Family & Companions
With her captivating good looks and desire to perform from an early age, Tia Carrere's journey to Hollywood was practically a foregone conclusion. Arriving on the mainland while barely out of high school, Carrere quickly began landing jobs as a model and actress, making small guest appearances on several episodic television series. Although initially cast as the ubiquitous "babe" in B-movie fare like 1991's "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man," Carrere quickly began being noticed by producers and fans alike. Her big break came with "Wayne's World" (1992), the unexpected comedy smash based on a "Saturday Night Live" (1975- ) skit of the same name. Carrere soon followed with roles in other high-profile films, the most successful being the role of a gorgeous sociopath in the Arnold Schwarzenegger spy romp, "True Lies" (1994). This would also be the high-water mark of Carrere's career, as what followed would be a string of sub-par film projects like "High School High" (1996) and "Kull the Conqueror" (1997), and a return to episodic television, including a sixth place finish on the second season of "Dancing with the Stars" (ABC, 2005- ). Still, Carrere's indelible impression in the mid-1990s as a beautiful, yet versatile actress and the ultimate "babe" earned her a loyal following through the years.
Born Althea Rae Duhinio Janairo on Jan. 2, 1967 in Honolulu, HI, Carrere would become known simply as "Tia" due to her younger sister's inability to pronounce her given name. Her banker father, Alexander, and her computer supervisor mother, Audrey, would pass along the combined traits of their Chinese, Spanish and Filipino ethnicities to their eldest daughter, imbuing her with an undeniably exotic beauty. Shortly after graduating from Sacred Hearts Academy, Carrere made the journey to Los Angeles in pursuit of a singing career. In 1985, she was a contestant on "Ed McMahon's Star Search" (syndicated, 1983-1995), and although eliminated in the first round, she remained determined enough that she was soon landing local modeling jobs. Later that year, Carrere made a brief appearance on the television series "Cover Up" (CBS, 1984-85) as a beauty contestant, and landed a more substantial part on CBS' action series, "Airwolf" (1983-86). It was a busy year for the young Carrere, when she also joined the cast of the daytime soap "General Hospital" (ABC, 1962- ). The job turned out to be a mixed blessing when, after guesting on an episode of "The A-Team" (NBC, 1982-87) in 1986, Carrere was unable to accept an offer to join the fabled cast fulltime due to her commitment with the soap opera.
Carrere's television work did not prevent her from landing her first feature film role, a bit part in the 1986 schlockfest, "Zombie Nightmare." Not long afterwards she would have a much more significant role in "Aloha Summer" (1988), filmed in her home state of Hawaii. After a string of appearances in various series such as "MacGyver" (ABC, 1985-1992), she was cast in two more features. Unfortunately, the futuristic shoot-em-up "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man" (1991), starring fading heartthrobs Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson, was an unmitigated train wreck. The other, "Showdown in Little Tokyo" (1991), headlined by strongman Dolph Lundgren and the son of the legendary Bruce Lee, Brandon Lee, barely registered at the box office. In each of these forgettable films Carrere's parts amounted to little more than cinematic eye candy. With her next role, however, the actress turned that stereotype on its head as the funny, butt-kicking rocker in the smash comedy, "Wayne's World" (1992), a feature take on a popular "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) skit. As the ultimate "babe" in Aurora, IL, Carrere's Cassandra aptly supported the rock-n-roll wannabes Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey) as the slacker best friends who broadcast their cable access program from Wayne's basement before becoming involved in local music and TV scene shenanigans. In order to audition for the part, Carrere had turned down an offer to join the cast of the syndicated series "Baywatch" (1989-1999). It proved to be a wise decision, as the film with the tagline, "You'll Laugh! You'll Cry! You'll Hurl!" became a monster hit, garnering Carrere major recognition, as well as a chance to display her singing talents; most notably as she rocked out to "Ballroom Blitz."
The following year, Carrere parlayed her "Wayne's World" success into a role alongside some of Hollywood's heaviest hitters in "Rising Sun" (1993). The thriller starred Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes, and allowed Carrere to portray a character possessing an equal measure of brains and beauty as computer expert Jingo Asakuma. The same year, Carrere reprised her role as Wayne Campbell's improbable soul mate, Cassandra, in "Wayne's World 2" (1993), and was once again provided the opportunity to sing onscreen. She also performed the closing song for the animated feature "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (1993). Carrere's star was definitely on the rise and would reach its apex in director James Cameron's massively successful action-comedy, "True Lies" (1994), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a seemingly normal husband and father who covertly works as a government agent within a counter-terrorism task force. In the blockbuster, Carrere played the delectable, yet deadly, Juno Skinner with unmistakable relish. One of the film's widely acknowledged highlights was the hilariously vicious brawl between Carrere and co-star Jamie Lee Curtis in the back of an out-of-control limousine.
Post-"True Lies," Carrere's upward trajectory began to level out. What followed were a series of roles in lesser films, such as the deplorable comedies "Jury Duty" (1995), with Pauley Shore, as well as the John Lovitz vehicle, "High School High" (1996). Her appearance as the evil Akivasha in the cringe-inducing sword and sandal fantasy adventure "Kull the Conqueror" (1997) only underscored the actress' career trend. Carrere's husband at the time, former restaurateur-turned-producer Elie Samaha, had been working on developing projects for her, one of them being the mockumentary "20 Dates" (1999), but none of the ventures proved fruitful. In 1999, Carrere took the lead role on the syndicated series "Relic Hunter" (1999-2002), a blatant imitator of the successful "Tomb Raider" franchise, playing globe-trotting adventurer Sydney Fox. About the time that series was winding down, a welcome windfall arrived in the form of providing the voice of Lilo's older sister, Nani, in Disney's animated feature "Lilo & Stitch" (2002). Juxtaposing this kid-friendly turn was Carrere inexplicably posing nude in Playboy magazine in 2003. This move was surprising, considering she had previously required a body double for a nude scene in "Showdown in Little Tokyo" and had professed an aversion toward doing any kind of nudity earlier in her career.
The work on "Lilo & Stitch" led to more voice work for Carrere, including reprising the role of Nani on "Lilo & Stitch: The Series" (The Disney Channel, 2003-06), and in several episodes of Cartoon Network's "Duck Dodgers" (2003-05). In 2006, Carrere joined the celebrity cast for the second season of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" (2005- ) and performed admirably, although not enough to prevent being voted off mid-competition with a sixth place finish. Carrere closed out the decade with recurring guest spots on several episodic series, including Larry David's improvisational comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (HBO, 2000- ), on which she played Richard Lewis' girlfriend; "Warehouse 13" (SyFy, 2008-14), and the Canadian medical drama, "Combat Hospital" (Global, 2011). She next joined the cast of "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ), appearing alongside the likes of Clay Aiken, Lou "Hulk" Ferrigno and Arsenio Hall.
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Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Joined the cast of ABC's daytime soap opera "General Hospital" playing the role of Jade Soong Chung
Made TV acting debut in an episode of "Airwolf" (CBS)
Feature acting debut, "Zombie Nightmare"
First significant film role, "Aloha Summer"
Appeared on the short-lived situation comedy, "Living Dolls" (ABC)
First credit as a song performer, "Instant Karma"
Appeared in the action film "Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man" starring Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson
Cast as Cassandra, a rock singer and love interest of Mike Myers' character Wayne, in "Wayne's World"
Signed a recording deal with Warner Bros.
Joined Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes to star in "Rising Sun"
Reprised the role of Cassandra in the sequel to the hugely successful "Wayne's World"
Released first album, <i>Dream</i>
Teamed with Arnold Schwarzenegger for "True Lies" playing smuggler Juno Skinner
Cast as robber Gina Walker in "The Immortals"
Co-starred in the comedy "High School High"
Starred as the evil witch/queen in "Kull the Conqueror"
Was an executive producer (with husband) on "20 Dates"
Starred as archeology professor Sydney Fox in the syndicated series "Relic Hunter"
Voiced older sister Nani Pelekai in the Disney animated film "Lilo & Stitch"
Appeared nude in <i>Playboy's</i> celebrity photo layout
Joined the second season of ABC's Hit Series, "Dancing with the Stars"
Had a recurring role on HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as Cha Cha, Richard Lewis's girlfriend