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Young actor wants to be bigger than Adam Beach

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Christian Baste seems like a typical 13-year-old, on the verge of turning 14 in April. When he smiles his braces catch the light. He doesn’t say much in front of strangers; until you put him in front of a camera.

“To get him to speak, you have to say ‘action,’” said Christian’s father Norman Baste. “Then you can’t get him to shut up.”

Christian’s acting resume is impressive and a result of the bustling film scene in New Mexico. He had his first small speaking role in the 2005 TNT miniseries “Into the West.” He was in the 2008 feature film “The Eye,” as well as the ABC Family series “Wildfire.” All three were filmed in and around Albuquerque.

Born and raised in Albuquerque, Christian’s been acting since he was 8 and began modeling before that. His mother, Samantha Pourier, got him started in a print public service announcement for the Albuquerque Indian Health Dental Clinic where she works. She’s the one who checks casting Web sites and shows audition notices to her son, who then decides if he wants to show the casting agent and director what he’s got.

With many children and young adults competing for television and movie roles, Christian’s experience and professionalism often makes the difference. He’s taken classes and workshops, and his familiarity with how a shoot operates has given him confidence. His past film and television credits have earned him a Screen Actors Guild membership which, he said, also opens doors.

Christian, Lakota Sioux on his mother’s side and Navajo on his father’s, is discovering that much of being chosen for a role is who you know. Kathryn Brink, a casting director with whom Christian has taken classes, cast the upcoming feature film, “Jordan.” Christian plays Eli Lujan, the son of a sheriff who discovers the title character, a 5-year-old girl, searching for help for her injured mother following a car crash on a remote mountain highway.

“That was a fun experience, to work with all the other actors. During part of the shoot it was the beginning of the school year, so I had to do homework during part of the filming,” he said. “The worst part about being on set is getting there and getting ready. There’s no time for costumes and make up. Everyone’s running around all day on different scenes. It gets tiring.”

A typical day on set might include free food and lots of entertainment, though. “On ‘Into the West’ the three of us who played brothers got our own trailer with the names of the characters on it. That was fun because it was very cold during filming.”

Another exciting part of that particular shoot was the chance to meet well-known American Indian actors like Russell Means, Irene Bedard, Eddie Spears and Michael Spears. Christian also counts working with director Chris Eyre on a drunk driving awareness commercial a few years ago as a hixgh point.

On the top of Christian’s list when it comes to acting professionally is the chance to be on television. But the eighth-grader said he doesn’t want his friends to know that he’s been in movies because he doesn’t want them to make a big deal about it. In that regard, he’s a typical teen, too, more concerned about playing basketball and football or going to the mall with his friends than the potential for fame and fortune.

“I want to be more than what Adam Beach is,” Christian said, referring to the variety of roles the Ojibwa actor from Canada has played. “I want to do non-Native roles like he does.”

For now, Christian’s priority is saving his money to pay for college, though he admits he’s splurged on some age-appropriate items. “I got some sports jerseys, a PS3 and some Nikes – I really like Air Jordan’s,” he says, showing off his black and yellow shoes. He and his dad also bought a 1973 Volkswagen bug that they are fixing up in their spare time.

It’s not cruising around the neighborhood in the car that appeals to Christian, though. He wants to paint it pink and donate it as a charity auction item for breast cancer research. “I saw some information about a breast cancer drive, and I want to do something for that cause.”

Maybe he’s not your typical teenager, after all.