One of the most frustrating things about being an American Indian actor is working with other people’s ideas of what you are, says Lily Gladstone.Gladstone, a star in the upcoming independent film “Winter in the Blood,” recalls auditioning once for the voice of “an authentic sounding Native American.”
A descendant of the Blackfeet and Nez Perce tribes, she was born in Browning, Mont., and lived on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation until she was about 13. She didn’t make the cut because she wasn’t willing to do an “over-stereotyped reservation accent,” she says.
“I run into a lot of stuff like that, the idea of how we’re supposed to look and sound. I don’t like yielding to that,” says Gladstone, in an interview from her home in Missoula, Mont.
Gladstone will be in Moscow March 29-30 for Sapatq’ayn Cinema 2013, the University of Idaho’s annual showcase of the latest in American Indian films. She’ll talk about her roles in the feature film
“Winter in the Blood” and the film short “Universal VIP.”
“Winter in the Blood,” based on the acclaimed novel by James Welch, follows a sensitive and self-destructive young man in 1960s Montana, who is haunted by personal tragedy and his shattered American Indian heritage. It stars native actors, including Chaske Spencer, who grew up in Montana and on Idaho’s Nez Perce Reservation.
Gladstone read the book as a teenager in Seattle, where she attended high school, and says she instantly connected with its themes of displacement.
“It was a culture shock, definitely,” she says about moving from the reservation to the city where she often faced questions about her racial background.
“It was really a pain to have to debrief everybody. That aspect of my identity was easier left at home,” recalls Gladstone, whose paternal grandmother, Ermith Scott, was a Nez Perce who grew up in Lapwai and married a Blackfeet man.
Welch’s novel, along with the works of author Debra Magpie Earling, helped her to care about who she was again, Gladstone says. They also brought her back to Montana. Both authors had strong affiliations with the University of Montana in Missoula. After graduating from high school in 2004, she enrolled there for theater and American Indian studies. As a senior she read for a part in “Winter in the Blood,” eventually landing the role of Marlene.
“Winter in the Blood” has yet to be released. Those who catch the March 30 sneak peak in Moscow will be among the first to see the film that has been anticipated by the Los Angles Times and National Public Radio. Gladstone says the film’s makers are interested in collecting audience input, especially from those familiar with the novel.
Today Gladstone splits her working life between Missoula and Seattle. After “Winter in the Blood” she landed a small role in the upcoming film “Jimmy Picard,” starring Benicio Del Toro and based on the book “Reality and Dream: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian” by anthropologist Margaret Mead.
Gladstone says she could pursue an acting career in Los Angeles or New York but she likes being close to home and working with native artists. Last summer she took part in Longhouse Media’s seventh annual Superfly Youth filmmaking conference in Seattle. The group represents the next wave of American Indian voices, she says. “It’s cool to get to know them on the ground level as we’re all establishing ourselves.”
if you go
WHERE: Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, 508 S. Main St., Moscow
Events start at 7 each night.
Wednesday, March 27
– Ceremonial opening with Vandal Nation Drum and Nez Perce Elder Horace Axtell
– Activist John Trudell with a retrospective of his film roles
Thursday, March 28
-U.S. premiere of “The Lesser Blessed.” Three unlikely friends isolated in a small rural town explore life and love amid racial tensions and the recklessness of youth.
Friday, March 29
– A night of short films, “The Rocket Boy,” “The 6th World,” “Shimasani,” “Universal VIP,” and “Two Cars, One Night;” followed by a question-and-answer session with “Universal VIP” director and University of Idaho alum Ken White and actor Lily Gladstone.
Saturday, March 30
-Special sneak preview of the work-in-progress “Winter in the Blood,” followed by a question-and-answer session with screenwriter Ken White, director Alex Smith, and actor Lily Gladstone.