The “Tribal Cop” screenplay table read will be held on Saturday Feb. 15, 2014 on the University of New Mexico campus at Albuquerque. The majority of the cast is Native American. They will read the story about a modern day tribal cop named Stephan who tries to solve a murder near his Indian Casino. Below are four main cast members talking about Native men & women in entertainment.
Rog Benally will read the part of a tribal cop named Luke. How important is it to you that a Native American male with long hair can be in a modern story? “Well, I’ve had my hair long for such a long time. I wouldn’t know what to do with it if it was short? It’s just a part of me. But still, it’s not so important that I wouldn’t resist to cut it if I was asked to for a (acting) role. I’m still native either way.” Should there be more roles written for Native men outside the Western movie genre? “Yes. We are doctors, lawyers, actors etc., When I’m not acting for work. I’m practicing martial arts, studying Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’m also in the garage door business, replacing or repairing all types, residential and commercial. And I sew, making outfits for Powwows. So we’ve got talent and we are very capable to do other roles besides being just a native in a Loincloth.”
Kenneth Ruthardt will read the part of a tribal chairman named Michael. How important is it to you as an actor to be able to read a role that is part of a modern story? “As an urban Indian, who is blind as a bat, never went deer hunting and sells houses for a living. I am thankful I have not played a Hollywood Indian. They have no idea who we are and when I heard ‘Tribal Cop’ was about contemporary Indians. I wanted to be part of it.” Do Natives need more positive native characters written for movies and TV? “Back in the day, I worked with a sixth grade class on my (Indian) reservation in Mescalero. I asked the students what they wanted to be when they grew up. The girls said nothing as did most of the boys except one. He wanted to be a white man. People believe what they see and if Indian children can see Indian adults in positive roles it can only help.”
“Avu” will read the part of a female security guard at the Indian Casino named “M.” How important is it as an actress to read a role that is set in a modern story? “There has always been a scarcity of speaking roles for women. Modern roles for native american women seem nearly non-existent. As if we were only visible in the old west, and are now extinct. I would be happy for a speaking role in a western, but most of the native women in those movies do not speak. We are still here.” Do you wish there were more roles written for Native women in movies and on TV? “Of course. I wish there were modern roles for native women and women in general. Most women’s roles are reserved for ‘A’ list stars and there are few roles left for other women actors and even less so for native women. I love good Indian movies, but I also love ‘Downton Abbey’ (PBS).”
Tom Schuch is a non-native who will read the part of a U.S. Senator named John. Have you ever read for a role involving modern Native Americans who have an Indian Casino? “This will be the first time I’ve read for a role where the screenwriter is native american and the cast is primarily native telling a story from their point of view. It’s about time and very exciting. It’s a privilege to be a part of the seed of this project.” As a non-Native, would you like to see modern native roles written for movies and on TV? “Absolutely, I would. And native roles must be played by native actors. There are so many rich and interesting stories to be told by native americans that I believe the movie-going public will respond very positively to the growth of native film being written, produced, and acted by native artists.”