Being Indigenous in the Industry with Duane Howard
Insight Actor Duane Howard shares his perspective on Indigenous representation in Hollywood and how showing their true history and culture is vital to growth.
Mediaplanet sat down with The Revenant actor Duane Howard to address some of the misconceptions Indigenous actors face in the entertainment industry and to discover what he believes Canadians can do to better support the Indigenous community.
Mediaplanet: In your opinion, how can Canadians become better supporters of Indigenous rights and culture?
Duane Howard: All people need to educate themselves and find their own self-identity and history before they can start to understand each other — and our history books need to be rewritten. Canadian history did not start when the white man landed on the shores of Canada. I mean, who did they run into? (He laughs.)
MP: How do you feel your experience as an Indigenous actor has differed from that of non-Indigenous actors?
DH: Stereotyping is a big issue. There’s also a definite misrepresentation. They haven’t really opened up the door for us. I’ve appeared in a lot of period pieces, but we need to look at who we are as people in the present-day and what we can do now. A lot of our heroes have never really even been acknowledged. There are a lot of unspoken Aboriginal heroes who haven’t been mentioned in any script. We just don’t get called in for the roles of doctors, lawyers, or first responders. It’s sad that they don’t think that we’re any of those when we have many making history as we speak.
MP: What was it like working alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the award-winning film The Revenant?
DH: It was a great opportunity to work with him and be beside him on set. Even all the other actors were great. Leo is great — beautiful man and really humble. They [Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy] were incredibly warm to the Native actors and were always very inclusive.
MP: During the movie, you portrayed the Arikara culture. How is it different from your First Nations group, the Nuu-chah-nulth?
DH: I’m from the west coast, and the language is really different! Some people think that all Natives speak the same language but that’s just not true. They brought in cultural advisors to make sure things were accurate. They even brought Arikara dialect coaches and people who spoke the language to help.
MP: How do you think Indigenous culture could be portrayed more accurately within the entertainment industry?
DH: We need more stories of the unspoken heroes — the athletes, the award winners, the war heroes. I think upcoming features are really going to set the stage for accurate representation. There’s a movie being produced by Angelina Jolie called Bright Path, and it’s the first time it’ll actually star a Native man as the lead. After that comes out, I think it’s going to open doors. I’m grateful for the period pieces, but it’s important to depict what people are going through today.