Hollywood has a long, unfortunate history of ignoring non-white people, both on-screen and -off. Indigenous Americans have arguably had it worst than most. Not only did they spend decades portrayed as blood-thirsty savages in classic Westerns, but they were usually played by white actors. It’s not much better now, as the showrunner for the upcoming FX series Reservation Dogs — about Native American teens in rural Oklahoma — pointed out.
As per The Wrap, Sterlin Harjo, who created the upcoming comedy with Taika Waititi, talked about the show during FX’s TCA press tour. It’s a rare thing to see a show starring Indigenous characters, played by Indigenous actors. In fact, it’s rare to see Indigenous actors, period. Harjo, who is of Seminole and Muscogee heritage, had a theory for that.
“The thing is, Hollywood makes a western every few years where Native actors get to come and get killed in front of a camp. It’s just not the most exciting work,” Harjo explained. “So, they’re not in L.A. beating down the door, trying to get these parts.”
So when the show needed Indigenous actors to play its Indigenous characters, they had to do some traveling.
“You have to go to these communities to find the actors,” Harjo said. “We went and cast in the communities, we went and got tapes from all over in indigenous communities. The talent is there. It just doesn’t happen to be on Hollywood Boulevard.”
Reservation Dogs — which follows four teenagers who get involved in crime, as befitting its Tarantino-influenced title — is the first show to ever have a writers room staffed entirely with Native Americans.
“Having an all-Indigenous room helped us not be afraid to go hard and tell the truth and also to be funny and sort of push the envelope,” explained Harjo. “There was a shorthand between all the writers and we were able to just go and write and try to make it the funniest, best and pull from our own experiences and make it real.”
Reservation Dogs premieres on FX starting Aug. 9.
(Via The Wrap)