LISTEN: Michael Greyeyes On ‘Sea Change’ for Indigenous Actors

By Sameer Rao Jul 02, 2018

Much of the attention surrounding "Woman Walks Ahead" focuses on lead actress Jessica Chastain’s portrayal of Caroline Weldon, a White painter who aided Lakota chief Sitting Bull in his resistance to the United States’ land seizure and genocide in the late 1800s. But Michael Greyeyes, the Plains Cree actor who depicts Sitting Bull in the movie, calls it "a powerful corrective" to Hollywood films’ frequent erasure of Indigenous resistance.

"When I speak to people about the role and about what happens and, of course, where the assassination of Sitting Bull lies in terms of the political landscape, the historical landscape of that time, I’m quite stunned often," he told NPR yesterday (July 1). "And so I know that, with this film and its detailed examination of the Lakota struggle for sovereignty—for their lives, even—I knew that this was timely." 

Greyeyes, who was born on Muskege Lake Cree Nation land in Canada, added that he now sees "a sea change" in how Indigenous actors can move through Hollywood.

"I’ve started to see a dimensionality finally appear in the materials I was being sent, the scripts I was reading," he said. "And I started to see it in other places—in the treatment of our cultures, of our characters. For example, just recently, I watched a fabulous episode of ‘Westworld.’ And there was an episode that was really focused on the Indigenous hosts in the show. And it was beautifully done, truly sophisticated. And the performances were nuanced, so it’s there. It’s with films like ‘Woman Walks Ahead.’ It’s, of course, in the work of Indigenous filmmakers and Indigenous writers. It’s always been present. But I think we’re on the eve of something."

Listen to more of Greyeyes’ interview with NPR: