Native American actors & actresses represent the smallest percentage of union members working in Hollywood. These performers fall under the recently merged ‘Screen Actors Guild (SAG) & the ‘American Federation of Television & Radio Artists’ (AFTRA). Natives are virtually unseen in movies & on TV each given year. Three TV shows in 2012 do receive a grade of “A” through their efforts to diversify & hire natives onto their prime-time TV line ups. Those shows are – “Longmire” (A&E), “Hell on Wheels” (AMC) & “Vegas” (CBS). “Longmire” employed a full Native American supporting cast in its’ first season which consisted of 10 powerful episodes. The modern day western has been picked up for a second TV season by A&E. It was filmed at Santa Fe, N.M.
Here is the synopsis of “Longmire” (A&E) from the Internet movie database (IMDB) – “Walt Longmire is the dedicated and unflappable sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Widowed only a year – he is a man in psychic repair but buries his pain behind his brave face – unassuming grin and dry wit.” – Absaroka County borders an Indian reservation.
Here are the native performers who appeared on the first season of “Longmire.” Most of them are local actors from New Mexico. – Lou Diamond Phillips – Zahn McClarnon – Michael Spears – Irene Bedard – Amber Midthunder – Jay Tavare – Ryan Begay – David Vigil – Rod Rondeaux – Nathaniel Begay – Magdalena Begay – Herman Quaye Agoyo – Kimberly Guerrero – Marcus Red Thunder – Anthony Wamego – Q’orianka Kilcher – JaNae Collins. – Plus, the Native American background extras.
Here is the synopsis of “Hell On Wheels” (AMC) from IMDB – “Cullen Bohannan – a former soldier and slaveholder follows the track of some union soldiers – the killers of his wife. This brings him in the middle of one of the biggest projects in US history – the building of the transcontinental railroad. After the war years in the 1860s – this undertaking connected the prospering east with the still wild west.”
Here are the native performers who appeared on the first two TV seasons of “Hell on Wheels.” – Eddie Spears – Gerald Auger – Wes Studi – Helmer Twoyoungmen – Sheldon Elter – Sharon Taylor – Dallas Bobby Desmond – Cody Wells – Darcy Singer – Plus, the Native American background extras.
Native actor Gil Birmingham is the only performer who appeared on the 1960s period show “Vegas” in the first TV season. Here is the synopsis of “Vegas” (CBS) from the official website – “Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis star in a drama inspired by the true story of former Las Vegas sheriff Ralph Lamb – a fourth-generation rancher tasked with bringing order to Las Vegas in the 1960s – a gambling and entertainment mecca emerging from the tumbleweeds.”