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I was lucky enough to "accidentally" become an actor. Although I had dabbled in the film industry and done a few smaller films, I never really wanted to be in the movie business. My unintended big break came in 1980. I was renting my studio from an agent who has asked me if I as interested in playing Tonto in the remake of The Legend of the Lone Ranger. Ever though I knew Jay Silverheels, and had great respect for him as an activist in the Indian Community and as an actor (a lot of people didn't know what a good actor Jay really was, such as his role in Key Largo) I had reservations about playing this role. The character of Tonto in the original Lone Ranger was derogatory to Native people. So, I told her no. She kept asking me and told me I was exactly what they were looking for. I finally said yes. I told them that in this day and age, if you portray Tonta with disrespect, there will be more Indians on your lawn than Custer saw. They assured me that this time they were going to make Tonto an equal character to the Lone Ranger. I decided that I would take the role if offered. Once it was offered, it occurred to me that this role could help me do something positive in the native community.
I worked on a couple of smaller films after the Legend of the Lone Ranger. Then, I was asked by a friend of mine, Joanna Ray (Casting Director for Kill Bill) to do a small film for David Lynch with Harry Dean Stanton for the French Bicentennial. I knew of Lynch's work and jumped at the chance. That movie was The Cowboy and the Frenchman. When Lynch decided to do Twin Peaks, he and Joanna decided it would be interesting to have a Native American actor and called me. The rest is television history. Both as a Native American and as an actor, artistic opportunities like this do not come around very often.
Twin Peaks was groundbreaking television, great art and I think of of the best Native American roles to ever be on television.
After doing a variety of appearances on various TV series: X-Files, Walker Texas Ranger, Malcom in the Middle, I was offered a role of one of the terrorist in Passenger 57.
A great chacater because bad guys are so much fun to play, and a very successful movie. Working with Wesly Snipes was a lot of fun and he's a very nice, talented man.
After Passenger 57, I did some television projects and small movies. Then, once again, Grandfather smiles on me. I stumbled in ton one of the best roles I've ever had the opportunity to play: Andrew Once Sky on the CBC Canadian television series, North of 60.
A series different than anything I had ever seen. Nobody was a medicine man, it was about families and everyday life upon the Dene Reserve in Northern Canada. I played a therapist and love interest of the main Native character, Tina Keeper. What a cast! Some of the finest Native American actors I had the opportunity to work with: Gordon Tootoosis, Tantoo Candinal, Tom Jackson, Simon Baker, who player "Love by the Buffalo" in the TV series In To The West, and the great Tina Keeper, one of the best actresses and nicest television stars I've ever had the opportunity to work with. I worked for three years on the 7 year run series.
And now I'm on to new projects in the arena of film and television. First and foremost, I've always considered myself an artist. It is my love, it is my passion. The movie business has been great fun and I've been lucky to be involved in projects that I can be proud of. I've also done numerous voice over works in animation. You can list for my voice in Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Caption Planet, Superman, Batman, Cowboys of the Moo Mesa and numerous others.
Natural Kingman Turquoise Crescent Silver Earrings by Rosella Sandoval
Experience the beauty of Native America at Gathering Tribes with these sterling silver, natural Kingman turquoise earrings by Rosella Sandoval
Turquoise Coyote Zuni Fetish Carving by Jayne Quam
Experience the beauty of Native America at Gathering Tribes with this turquoise inlay coyote fetish carving by Jayne Quam
Lester James Tufa Cast Silver, Turquoise and Coral Cuff Bracelet
Experience the beauty of Native America at Gathering Tribes with this tufa cast sterling silver and multi stone bracelet by Lester James
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