November 01, 2010

Who are the great Native actors?

On Facebook I reposted "We Can't Find the Talent" with some comments:Hollywood claims it wants good Native actors but can't find them.

All those great Native roles and no one to fill them? Yeah, right!
Others chimed in:No kidding....They've been claiming that since the turn of last century!

Hahaha...what BS, can't find them...or don't want to pay them?

That's pure bullshit--they are either woefully neglected or outright rejected by Hollyweird....
Who is the talent?

But someone asked a reasonable question:Do you know of any? Seriously, do you? I've been wondering about this myself. Who are the great Native actors/actresses?On the male side, Graham Greene, Wes Studi, Eric Schweig, Gordon Tootoosis, Russell Means, August Schellenberg, Gary Farmer, Gil Birmingham, Adam Beach, Michael Greyeyes, Nathaniel Arcand, Raoul Trujillo.

There you go. I challenged myself to come up with a dozen names without looking at any source. I.e., from memory only. And I did it.

Now that I've said that, some caveats:

1) I'm a poor judge of acting ability. I usually can distinguish only good, average, or bad.

2) Several dozen other Native movie actors get only small supporting roles and never have an opportunity to shine. If someone gave them a chance, they might be just as good as the leading men I named.

3) I believe there's a whole subculture of Native theater actors who usually don't try for movie roles. I know little about them. They also may be good as the leading men.

But if asked, most people probably would name at least 7-8 of the people on my list. Again, I won't swear they're the best. They're kind of a mix of best and most popular.

And the point...

The point isn't that they're great or worthy of Oscars. The point is that they're experienced and professional, with dozens of roles each. Any of them could step into a role and do a credible job.

This contradicts the Hollywood claim that producers can't find any Native talent. My answer is: Have you tried these 12 guys? And the second 12 guys on my list? If you've tried them all and they couldn't do the job, I guess you were right. But if you haven't tried them all, you're wasting our time with lame excuses. Try them first, then complain.

The same applies to the female side. I just did the male side to prove a point. Namely, that high-quality Native actors do exist.

For more on the subject, see Hollywood Ghettoizes Native Actors and "Bottom Line" Argument Is Racist.

Below:  Russell Means, actor.


Burt said...

There is currently a PBS Independent Lens documentary called, "Reel Indians". It aired tonight and I missed it, but my family saw it and had good reports!

On the native actresses side, I can name Irene Bedard, Tamara Podemski, Tantoo Cardinal, Buffy St Marie, Geraldine Keams, Elaine Miles and Sheila Tousey.

Kathryn Price NicDhĂ na said...

All the relative unknowns and indy actors in Sherman Alexie's "The Business of Fancydancing" (along with the more famous folks who had cameos). Those who know Evan Adams and Michelle St. John from "Smoke Signals" should see them in "Fancydancing" to see what range they have. Some amazing performances in that film from actors I've never seen in other films.