By Brian Daffron
“Being in Los Angeles, there aren’t very many Native roles,” Studi said. “Recently, there’s been a few Native roles that are written, but they hire non-Native actors. The casting director and the director always say, ‘We couldn’t find the talent.’ By having this workshop, we’re showing that the talent is out there. You may not find it in Los Angeles, but you can find it in Oklahoma. You can find it in South Dakota. You can find it in New Mexico. But you have to be open to look for it.”
1) There aren't that many Native roles. On network TV, it's something like one every couple of months. Meanwhile, anyone who follows Hollywood Natives could name a couple dozen talented actors without trouble. In other words, actors outnumber roles by a huge margin.
2) When producers aren't trying the "no talent" argument, they try the "bottom line" argument: Native actors can't open or carry a movie. Which the Twilight series has proved to be false, but never mind. These aren't interchangeable arguments, so which is it? Can't find Native actors or can find them but can't justify using them? Pick one argument and stick with it.
The most recent casting controversy is Taita Waikiti as Tom Kalmaku. Couldn't find a single talented Native actor born in the Western Hemisphere? Unlikely. Especially since Sikumi or Everybody Loves Whales are showing it's possible to find actors who are specifically Inuit.
3) I know some Native actors who rarely get any work. They claim it's because the studios and networks have a Hollywood blacklist. Producers and certain "gatekeepers" decide which Indians get jobs and which don't.
I don't know how much truth there is to this, but no one's even addressed it yet, much less disproved it. I set up a Facebook page--NO Hollywood Blacklist (Natives Opposed to Hollywood Blacklist)--to begin addressing this issue. Go there for more information.
In short, there are several reasons to doubt Hollywood's "We can't find the talent" argument. I'm not buying it until I see the evidence. Namely, some cases where the top 25 or 50 Native actors auditioned for a role and none of them fit the bill.
For more on the subject, see Hollywood Ghettoizes Native Actors and Patel's Struggle Shows Hollywood's Racism.