April 21, 2007

How Farmer handles roles

Haskell film club showcases American Indian cinemaActor Gary D. Farmer has never turned down a role because he objects to the way it portrays his heritage.

He prefers a different strategy.

“What I do is rewrite the script and fax it back to them,” Farmer says.

“Usually they’re the ones who get up in arms and say, ‘No one’s ever done that’ or ‘We can’t work with that.’ I try to work with them and bring them around. Mostly they don’t have the time or interest because that’s not their intent to portray Native people (accurately).”

Farmer, a veteran performer with nearly 80 feature film and television credits, says certain directors and producers have “been very cooperative” with this response, allowing the actor to have a voice in the project.

Others, not so much.

“That show with Michael J. Fox (‘Spin City’), they sent me off a thing and I rewrote it. I actually thought it was funnier. They said, ‘We’re not able to do that,’” he recalls. “For ‘Will and Grace’ I said I’m not going to wear a wig. They wouldn’t let me be myself as an Indian, so someone else got the part. That’s all that happens: They just turn to whoever else.”
Comment:  This is an excellent example of how Native actors can and should handle stereotypical roles.

15 comments:

russell said...

Writerfella here --
writerfella always has had an abiding admiration for Gary Farmer as an actor, even if he is Canadian. There is a humor, an irony, and an intelligence to almost all of the roles that writerfella has seen him play. That he works in such a way almost is unique, as it takes someone who is a writer AND an actor to be able to bring it off even halfway. While it may seem a close to ideal method, one would have to be Gary Farmer for it to work and not everyone else is so talented...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Struggling actors know struggling writers, so I don't buy that. They could always get someone to do a rewrite for them.

What Farmer has that others lack is the courage of his convictions. He's willing to turn down jobs rather than portray Natives stereotypically.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
Fortunately, this bar in Lawrence, KS, has free wi-fi and writerfella is nursing two pitchers as well as his undergraduate escort's laptop. (Ooh, did that come out right?) Remember this one: others may have the courage of their convictions, but writerfella always has had the courage of his acquittals. Intercept Gary Farmer and ask him truthfully to tell you if there were roles that he lost or even refused to take because of his principles. writerfella will wager now that they must number less than the fingers of a single hand. Why? Because ethics never show on your resume~, and they also certainly never pay your bills...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'
POSTSCRIPTUM: The last time writerfella was in Lawrence, KS, was 1959, when he boarded at Haskell Institute and attended the University of Kansas. Wow, now the town is like a cosmopolitan city and the University is laid out like a spaceport! At least for writerfella's sake, the Lawrencians are just as friendly as they were nearly 50 years ago.
--R

Rob said...

What are you saying: that Farmer has taken stands and then caved in? That he's taken stands and the other parties have caved in? Or that he's lying about having taken stands and lost jobs when the other parties didn't cave in?

If you mean the first or third possibility, you must not admire Farmer as much as you claim you do.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
You are interrupting writerfella's enjoyment of HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL on Disney On Demand. No, what writerfella indicated was that Gary Farmer chooses his film roles, and that Gary Farmer therefore is responsible for his own choices of film roles. Does anyone's choices always fit that person's mindset? No.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
Damn this laptop! All you have to do is to move your legs while it's balanced there, and your message gets sent!
Riddle me this, Caped Crusader: has Gary Farmer complained about his film role choices? That would tell you more than could writerfella. As writerfella is NOT Gary Farmer also means that any individual person's existence is made up of their own choices, period. Is that any differing from your life, or writerfella's life, or anyone else that you might indicate? Just asking...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'
POSTSCRIPTUM: Oh, shit, the dude has decided not to stay in the sleeping bag on the floor. What is a writerfella to do?
R

Rob said...

"That Gary Farmer chooses his film roles" is unrelated to whether he lost those roles after faxing in script changes. He doesn't know in advance whether his attempts will bear fruit. He chooses his roles first and keeps or loses them later.

So you haven't answered my question, as usual. Do you think Farmer has lost roles the way he said he did? Yes or no?

Farmer seems to complaining about his roles in the article I quoted--at least obliquely. I don't know any more about his choice of roles.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
As did writerfella by deciding NOT TO SUPPORT the Writers Guild's wish that he object to his WGAw employment records being subpoenaed into court for the class-action age discrimination case against the WGAw and over 100 film/TV production companies. Several properties on option and otherwise under consideration by some of those very same companies could be jeopardized by the above. BUT -- at least writerfella discussed it completely with two co-writers who adversely might be affected by writerfella's decision. And thus writerfella is allowing his records to have free access for the plaintiffs, though he cannot say what will happen because of it.
That should be answer enough...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Since it doesn't answer my question about Farmer, it isn't enough.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
If Gary Farmer were a writer rather than an actor, you might have gotten quite a differing answer. Because then Gary Farmer would have answered your question and writerfella then could have headed off into the sunset still as happy as he was...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Farmer probably would've answered my question because he isn't trying to obfuscate the truth. Unlike you, that is.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
One cannot obfuscate the truth, ever. One, however, can obfuscate a lie, which is the first purpose to obfuscation and almost the only reason such a practice can occur. Witness the Johnson Administration's scandal where one of their highest appointees was accused of covering up his involvement with money laundering. Johnson immediately denied the event, though publically it had become common knowledge. The reaction of the press and the public was, if it isn't true, then why bother to deny it? Alas, that principle still is alive today...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Do you not know what "obfuscate" means? You can obfuscate the truth just as you can obscure the truth, since the two words are synonymous.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/obfuscate

ob·fus·cate /ˈɒbfəˌskeɪt, ɒbˈfʌskeɪt/
–verb (used with object), -cat·ed, -cat·ing.
1. to confuse, bewilder, or stupefy.
2. to make obscure or unclear: to obfuscate a problem with extraneous information.

russell said...

Writerfella here --
Wow, reportage with only one particular lack: surely the definition for 'obfuscate' also included an accompanying photo of Rob Schmidt! Now, let's look in the same dictionary for the definitions of 'conspiracy' and 'subterfuge' and 'Quisling'. OMG, holy moly, great cooga mooga!
It's...true!
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Since you're the one who generally obfuscates the truth, the accompanying picture would have to be of you.