Albuquerque-based actor Forrest Goodluck has had a pretty good run lately. Appearing in films like The Revenant and The Miseducation of Cameron Post, the young Diné thespian also starred in Indian Horse, based on the novel of the same name by Richard Wagamese, the story of an Indigenous Canadian man grappling with racist schools and societies over 30 years (see SFR's movie section for the review). We managed to contact Goodluck while he's filming in Los Angeles to ask him about that film.
Does your own family have stories similar to those from the film?
I think there's definitely family members who have been in boarding school, which would be [in New Mexico] as opposed to Canada, but I think for me, a lot of it was being able to learn about the residential school side. As similar as things can be across borders, it was interesting to learn the Canadian side of the story; interesting as it was, it was also horrible to learn about. Being in Canada was great because I got to mix with actors from Canada and actors who are not from that area—they had their own perspectives to being Indigenous. My co-star Ajuawak Kapashesit had family members go through the very school system that was portrayed in the film, and his words on that were amazing. Learning from him, as an actor, an artist, a person—that's not only what I did, but everybody working on it connected to the film; that truth, that story, that uncovering of something raw and real.
Was it difficult getting into this character? How did you prepare?
It was one of the most difficult roles I've done. Even though it was about 15 pages of the script, 20 minutes of the film, for me, it was a three-month experience with the other actors. Getting into who this character was. Reading books, and not even just from the Native perspective, but victims across the spectrum. … One of the most important books I read was from the perspective of a 50-year-old man who was an altar boy, and his experience of being sexually assaulted by his priest was incredible for me—that book particularly helped me get into the spirit of [the role]. Everyone's stories, the landscape, the hockey—it was all set up for me to sit in the story. It was really illuminating to be able to sit in that reality.
Would you say you learned or took away anything important from the experience you'll carry with you?
For one, the friendships of those people. … You know the system they came from, but seeing how Indigenous people, Native people, any people who've been through a traumatic experience—like the Canadian Indians up there, the New Zealanders, the Pacific Islanders—people across the spectrum have experienced similar assaults by Western culture, but knowing there's still the creation of art out of [it]; that is one of the most beautiful things to come out of that. For one, there are so few Native films altogether, but to have an Indigenous film show that message with so many people in it, it's ultimately so important. Indian Horse, as hard as it is, has that message of hope and passing on that knowledge and doing something better.