. Tupu is active in stage production, both as a director and actor, and spends considerable time behind the camera. He directed "Going Home" for the stage as well as the critically acclaimed and award-winning short film "Talk of the Town".
Lani Tupu's TV appearances include: "Mission Impossible" (1988), "Time Trax" (1993), "The Feds" (1993), "High Tide" (1994), "Water Rats" (1996), "The New Adventures of Flipper” (1996), "House Gang" (1998), "The Lost World" (1999/2000), "Farscape" (1999-2003), "Green Sails" (2000), "The Finder" (2001), "Revelations" (2002), "Grass Roots" (2003), "Stingers" (2002/2004), "Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars" (2004) (Voice of Pilot).
Lani Tupu's movie appearances include: "Sons for the Return Home" (1979), "Send a Gorilla" (1988), "The Punisher" (1989), "Marlin Bay" (1992), "Heart of Fire" (1997) (USA: "Tanker Incident"), "Lantana" (2001), and "Liquid Bridge" (2003)
Tupu's involvement in Farscape is somewhat unique. Originally cast as Crais, a recurring character set to only appear in a few episodes of the first season, he was later also hired to provide the voice of Pilot, giving him involvement in every episode. When Crais was promoted to a regular for Season 3, Tupu's name was added to the opening credits for that season. After the character arc for Crais was completed, Tupu continued with the series as the voice of Pilot.
- Bialar Crais
- Ka D'Argo ("Out of Their Minds")
- Chiana ("Out of Their Minds")
- Officer Muldoon ("Won't Get Fooled Again")
- Lani's make-up for Bialar Crais took an hour to apply.
- Lani was trained to work without using a microphone at the theatre.
- Lani's colleagues at Theatre Corporate in Auckland included Michael Hurst of Xena and Hercules fame.
- Lani prefers slow food to fast food and describes himself as a sit down person.
- Lani Tupu is a husband and father.
- Lani Tupu received the 2002 Roswell Award for "Actor Or Actress In A Role That Will Be Most Missed".
- In 2004 Lani appeared in a TV commercial for "Panadol", an Australian pain relief product.
- Lani's Farscape colleague Jonathan Hardy, who starred as the voice of Rygel, was Lani's second boss and Artistic Director at Mercury Theatre in Auckland, New Zealand.
- Lani has a Blue Burmese cat named Angel.
- Lani stated in a 1999 interview that he is a night person, and getting up at four o'clock in the morning was the hardest thing for him while working on Farscape.
- Lani's favourite snacks are cold dark chocolate and chocolate ice cream with Grand Marnier.
- Lani's favourite music artists include the New Zealand band "Fat Freddy's Drop" and the atmospheric Iceland band "Sigur Ros".
- Lani doesn't have the patience for long make-up processes, and due to his experience with heavy prosthetics in the Farscape episode "John Quixote", he will never say yes to them again.
- According to a 2006 interview, Lani's most challenging role he had ever played was "Jesus Christ Superstar".
- Lani's favourite Farscape episodes are "Premiere", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Green Eyed Monster", and in particular his final two episodes "Into the Lion's Den, Part 1 and 2"
- Lani's interests include oil painting, movies, and he loves playing bad guy roles
- Lani originally auditioned for Ka D'Argo in the series Farscape, but Anthony Simcoe got the role, and he was offered and given the part of Captain Bialar Crais, and later the voice of Pilot.
- Tupu's name is Samoan in origin and he has Polynesian ancestry.
- "I would like to think that Farscape will be remembered as a show that made a difference in terms of sci-fi and in terms of story and the characters. I'd like it to make that kind of stamp, and I think it has all the hallmarks of that. I'd also like to think that the work I'm doing as Bialar Crais and Pilot is some of the best work I've ever done."
- "You have to have the claws of an eagle, hide of a rhino, the heart of a lion, and the grace of a dove to be an actor."
- "In terms of dramatic roles, well, I've yet to do Othello. I think, as an actor, there are certain roles in your lifetime which are like the Olympic Games or climbing the Himalayan mountains. One of them, for me, is Othello."
- "If I hadn't left New Zealand, I wouldn't be flying around in space with a wacky and wonderful bunch of misfits, such as the Farscape crew, and even more so, meeting an equally wild and wacky bunch of sci-fi fans. My world has certainly expanded; it really is a long way from Kansas, Toto!"
- "Lani Tupu or Captain Bialar Crais? The difference? Some days it was hard to tell who was crankier!"
- "Aw, heck yes. It would be arrogant to think that there is only human civilization. I definitely believe that there's a power and a force out there in the universe."
- "If I could sing, I'd like that. I wouldn't mind singing for five minutes. If I could be a tenor, that's what I'd be."
- "I'm a sci-fi baby... it's not a genre that I'm particularly familiar with. But being part of Farscape now, I'm looking at sci-fi shows from a completely different light. What I love about them is the imagination that takes you beyond the conventional, everyday story."