October 07, 2008

Talking about Tamara Feldman

I saw actress Tamara Feldman in her 2002 debut as a Native shapeshifter on Smallville. She then appeared in movies and TV shows, including Boston Legal (two episodes in 2005), Monk (2006), and Supernatural (2006).

I saw her in Dirty Sexy Money (five episodes last year) and didn't recognize her as Natalie Kimpton, a Paris Hilton-type socialite. This year she's playing Poppy Lifton, another socialite, on Gossip Girl (five episodes so far). As far as I know, she's supposed to be white in both roles. She must be doing a good job, because I never would've connected these two characters with the Native wolf-girl in Smallville.

Feldman the Cherokee

Naturally, Feldman has a Native connection. I wouldn't be mentioning her if she didn't. One source says she's Cherokee and Mexican. Another source says her mother is Cherokee and Mexican.

There's a difference between these two statements of ethnicity. In the second case, Feldman's father presumably is not Cherokee or Mexican. Since he named his daughter Tamara, let's suppose he's Jewish for the sake of argument.

If that's the case, it would make Feldman Jewish, Cherokee, and Mexican, not Cherokee and Mexican. With Jewishness being the predominant ethnicity. It would mean that calling herself Cherokee and Mexican would be a bit deceptive--a way to get more Latino and Native roles.

I don't know Feldman's actual ethnicity. Perhaps she is Cherokee and Mexican and her Cherokee and Mexican parents just liked Jewish names. But the question merits consideration.

No Natives on TV?

Feldman's ethnicity is relevant because she plays the lead role in Rez Bomb as a Lakota. After criticizing Disney for casting Johnny Depp as Tonto, I hope Feldman has a lot more Cherokee in her than Depp does.

It's also relevant because she was in the American Indians in Television and Film's annual report for Dirty Sexy Money but not, as I recall, for Boston Legal. It seems there was yet another omission in Mark Reed's reports.

Feldman's multiple appearances shows the foolishness of counting only CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox as TV networks. In this posting alone I've noted eight guest appearances on the WB, UPN, CW, and other networks. As I said before, if Natives are doing badly on TV, they aren't doing that badly.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

Feldman trivia

Feldman does have a dream project involving Natives:Moviewise I would love to make the story of princess Erendira. She was a 16 year old princess/warrior who led her tribe in war against the spanish around 1513. She almost defeated them and the Tarascans were the only tribe the Aztecs couldn't defeat.Feldman also has dated Bruce Willis, who's about 25 years her senior. But don't assume she's just another Hollywood starlet. According to the same source, she "owns around 50 books."

Wow. I hope she was being flippant when she shared that fact. I probably owned that many books when I was in kindergarten. Several of the 25 shelves in my five standard bookcases contain 50 books each.

Below:  Feldman about to torture and scalp someone on Dirty Sexy Money (just kidding) and Feldman's pale Cherokee features.


Anonymous said...

Gee, and I thought Jewish described a religion, not an ethnicity. How sill of me!

Rob said...


Judaism shares some of the characteristics of a nation, an ethnicity, a religion, and a culture, making the definition of who is a Jew vary slightly depending on whether a religious or national approach to identity is used. Generally, in modern secular usage, Jews include three groups: people who were born to a Jewish family regardless of whether or not they follow the religion, those who have some Jewish ancestral background or lineage (sometimes including those who do not have strictly matrilineal descent), and people without any Jewish ancestral background or lineage who have formally converted to Judaism and therefore are followers of the religion.