Actress Grace Dove talks Indigenous representation in Hollywood.
By Craig and Marc Kielburger
It’s the biggest night in show business, and it’s getting some bad press.
After Kevin Hart stepped down, there’s still no host for the 91st Annual Academy Awards. To combat years of falling ratings, major categories like cinematography were cut from the live show to reduce running time.
Hollywood is hanging onto the diversity of its offerings for salvation. Following the #OscarsSoWhite backlash, it appears the industry is taking steps in the right direction, with this year’s Oscar nominees creating a broader mosaic than in years past.
Mexican school-teacher-turned-actress Yalitza Aparicio received a Lead Actress nod for Roma, and Lady Gaga, an open member of the LGBTQ+ community, got one for A Star is Born. African American director Spike Lee earned a nomination for BlacKkKlansman, the first in his 30-year career.
We can’t diminish this progress. But we also can’t overlook the lack of Indigenous voices on the big ballots or the silver screen. We caught up with Shuswap actress Grace Dove at WE Day Vancouver to hear her take on things. Known for her roles in The Revenant and How It Ends, you can catch her in the upcoming film, Monkey Beach, from Métis Cree director Loretta Todd.
What’s your reaction to films like Crazy Rich Asians? Do you think representation in Hollywood is getting better?
Grace Dove: Crazy Rich Asians was amazing. Diversity is getting better in cinema. That being said, I don’t think that we’re at the table yet as Native peoples. A lot of other ethnicities are being seen more, but we’re still way in the back. Until we’re telling our own stories from our point of view, until movies are being directed by us, written by us and acted by us, it won’t truly be authentic. That is going to be something that I fight for my entire career.
With this in mind, what do you consider when looking at a role?
GD: I just listen to my intuition. Right away I know if it’s going to harm [Indigenous people], or help us. When I look at roles, I think, “Does this person have real opinions? Do they have purpose in the story?” If I feel like it’s going to be negative, I know that it’s my responsibility to see if I can change that. But if they’re only there to be used for violence or in other ways, then I just say no.
What kind of mainstream content would you love to see with an Indigenous focus?
GD: I would love to see some good old action films. Even just comedies. Whenever Indigenous peoples are in cinemas it’s in the past, like cowboys and Indians. We’re still being portrayed as savages rather than as modern day people who are still here. We need to be in modern films. Not only in movies, but in TV shows. Just to be one of the nurses. One of those lawyers. Why can’t we be one of those series regulars?
Oscar nominations are a start. But we’re far from a time when diversity in film goes uncelebrated, taken for granted because it’s the norm. Representation needs to be, as Dove says, “regular.”
This interview has been condensed and edited.