November 05, 2009

Studi challenges stereotypical roles

Western union:  ‘Only Good Indian’ explores cultural history through revisionist drama

By Jon NiccumCalling from his home in New Mexico, where he is spending the afternoon riding horses, Studi says he is conscientious when first reading a script that it represents native culture accurately.

“I pay attention to that almost automatically,” he says. “I don’t make a huge point of it, but on the other hand, if I see huge discrepancies that I feel are over the line I’ll definitely do something about it. I want to keep things as authentic as possible, especially if we’re describing a particular people.”

Has he turned down roles if depictions were inauthentic?

“Perhaps if they were insensitive, yes,” he says.
Comment:  We've talked before about whether Adam Beach can or should turn down stereotypical roles (e.g., Blue Duck in Comanche Moon). Now we have evidence that a Native actor can and does turn down stereotypical roles. Apparently he doesn't carp about minor mistakes and stereotypes, but he objects to major ones.

Needless to say, Studi's candor isn't preventing him from working often. I conclude that all Native actors should try to take a stand on Hollywood mistakes and stereotypes--at least the "huge discrepancies."

Below:  Wes Studi stars in "The Only Good Indian" by Lawrence filmmaker Kevin Willmott. (Tyler Carmody Photo)

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