HBO has named the Native American actress who will play Sacagawea in “Lewis and Clark,” the upcoming six-hour miniseries about the celebrated journey of the first two white men to travel west.
Tanaya Beatty, who is Da’naxda’xw First Nation from Canada, and who has starred in the Twilight series, was selected to play the Lemhi-Shoshone woman whose guidance was integral during Lewis’ and Clark’s expedition, Karen Jones of HBO media relations told ICTMN.
HBO also released the name of the series’ tribal liaison and advisor. Yvonne Russo, Sicangu Lakota, who is a producer, director and writer, will act as lead advisor on set when filming begins this summer.
Russo told ICTMN in an email that her objective will be to “guide and support the production by helping execute the director’s vision while making sure our Tribal Nations [sic] are depicted accurately and with purpose.”
In light of the recent controversy surrounding Adam Sandler’s and Netflix’s “Ridiculous Six” production, where a group of Native American actors and extras stormed off the set in protest of what they said was stereotypically offensive content in the script, Russo said she hired 13 Native American consultants “representing each tribe depicted in the miniseries” to avoid such blunders.
“To effectively characterize the scenes accurately, I’ve hired a dialect coach appointed from each tribe to translate the scenes in their own native language,” she wrote. “These consultants also have tremendous knowledge about the Lewis and Clark expedition in relation to their specific tribe.”
As soon as she was hired, Russo said she asked series director John Curran to travel to the Shoshone Nation, where today Sacagawea’s descendants reside. Curran, along with Russo, met with the tribal council in Idaho. Russo said Curran offered the council an opportunity to participate in the telling of Sacagawea’s story.
Before taking the job, Russo said she wanted to see the script at length to comb for culturally sensitive content.
“To be an advisor you have to have full transparency of the script,” she wrote. “Before I accepted this position I asked for every episode script so I knew what the scope of the project would include with full awareness of scenes that can become a sensitive subject for our community. I’ve addressed scenes with our producers and all points are taken positively and effectively.”
Jones told ICTMN that interviews with the actors, including Beatty, are currently not available, but may be in the coming months.