January 18, 2007

Adam Beach's big news

On Tuesday, Adam Beach attended the Western Indian Gaming Conference at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif. There he was overheard to say he's signed a 6-year, $12 million deal to appear on Law & Order: SVU. His Chester Lake character will become a regular, replacing Fin Tutuola (Ice-T), and will develop a romance with ADA Casey Novak (Diane Neal).

This is big news in the world of TV Indians. Native actors have had recurring roles before: Elaine Miles on Northern Exposure, Michael Horse on Twin Peaks and Roswell, Larry Sellars on Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Graham Greene on Wolf Lake, John Redcorn on King of the Hill. But this may be the first time a Native actor has had a starring role on an American network TV show. For the next six years, Adam Beach will be solving crimes and portraying a modern Indian on a weekly basis.

Congratulations to Adam for snagging this plum assignment. No doubt he got it because of his fine work in Flags of Our Fathers. Now he won't have to worry where his next paycheck is coming from.


Rob said...

Needless to say, I'm not counting part-Natives in this context. Otherwise, I would've credited Heather Locklear (Lumbee) for her starring roles in Spin City and LAX. Or Robert Beltran (Latino/Indian) for his role in Star Trek: Voyager. Or Jonathan Winters (Cherokee).

If Reynolds, Forster, or anyone else you can name is an enrolled member of a recognized tribe, then I'll amend my claim. Otherwise, it stands.

Rob said...

We don't even need to get into the whole recognition debate for me to make my point. Did Reynolds or Forster identify themselves exclusively or primarily as Native actors? If not, they don't qualify for the purposes of this posting.

Rob said...

If Beach replaces Ice-T, he'll be a regular cast member--one who appears in almost every show. He doesn't need to be the first- or second-billed actor for this to be a breakthrough.

Anonymous said...

What about Cher? She is very proud of her Cherokee roots...

Anonymous said...

Lots here...

Anonymous said...

An interesting link here too:


Anonymous said...

I did not like Adam Beach's character on SVU at all. He had no charisma with the rest of the squad, and I like Ice-T's character on SVU a lot better.

Rob said...

Re "That either actor did not remain self-identified as Native talent likely is the reason both have had long and memorable careers": It's also the reason I didn't include them in this context. But if you think I'm denigrating their abilities or ancestry, you don't know what you're talking about.

In fact, I've included Hawk and Nakia in my list of Native-themed TV shows. Which alone is proof that I recognize their efforts. If you weren't aware of this, you should've done some research before you wrote.

In other words, quit fantasizing about what you think my intent is and read my actual words. Beach is a Native actor because he and others identify him as such. By the same token, Reynolds and Forster aren't.

I understand the reasons why they didn't want to identify themselves as Native actors. But that doesn't change the correctness of my comment. Now that you've told us about them, I suggest you quit wasting our time quibbling over semantics.

Rob said...

Incidentally, I don't claim that Beach is a better actor than Ice-T or that he'll improve SVU. I'm fine with the cast the way it is. To the extent that Beach changes the chemistry between the characters, his presence may harm the show. Even if it's a breakthrough for him and his career.

Rob said...

Another note: I forgot to credit Jay Silverheels as the first Native actor to have a starring TV role. Even if he was the Lone Ranger's sidekick, he appeared in almost every episode. Thus, he counts.

So let's say Adam Beach may be the first Native actor to have a starring TV role in the modern era. For Russ's sake, let's say he's the first Native actor with a majority of Indian blood to have a starring TV role in the modern era. All clear?

By the way, Russ, it's a good thing Burt Reynolds is part Cherokee rather than part Chickasaw. Even though these tribes have similar cultures and histories, you've championed one while dismissing and denigrating the other. If Reynolds were 1/4 Chickasaw, you'd be laughing him off the tube and lampooning me for listing Hawk as a Native-themed TV show.

Oh, and last I heard, Cher is supposedly 1/16 Cherokee. Whether that's true or not, she's also not a Native actor for the purposes of this posting. Get it, Russ? I've been consistent in who I included for the purposes of this posting.

But for all I know, Cher may have a "genetic racial memory" or an "awareness granted by heredity" of being an Indian. Which would make her an Indian by your vague standard of Indianness. I await further evidence on these points.

Rob said...

The Adam Beach rumor spreads:


Rob said...


se·man·tics /sɪˈmæntɪks/
–noun (used with a singular verb)

1. Linguistics.
a. the study of meaning.
b. the study of linguistic development by classifying and examining changes in meaning and form.
2. Also called significs. the branch of semiotics dealing with the relations between signs and what they denote.
3. the meaning, or an interpretation of the meaning, of a word, sign, sentence, etc.: Let's not argue about semantics.

The common, non-academic meaning of "semantics" is the third one. It refers to how we interpret a word or phrase.

In this case, the phrase is "Native actor." It's a matter of definition and interpretation--i.e., semantics--whether we count Reynolds and Forster as Native actors. In this context, of course.