There was this idea being forced onto a people that had been living this valued life for generations. And that's where it went wrong. The government didn't want to understand the lifestyle and culture and traditions of the Indian.
What were your initial thoughts about Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee?
I knew coming into the project that obviously this story needs to be told from the perspective of how the [U.S.] government was involved in trying to take the lands of the Indians and resettle them on these reservation systems. But also show the struggles that Indian people have with just standing up for their sovereign right as peoples. And the importance of showing this is just enormous. We need to tell this story.
What has the shoot been like so far?
Well, HBO hasn't put a limit on anything. They want the best. Today I was doing a scene where I've given up, I've lost my soul, my spirit. And what (director) Yves (Simoneau) did was he had me do it like nine different times. He had me do a version where I'm letting go, a version where I'm angry, sad, because he wanted to find the right moment. I've never worked with anybody who does that. Usually, a director has an interpretation of what they think, but here Yves wanted to really search and use me as a tool of emotion. We were all exploring together, finding that deep value of really interpreting the truth behind this story.
What were your first impressions about your character?
Well, I play Charles Eastman. And the first thing I did was hire a voice coach who could help me with the details of this era, 'cause man, that was the toughest thing for me, was just to explore that world of being a distinguished Victorian gentleman, and walking and talking a certain way. And the way they saw things, their values, how they wore their clothes. There were so many details. So that was really exciting learning about all that.
I learned that Charles Eastman was a product of assimilation by the government. He did succeed in becoming an educated man, but what he came to realize is that if you lose your culture and traditions, you lose your identity not only as an Indian, but as a part of society. He learned that in the end it didn't matter how educated he was if he was not helping his people. It didn't matter at all. And in the story you see how much he loses of himself because there's nothing he can do to help his people move forward when there's a government pushing them and killing them off.