Amber Midthunder calls her 'Reservation Dogs' character 'absurd and amazing'

Amber Midthunder guest starred on Wednesday's episode of "Reservation Dogs." Photo courtesy of FX
Amber Midthunder guest starred on Wednesday's episode of "Reservation Dogs." Photo courtesy of FX

NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Prey and Roswell, N.M. actress Amber Midthunder says she knew exactly how to play her well-meaning, but clueless Reservation Dogs character because she has met plenty of people like her in real life.

In Wednesday's episode of the FX on Hulu comedy, Midthunder guest stars as Miss M8triarch, the PhD candidate from California's Bay area who leads an Indian Health Service youth summit on an Oklahoma Native American reservation.


"Getting to play a character like Miss M8triarch, who is absurd and amazing, was very attractive," Midthunder told UPI in a recent phone interview Monday.

"This show kind of surpasses genre," she added. "You can be crying and touched and educated in one moment and then go to laughing, while you still have tears on your face. It's such a beautifully made piece of art."

The actress thinks audiences will relate to her character because most people have met someone over-educated and big-hearted, as well as disconnected from reality.


"There's always people like that," Midthunder said with a laugh.

"That's what makes her funny. She truly, genuinely thinks, 'I'm going to go to the Rez and I am going to save them,' not realizing what that actually means and when she sits down and talks about the documentary [she wants to make, she doesn't understand] how truly offensive she's being. She really, genuinely believes she is doing a good thing."

Meanwhile, the teens with whom Miss M8triarch is trying to connect -- including Bear (D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Elora (Devery Jacobs), Cheese (Lane Factor), Paulina Alexis (Willie Jack) and Jackie (Elva Guerra) -- are just biding their time, taking part in the summit's team-building exercises and decolonization workshops to get the $15 Sonic restaurant gift cards they were promised.

"I do not think she is effective in the way that she thinks she can be," Midthunder said of her character. "But, ultimately, the kids learn their lessons and have their own way of getting where they need to get with each other. She likes to think that she helped."

Midthunder, who was a fan of the show from the time it premiered, sent series co-creator Sterlin Harjo a self-taped audition when she heard they were looking for someone to play Miss M8triarch.


The actress was thrilled when Harjo personally called to tell her she'd been cast and she said she would play the character again if the occasion arises.

One of the reasons Midthunder thinks the show works so well is the fresh talent of the young ensemble.

"They're all so well-suited to their characters. I can't imagine anyone else playing them," she said.

"It is a show about Rez kids and they are Rez kids. It is moving and so awesome to see. They are so great. They are so funny and smart."

Although scenes are expertly written, there is some room to improvise, she noted.

"You get the script and it's so full already and then there's moments where you're up there and you're talking about something, like the Neanderthal thing, they just threw that in," Midthunder said, referring to how Miss M8triarch offers a lengthy message of gratitude to various indigenous peoples that hilariously keeps going further back in history.

The actress said she was encouraged to "keep going" with whatever popped in her head, with one bit of advice being "throw in as much Lakota as you want, things like that."

"There is so much comfort because the script is so good and then it's like they open you up in a way that just feels so comfortable, whatever comes, just flow with it," she added.


Most of this episode takes place in a community center, which Mindthunder believes gives the story an air of authenticity.

"It felt like a real IHS," she said. "When I walked in, there it was, like, 'This is like the IHS I went to my whole life.' It really felt like the environment of what it was. I walked with really nice pearl earrings and a ribbon skirt into an IHS. It really felt like what they were trying to set up."

Midthunder said quality and inspiration are what she is looking for in roles these days.

"Wherever there are people I want to work with, who I think are great, who I admire, if I ever get those opportunities, that is what really excites me," she said.

"If I find a character I really enjoy, that's often when I do my best. I think I've just been fortunate to be put in situations with people and in places where I want to be."

Midthunder's alien drama, Roswell, may be ending this summer after four seasons on The CW, but the actress believes the characters are all getting satisfying endings.

"Rosa has had a really big journey and you've seen her go through a lot of big things. Her journey of sobriety has been up and down," Midthunder said of her Roswell heroine.


"She's had relapses and recoveries. It's been really scary and really sad, but ultimately she has had a happy ending. She is sober and making art in New York. I think, if anything, her story is a story of hope and, hopefully, honesty as much as you can have on a network TV show. I'm proud of it."

Midthunder is celebrating the fact that Native stories and artists -- which are at the heart of her film Prey, as well as Reservation Dogs and its fellow TV shows Rutherford Falls and Dark Winds -- are finally getting the attention they deserve.

"Looking at Native representation, I think we are finally moving into a good space where we are getting to tell our own stories and being represented in ways we're proud of and have an opportunity to have a variety of ways to do that," she said. "I truly believe it is just the beginning."

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