January 12, 2008

Beach on playing a Mohawk

Adam Beach breaks barriersHollywood Indian.

The term makes Adam Beach bristle. "It's such a stereotype," he says. "And yet, how do you get people away from it?"

His solution: Play a detective on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" who just happens to be Mohawk.

"In one year on that show," he says, "I did what I've been trying to do in 17--create a different perception of who we are as Indian people. It's amazing."
And:"I'm not in the business to make money. I'm someone that a generation of native peoples across North America looks to in the sense of a hero--someone who has done the impossible."

While he isn't Mohawk, Beach says he's able to tap into the tribe's characteristics and use them to fuel Detective Chester Lake, the character he plays on "SVU."

"Mohawks have a lot of bravado," he explains. "They're known for being a really tough, tough nation. When they'd play lacrosse, there'd be 400 members on each side doing battle. To score a goal, someone would die. They used the game to resolve land issues and the Mohawks always won."

The Mohawks were native to the New York area and helped build it, he says. So that drive--that pride of heritage--gives Lake reason for some of his actions.

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