Keisha Castle-Hughes (born 24 March 1990 in Donnybrook, Australia) is a New Zealand actress of Māori and Anglo-Australian heritage.
She rose to prominence for playing Paikea "Pai" Apirana in Whale Rider. She has appeared in films such as Hey, Hey, It's Esther Blueburger, Piece of My Heart and Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith. She also performed as Mary of Nazareth in The Nativity Story, had a recurring role on The Almighty Johnsons and joined the cast of Game of Thrones in 2015 as Obara Sand. After two appearances in FBI, she gained a main role in the Spin-Off series FBI: Most Wanted.
She's notable for being one of the youngest actresses ever nominated for Best Actress at the Academy Awards (for her role as Paikea Apirana in Whale Rider), being just thirteen at the time (she was in fact the youngest until Quvenzhané Wallis was nominated for Beasts of the Southern Wild at the age of nine).
- Whale Rider (2002) as Paikea "Pai" Apirana
- Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) as Queen Apailana
- The Nativity Story (2006) as Mary of Nazareth
- Hey, Hey, It's Esther Blueburger (2008)note as Sunni Kaire
- Piece of My Heart (2009) as Young Kat
- Legend of the Seeker (2010) as Maia / The Creator
- Red Dog (2011) as Rose
- The Almighty Johnsons (2011 - 2013) as Gaia
- The Walking Dead (2014) as Joan
- Game of Thrones (2015 - 2017) as Obara Sand
- Manhunt: Unabomber (2017) as Tabby Milgrim
- FBI (2019, 2020) as Hana Gibson
- FBI: Most Wanted (2020 - )
Tropes associated with the creator and her works:
- Life Imitates Art: In The Nativity Story, Mary is around sixteen/seventeen years old when she becomes pregnant. During filming, Castle-Hughes herself became pregnant with her first child at sixteen.
- Star-Derailing Role: Her role as Mary in The Nativity Story unfortunately put the brakes on her career, due the film's mixed reception and commercial failure. The fact she got pregnant at sixteen while making the film didn't help while she was over the legal age of consent in New Zealand, in many parts of the United States she was considered underage, which made studios reluctant to hire her to avoid controversy from Moral Guardians. She has managed to find steady work over the years in both film and television, though besides a supporting role in Game of Thronesnote she's yet to appear in anything as prominent as Whale Rider.
- Star-Making Role: Her role as Pai in Whale Rider; it was her film debut and her performance was widely praised, earning her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress at the age of just thirteen. Although she hasn't starred in anything as successful as Whale Rider since, there's a pretty good chance the average viewer will still recognize her face and/or name.