In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, In The Know by Yahoo hosted a conversation between Deputy Editor Laura Clark and actress Amber Midthunder at the 74Wythe event space in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Midthunder, whose most recent role was in this year’s Prey, grew up surrounded by the entertainment industry. Her father, David, is an actor and her mother, Angelique, is a casting director. Neither of them necessarily wanted Midthunder to pursue acting — and at first she didn’t want to either.
“Once I realized that it was a job and then you could actually do that [to] pay your rent, I was like, that sounds cool,” she told the audience. “My parents would have supported me whatever I did, which — I’m very fortunate to say that they were very supportive just because I was serious about it.”
In August, Hulu announced that Prey had the platform’s biggest premiere ever — out of every TV show and movie. Starring Midthunder, Prey is set in the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. The majority of the cast is Native American and First Nations, and the film was released in both English and Comanche, with Comanche subtitles, which is a first for a Hollywood film.
“My greatest concern was how it would go culturally,” Midthunder said. “That was the biggest pressure that I felt every day coming to work … but then to have it be received by all kinds of different audiences and especially by Indigenous people, that’s just been the greatest thing.”
To Midthunder, it was particularly poignant that she had the chance to dub the English version of Prey in Comanche and work with the Comanche people to ensure it was accurate and made sense. Language and storytelling, she reminded the room, are very important to Native Americans.
“One of the most important things for us to be doing is protecting our languages,” she said. “We have always been a people of oral history.”
When it comes to the future of Native American representation in film, Midthunder is hopeful. She explained that in the past, while the “idea” of Native representation has always been there, the execution hasn’t — and that’s what she wants to change.
“We’re only now in the first generation of opportunity for Native filmmakers to cast Native actors,” she said. “It’s exciting to have shows like Reservation Dogs and to be able to make movies with … big studios and big networks. … I’m excited for what we’re doing now and for what’s to come.”
Midthunder can be seen on Reservation Dogs, Roswell, New Mexico, and Prey on Hulu. Her next project, the highly anticipated Avatar: The Last Airbender, is currently in postproduction.
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