Af­ter star­ring in a film pro­duced by Robert Red­ford, it’s lit­tle won­der Na­tive-Amer­i­can ac­tor Wambli Ea­gle­man says the stars shine brighter when you grow up on a reser­va­tion. In­ter­view by Jesse Archer.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT -

DNA: Hi Wambli, what is your eth­nic back­ground? Wambli Ea­gle­man: I am Lakota Sioux and Navajo (Diné). Where did you grow up? I was a reser­va­tion kid. Rid­ing bikes, run­ning the hills, play­ing in ditches and rock climb­ing in good old Fort De­fi­ance, Ari­zona [a Navajo reser­va­tion] but as I got older we moved to the city. What are reser­va­tions like? Reser­va­tions have clean air, the most beau­ti­ful views of land for miles. It’s peace­ful and at night you can see the stars shine brightly. Your name, Wambli, means Ea­gle in Lakota Sioux. So that makes you Ea­gle Ea­gle­man? [Laughs] Yep! That’s what I al­ways get from people who ask. Were you taught any tra­di­tional cus­toms? Yes, my par­ents, to whom I’m for­ever grate­ful, taught me to live life bal­anced. Na­tive and white man cul­ture both bal­anced. My fa­ther showed and taught me so much of his Lakota Sioux side and I thanked him for all he taught me be­fore he passed away from cancer three years ago. My mother is Navajo, so now and then she an­swers my ques­tions on things I don’t re­ally un­der­stand. Be­ing Na­tive-Amer­i­can is a proud bless­ing. You were raised by a sin­gle mother with six sib­lings! What was it like be­ing part of such a big fam­ily? The best life ever! We were al­ways there for each other. We’re no Brady Bunch – we had ar­gu­ments and of­ten took sides. I have no idea how my mother even did it. She’s my hero. She was a wild land fire­fighter, an ad­vo­cate for women in shel­ters and now a teacher. She must be very proud of your act­ing in Drunk­town’s Finest which just pre­miered at Sun­dance. Con­grat­u­la­tions! Thank you. Robert Red­ford came on as Ex­ec­u­tive Pro­ducer, some­thing he hasn’t done on any film for years. Why did he choose yours? I think be­cause the script was amaz­ing. Robert is highly in­volved with help­ing Na­tive-Amer­i­cans in the movie in­dus­try and this is an all-Na­tive-Amer­i­can cast and crew telling the story of real mod­ern day prob­lems. How did you be­come in­volved? I was dis­cov­ered through Face­book [laughs]! Our cast­ing di­rec­tor, An­gelique MidThun­der, posted a pic­ture of me and asked if any­one knew how to con­tact me. I got so many mes­sages from ran­dom people telling me. We set up an au­di­tion in Santa Fe, New Mex­ico. I guess I nailed the part and the di­rec­tor and writer liked me. The plot is about a re­bel­lious fa­ther-to-be, a Chris­tian woman and a pro­mis­cu­ous trans­sex­ual who come of age on an In­dian reser­va­tion. Which one are you? I play Eu­gene, who is a very good friend to the trans­sex­ual char­ac­ter, Felixia. I’m the ho­mo­sex­ual guy who is al­ways get­ting ha­rassed and beaten. Have you ever been bul­lied for your sex­u­al­ity? All through­out school I was bul­lied and would get called the typ­i­cal names ev­ery gay per­son is called. You just came out to your fam­ily. How was that ex­pe­ri­ence? Ter­ri­fy­ing. I was so scared! I was tired of liv­ing a dou­ble life, so I first told my older sis­ter and cried like a baby think­ing what if the fam­ily is ashamed of me? My sis­ter told me she sup­ports me 100 per cent and then I got my four broth­ers to­gether. I was su­per ner­vous and they all kept ask­ing what was wrong. I said, “I’m gay!” and they all laughed and were like, is that all? They said they knew a long time ago and that they’ll al­ways love me. But with my mother we had a huge ar­gu­ment and didn’t talk for two days, but she came around. I guess for her there were so many emo­tions she didn’t know how to take it, but now she fully sup­ports me and says all she wants for me is to be happy. She did talk about how she’s wor­ried there are people out there who are go­ing to be mean, but no mat­ter what for me to con­tinue be­ing my­self and proud. It’s weird that when film­ing Drunk­town’s Finest, I didn’t play Eu­gene; it’s more like Eu­gene played me. He re­ally helped me with my com­ing out process. What is your ideal man? Out­go­ing with a sense of hu­mor and into sports. I’m 6”2’ [1.88m] so he has to be tall, too. Johnny Wu­jek, call me! How were ho­mo­sex­u­als tra­di­tion­ally treated in Na­tive-Amer­i­can cul­ture? We’re called “two-spir­ited”. It’s al­most as if you’re spe­cial; it’s a gift. I re­mem­ber my grandpa would al­ways tell us not to make fun of gay people. There are a lot of stereo­types about Na­tive-Amer­i­cans. Which one is most an­noy­ing? People ask­ing if I still hunt buf­falo and live in a teepee [laughs]. I’m like, se­ri­ously!? Have you ever smoked pey­ote? [Laughs] You’re ask­ing that be­cause I’m Na­tive-Amer­i­can, right? No, I haven’t. How many lan­guages do you speak? I can speak some of my Lakota and Navajo lan­guage. So I don’t know if you would count that as two. Oh, and I know some Span­ish. What do you do in your free time? I love run­ning. I play a lot of sports, hik­ing and surf­ing. I love to vol­un­teer at home­less shel­ters, too. Some­times my fam­ily and I cook up food and make plates and drive around giv­ing it to the home­less. You’ve worked on films with a lot of celebri­ties. Who was your favourite? Work­ing with Mickey Rourke and the con­ver­sa­tion we had about not giv­ing up on my dreams and never cut­ting my hair. I’ll never ever for­get it! So will you ever cut your hair? I don’t think so. So many people love my hair and most think it’s fake [laughs]. But if ever I do, I’ll do­nate it to Locks Of Love for cancer. What’s one act­ing role you’re dy­ing to play? I re­ally wanna die in a hor­ror film! Com­i­cal, right? I’m al­ways imag­in­ing how it would be to watch yourself be killed in a killer movie.

more: Find Wambli Ea­gle­man on Face­book and Twit­ter. In­sta­gram @Brodye.

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