He absolutely believed what he was doing was for the betterment of Indians and that if he didn't do what he did, that they would be exterminated by the more radical, racist members of his own government.
What about this project piqued your interest?
I read this book when I was in high school, and I became obsessed with it, the tragedy of it. That such an incredible aboriginal culture was treated this way became kind of an obsession with me, and always since then I was interested in native issues. So, when I heard that HBO was doing this, I got on the phone. I'm not a chaser; I like people to come to me. But, I chased this one.
Do you think you share any personal similarities with your character, Henry Dawes?
Maybe in some ways. There probably is a little bit of a moral crusader in me, and he certainly was seen as that. He was continually calling the railroad and business interests to task for their abuses of Indian people. But, I'm very, very different from him. He saw that their native culture was savage, and he wanted them to become part of us, civilized. So, it's that whole ethnocentric, racist kind of, "I want you to become like me because then you'll be all right."
Did you immediately know you wanted to play that part?
Yes, when I read the script, that was definitely the part for me. The interesting thing about him was that, from the perspective of history, what he did is obviously crazy. But, he absolutely believed what he was doing was for the betterment of Indians and that if he didn't do what he did, that they would be exterminated by the more radical, racist members of his own government.
Whenever we think that we're better than another culture and try to force another culture to become like us, we all lose something.
What was it like to work with Adam Beach?
Adam is an extraordinary guy. I love working with him. He's such an open heart; we bonded immediately. And, he's so talented. He did some things - the close-up, non-verbal things - last night in a scene that we were initially struggling with that were just amazing. The amount of different emotions that he went through on his face, they were kabuki-like and very extraordinary.
How did you react to Yves Simoneau's vision for directing the film?
He's really remarkable, very hard-working. One of my favorite things about good directors is that when something isn't working, they have the confidence to wade right in and say, "You know what? This isn't working." And, what that does is bring you all together to make it better. We had a moment like that yesterday in a scene where I had all this exposition, moving the plot forward and everything, but the scene had to be about something completely different than the words. And once he explained that to Adam and me, we were able to just start to find what the scene was really about - the relationship between these two men.
What do you hope this film will get across to audiences?
I think it's extraordinary that this story's never been told. The hope is that they will just get involved in the drama of the good storytelling. Then, as a side-shoot to that, learn a lot of history and think about how, whenever we think that we're better than another culture and try to force another culture to become like us, we all lose something. And certainly, the gifts and the wisdom of aboriginal cultures is something that this world is now in dire need of. The idea of using every bit of an animal if you kill it. The idea of living in a community where it's not about the lands you own. The idea of living in communion with nature so there's plenty left over for generations to follow.