Actor Chaske Spencer (Lakota Sioux tribe, and raised on Indian Reservations in Montana and Idaho) has found success in Hollywood.
The actor is currently starring as a Native werewolf in the vampire love story series, “Twilight,” which is hyped and popular. The role is “huge” he admits. His plate is full too in the upcoming months: He’s going to do “Winter in the Blood,” the Montana author James Welch novel, among other movie projects.
With the foundation of the success coming after an all-too-familiar notorious ride to Hollywood – he’s says it was and is his traditional beliefs that need to be the constant.
Because “Hollywood has a very short memory,” he says, and predicts that as a Native American, securing roles will continue to be a struggle. His conversation with Racebending.com contributor Gabriel Canada focuses on how his career path is never too far from his roots.
He also with Racebender addresses poverty, his astonishment at being “here” coming from a reservation and his production company, Urban Dream.
RACEBENDING.COM: In previous interviews you’ve talked about the fact that statistically, you shouldn’t be “here.” Can you elaborate for those unfamiliar with life on a reservations what those statistics are, and what you meant by that?
CHASKE SPENCER: Coming from a reservation, the chances of people getting out and becoming successful are pretty rare. The people who do, it’s almost like jumping off a waterfall: you just jump and see if you land, and we will see if you’re okay, but at least you made the jump.
When I talk about giving back to the community, I think it’s a responsibility for myself to do that. I’ve experienced a lot, living on reservation. There is poverty and abuse–physical, domestic and sexual. A lot of people don’t know that.
It’s not just to raise an awareness, but also I can’t do it alone–some actor getting on a stage as a PSA. The people in the family structure, in their own homes, have to take up for themselves, take responsibility. I could just be a broken record playing over and over again.
I had people like that come to my school when I was growing up, and it did have an influence on me, but it’s really up to the people themselves to do something about it. There is only so much someone can do to raise awareness, but if I can inspire someone to do that–to maybe make a change in their life–then I think I’ve done my job. But it’s not easy.
Being in the spotlight as a Native American actor, you’re already being put on a pedestal as being a role model, which I don’t think anyone really ever wants. You’re thrust on there anyway, so you might as well make do with it what you can. But I’m not a perfect angel.