MediaVillage’s First-Ever Roundtable Discussion featuring Four Indigenous Actors Speaking about the Evolution of Roles for Native Americans
NEW YORK, Nov. 23, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- In honor of Native American Heritage Month, Multicultural TV Talk from MediaVillage.com today debuts its first Indigenous actors roundtable discussion. Hosted by MediaVillage columnist Juan Ayala, the program features four actors giving us candid insights into what it means to be Native American in the entertainment industry today.
The special roundtable edition of Multicultural TV Talk features Rainbow Dickerson, from the award-winning film Beans; Isabella Leblanc from the upcoming Pet Sematary prequel on Paramount+; Amber Midthunder from The CW’s Roswell, New Mexico; and D’Pharoah Woon-a-tai from the critically-acclaimed FX on Hulu series Reservation Dogs.
“These incredible four actors discuss the severe lack of Indigenous representation across media while celebrating recent strides in the right direction, as well as their desire for less suffering and more joy in Indigenous stories, and the changes they wish to see for more inclusive entertainment and media industries,” explains Ayala.
Highlights of questions and excerpts are below:
- “What does culture mean to you?”
Rainbow: Culture is evolving. Culture for me is connecting to who you are, who you have been in the past and your ancestors; embracing who you are now and moving that forward into the future.
Isabella: It comes down to community. When I think about culture and the cultures, I was raised that it is about traditions and ways of being with each other and taking care of each other.
D’Pharoah: Your community. Your people’s customs. Language, dances, music, and everything in between.
Amber: It’s everyday life. It is who you are. It is how you exist. It is something that is embedded in you. Your ancestry and who your ancestors were and what brought you here. How you interact and approach everyday life.
- “What is a performance, a film or a series that you saw you first felt represented or seen?”
Isabella: ABC made for TV movie called “DreamKeeper.” It rocked my world because not only was it filled with Native people, Native actors and faces I recognized but it was also filled with native stories from different tribes. Getting to see people who looked like me telling stories that reminded me of the ones I grew up with rocked my world.
D’Pharoah: “Dance Me Outside,” which was filmed in Ontario. I live in Ontario and that reservation is not far away.
Rainbow: I have not had the lived experience of feeling like I wasn’t represented in the world or on screen and that is because of my parents or how I grew up . . . I love story and I could find myself in that story. But if I thought about movies that I can relate to was “Whale Rider” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.”
- “What do you hope to see more of and less of in regards to indigenous representation in entertainment?”
D’Pharoah: Proud to be part of “Reservation Dogs” and that there is another project out there like “Rutherford Falls.” I’m excited to see more comedy with Indigenous content and Indigenous storyteller because we are very comedic people. Other past projects with Indigenous led content were very depressing.
Isabella: Second the humor. Humor has been a survival mechanism. That is something that has been missed about Native people not told by Native people. I am excited about an era when we get to be very specific about the people and stories we come from and the specific tribes and regions.
Amber: Talking about ‘Reservation Dogs’, what’s so cool is how balanced and well-rounded it is. Before we have been romanticized or shown as villains. We have been demoted to being just one dimensional in our representation. . . What’s great about now is we are being seen as people, as full normal people who have lives and interests our urban and ‘res’ and all these different things.
Rainbow: I am tired of the suffering Olympics, want to see less tokenism. It is time to concentrate on the positive stuff. Would like to see more well-rounded storytelling, more care in the overall telling of a story. Meaning we can’t just throw in a character at the last minute and not think about where they come from and what it means.
- “Knowing how appearance focused our industry can be, have you experienced difficulty in the audition room because sometimes you haven’t fit the narrow-minded mind set of what an Indigenous person should look like?”
Isabella: We are your neighbor, we are your doctor, we are artists, we are so many things. We just need to be seen as that. It is a very weird thing that a lot of times we end up being seen as subhuman a lot of times in stories because of other people’s ideas of our culture; because of long skewered perception of our traditions and our culture. That concept being corrected through new stories, new writers, and new characters – that is what I want to see.
Rainbow: Two stereotypes we can get rid of. One is the exotic demure or diminutive native princess thing can go and the other of being incompetent or being stupid. I want to hear more traditional languages out there. Let’s do away with not having knowledge and not being smart.
Juan Ayala is a Brooklyn-based writer, podcaster and columnist at MediaVillage. He covers programming aimed toward diverse, multicultural and LGBTQ+ audiences under his Multicultural TV column. Juan hosts exclusive podcast interviews with on screen talent and behind the scenes creatives sharing their stories on how they are changing the face of stardom on entertainment and media.
Also in honor of Native American Heritage Month, MediaVillage’s In the Loop correspondent Kelly Kozakevich highlights Three Indigenous People Who are Highlighting Their Heritage on TikTok. They are Zane Switzer, better known as @IndigenousZane, is of Nahua and Otomi descent; Verna Volker (@nativewomanruns) is the founder of Native Women Running; and Chad Lorenzo (@ashkiijosh) focuses on educating others through art and music.
For content created to explore diversity issues within the media and entertainment industry, visit www.AdvancingDiversity.org. For a direct link to the Native American Heritage Month Special Roundtable Edition of Multicultural TV Talk, go to https://www.mediavillage.com/article/native-american-heritage-month-a-special-roundtable-edition-of-multicultural-tv-talk-podcast/.
About Multicultural TV:
Multicultural TV is one of a suite of AdvancingDiversity.org programming offered on MediaVillage.com that also includes Advancing Diversity: Black Leaders Matter, Ask Gen Z, LGBT+ Advancing, The Age of Aging, The Pool, and WomenAdvancing.org. Hosted by Juan Ayala, Multicultural TV covers a wide range of programming, reflecting the diverse cultures across the US and the LGBTQ+ community, spanning from Spanish-Language programming on Univision and Telemundo to millennial and Gen Z driven series on Hulu, The CW, and more. For more stories by Ayala visit Multicultural TV.
Media Contact: Diane Stefani, email@example.com
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