April 10, 2007

Casting non-Natives as Natives

Is Hollywood Clueless, Lazy, Political...or All Three? The Myth of the “Vanishing Indian”Actors Unions regulations prohibit a casting director from asking if someone is Native American. Okay…but think about that. In 2007, how many times have you seen a character that was referred to as an African American or Latino or Asian in television or film and they weren’t one? I’ll give you a second. Are you done reviewing all the TV and film you’ve seen lately? O.K., then you’ve got your answer. NONE, not one!

Why then, is it perfectly legitimate to cast Native characters with non-Native actors?

I get many responses to casting calls, especially for historical projects, where I’m directly asked if someone “has to be Native to come to a casting call and if that’s the case, am I aware that’s ‘reverse racism’” and some who even respond on how much they “study” our people so that makes them great candidates. When I get these inquiries, I am required to respond with the truth—which is that everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, is in equal consideration for every role.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Even though many non-Natives played Natives in motion pictures, when given no other choices, Native filmgoers indeed did have favorites that they would go to see in their portrayals. Such as Boris Karloff as Tecumseh in TAP ROOTS, or J. Carroll Naish as Looking Glass in ACROSS THE WIDE MISSOURI. Over time, Natives enjoyed seeing Jeff Chandler (who was 1/4 Native) and Anthony Quinn and Ricardo Montalban (who had Mexican-Native American descent), and non-Natives such as Victor Mature, Dewey Martin, Victor Jory, Robert Loggia, Martin Landau, Michael Ansara, Iron Eyes Cody, John Hodiak, Clint Walker, Jack Palance, Charles Bronson, among too many others and even including Burt Lancaster as Jim Thorpe and Tony Curtis as Ira Hayes. Given that range, it is an impressive group. Find that wide range of names among Native actors now and you must realize that they simply are not there, yet...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

I don't know about that. Who knows how good our Native actors are? Hollywood hasn't given them much of a chance to show their range.