Q’orianka Kilcher’s breakout role was Pocahontas at age 14, and she’s been cast in roles portraying Native Americans ever since. Her own heritage is mixed, with a Quechuan-Huachiperi Peruvian father and Swiss-German American mother. Kilcher was raised in Hawaii, where she studied Tahitian dance and performed professionally, as well as studying classical voice. Along with acting, she’s a human rights and environmental activist, and she’s spoken at Amnesty International and United Nations events. She was even arrested (along with her mother, a lifelong activist) for protesting in front of the White House in 2010. Currently, she has a recurring role in the contemporary western drama Yellowstone, headed by Kevin Costner, and she co-stars in an upcoming modern comedy movie with Channing Tatum.
In an interview with Remezcla, Kilcher said:
“I’m proud to be indigenous. I’m proud whenever I can represent an indigenous woman in a film. I feel as an artist, it’s my responsibility to continuously help pave the way and push the boundaries and break down those barriers within society and within Hollywood of how indigenous people are portrayed on film.”
Let’s hope she gets more roles of all kinds, including more frock flicks for us to enjoy!
Pocahontas in The New World (2005)
Talking to KPBS, Kilcher noted how the difference between the Native American and English costumes helped her get into character:
“The first time I tried my corset and shoes on I actually had them tie my corset extra tight and put my shoes a size too small to feel the constriction of the way I imagined Pocahontas to feel because she never wore those things before and it was really heartbreaking for me because I felt like a caged bird and so constricted from being free and to think Pocahontas went through that it was amazing and sad at the same time.”
Princess Ka’iulani in Princess Kaiulani (2009)
In LatinoBuzz, Q’orianka Kilcher explained why this role was important to her:
“Princess Ka’iulani’s story does not only give us an insight into an important and often forgotten dark chapter of Hawaii’s history, but it also is a story of courage and hope and her life and plea for her people carries a message of absolute contemporary relevance in the context of the issues still faced by many of the 360 million indigenous peoples around the world who are struggling until this day for dignity, self determination and cultural survival.”
Princess Aaya / Tiger Lily in Neverland (2011)
Te Ata in Te Ata (2016)
Q’orianka Kilcher told Indian Country Today:
“This has been the most challenging role I have ever taken on. Te Ata had such a rich background. I have been needing to draw on my years of dancing, playing Native American flute, of singing, of storytelling, of all those different things. At first, it was really scary, because it is a beautiful but challenging role to depict all of these different stories and really do it in an authentic way.”
Myra in The Good Time Girls (2017)
Elk Woman in Hostiles (2017)
In Remezcla, Kilcher said of this western:
“There are underlying notes throughout the film that are very relevant today. We need to start focusing on the things that bring us together rather than the things that divide us. We need to realize at the end of the day we’re all brothers and sisters and we’re all related. We all live on this beautiful, blue planet. [Hostiles] shows the beauty of nature, but also the destruction done by man.”
Mary Palmer in The Alienist (2018)
In a Slate podcast, Q’orianka Kilcher describes getting cast for this role:
“My character that I play, her name is Mary Palmer, and in the book she is written as blonde hair and blue eyes. And they ended up casting me in it. Not once did they have me wear a little dream catcher earring or something to hint that I’m Native American or anything like that, I was just a person and that was so great because oftentimes I find if you are getting a role or doing a role, it’s the stereotype of something. Specifically, Native Americans, we’re not relics in a museum. We are doctors, we are taxi drivers, we are all sorts of different things.”
LaNada Means in Drunk History, “National Parks” (2019)
What’s your favorite of Q’orianka Kilcher’s frock flick roles?
I loved Q’orianka’s performance in the Alienist and can’t wait to watch more of her in the other films. Her character did not speak but she was able to communicate in such an intense yet beautiful way. I was very impressed.
I am in complete sympathy with Kilcher’s comment on not being limited to stereotypical native American roles.
Loved her in the The New World! Looks like I have some catching up to do. :)
According to the internets, she is cousins with Jewel. I would not have expected that!
Loving Italowestern but hating that there even with the best intentions (representing the crimes against Native Americans such as in “Navajo Joe”) the representation of Navajo or most Nations was completely wrong, I’m so happy about Kilcher and how she acted in many of her films to portray American Natives in a sensible manner. I would be happy to see more about American culture before the arrival of the British for example and can see that great actors like her can help to give these cultures a better face. However I can understand that Kilcher doesn’t want to be reduced to Pocahontas (although I thought that she performed very well there and was one of the best aspects of the whole production) or similar roles.
Thank you for portraying Kilcher here.
Drunk History is always a pleasure.