In June 2017, the Hollywood film industry got the news that Lakota actress Blu Hunt was cast as Danielle Moonstar, a Cheyenne mutant in the latest incarnation of the Marvel Entertainment X-Men franchise through 20th Century Studios’ “The New Mutants.
In her official bio, Hunt is a Native American, Lakota, actress who has expressed interest and acting and filmmaking from an early age. She attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles worked on and directed many theatrical productions and after graduating from the Academy, landed the role of Inadu on CW’s “The Originals.” She later landed the role of Danielle Moonstar in “The New Mutants.”
The past three years have been a series of ups and downs for the actress as well as the movie, as the film faced several delays in its release, then COVID hit, delaying it further.
But now the movie is slated for release this week in theaters, and the actress sat down with Indian Country Today to talk about her role in the film, how she feels getting cast in the largest Native role in the Marvel Universe to date, and how it was working with and getting advice from Adam Beach.
As she says that in the midst of dealing with an extensive amount of anxiety about the role, that “Nobody ever tells you what to do when your dream comes true.”
In the interview with Hunt, she quickly revealed a personal reality, she struggles with anxiety. Soon after getting her role in 2017, she backed away from social media.
“I actually deleted my Twitter. I post things on Instagram, but I'm not super active. You should know I have lived with the worst anxiety. I am constantly nervous. I feel like everything that I'm going to say when I post a story or something on my Instagram, I text about six of my friends, or I ask my mom, ‘Do you think this sounds okay?’” revealed Hunt.
But Hunt says she learned the extent of her anxiety when she got the part of Danielle Moonstar. “You know, it's actually something I really didn't know I had until I showed up to do “The New Mutants. I didn't know what mental health was. I didn't grow up with that language and I didn't really know therapy was something that you could just do. And I realized looking back at my life, ‘Wow, I've had debilitating anxiety since I was a kid.”
Hunt recognizes the similarities between the struggles of her character and her own personal struggles.
“The whole movie is really about mental health and addressing trauma, how complicated that is and what it takes to face it. It’s not necessarily (about how) to overcome it because I don't necessarily think it's something you just overcome and walk away from. It's more something you have to have a conversation with and almost create a relationship with it that you can live with. I think that's what the movie is really about at the core,” says Hunt.
'I never thought it was going to happen for me'
When Hunt moved to LA to be an actor, she admits she never “actually thought it was going to happen for me.” She isn’t afraid to work hard, but didn’t want to live in a veritable bubble that was disconnected from possible realities or outcomes.
“I've always been extremely realistic, like overly realistic, and very cynical. I had three jobs. I was working at two coffee shops and Urban Outfitters, and I had to ride my bike to work at like four in the morning through LA and ride my bike home at night. That was what was going on in my life. And then I got this audition and I didn't know what it was at first. And then once I realized what it was, I really didn't think I was going to get it. And then I got it.”
“The audition process was really longer than anyone could imagine. Like I auditioned once and then I knew the studio didn't want me, but I knew I was number one. But then the auditions got put on hold for like a couple of months.”
Should I take the role?
Hunt remembers spending a lot of time weighing whether or not she would even take the role if she was offered it. She struggled with the complexities many urban Natives face. She hadn’t been to Pine Ridge, sure she had connections over the phone and with her grandmother, but was it enough?
“I spoke to a lot of people because I am mixed race. I didn't live on a reservation growing up. I lived in the suburbs of California, which had its own struggles. I live in an extremely conservative neighborhood with Trump flags everywhere.”
“I spoke to a lot of people and I talked about ‘is this the right thing to do?’ They want me to play this role? Danielle Moonstar is Cheyenne and she lives on a reservation. (I spoke to) enough who were like, ‘Do you think you're going to do the right thing with the role? And what do you do after you're done making that movie? Are you ready to take that on? Do you feel like you're doing it for the right reasons in your heart?”
Hunt says she did. “And I really did feel that way. And it's honestly been incredible because I've been able to reconnect like completely with the Lakota Nation. I've spent a lot of time there now. I didn't grow up getting to do ceremonies, and now I have been able to.
Getting the part: ‘I was so stunned actually, that I didn't cry’
After a long audition process, and a long time of uncertainty where she stood in the process, Hunt eventually got the news. She would be playing the central role of the upcoming multi-million dollar Marvel movie, “The New Mutants.”
She admits to a funny and personal story about her response to the news:
“Honestly I was stunned. I was so stunned actually, that I didn't cry. There's a picture of me that my boyfriend at the time took. It’s a Polaroid of me after he had gone out to a grocery store to get us two bottles of champagne. He put them in my hands. I remember getting so hot and my skin was so hot that I didn't know what to do. I took my shirt off, I'm just wearing a bra and I'm just sitting there and he hands me the bottles and tells me to smile. And I'm just like, [during the Zoom interview, Hunt looks down with a comical blank stare.]
“I didn't know how to immediately [react] and that's what I'm talking about with the anxiety that I didn't know that I even had. I knew I was moody and I knew things could cause me to overload. But the second I got that phone call, my heart, I just froze,” said Hunt.
“I've learned now about fight or flight and I definitely, I'm a freeze, not a fight or flight. I pretty much froze. Of course, I was happy, but I felt like I was in a montage where everyone is moving really fast around while you're sitting there.”
“I didn't think that I deserved it. I didn't think it was an accomplishment that I had deserved or had gotten on my own. It was suddenly out of nowhere.”
Hunt said her mind started spinning. Marvel movies are the biggest moneymakers in the film industry and millions of fans worldwide follow the stories. Hunt knew the role would incite some life changes. Though she didn’t know it yet, the film had also cast some heavy hitters like Anya Taylor-Joy from “The Witch," "Emma” and a plethora of other films, and Maisie Williams from “Game of Thrones.”
“Yeah. It was just really like, ‘Whoa, I can't believe I'm quitting my job and I'm taking my apron off and I'm going to go be the lead of an X-Men movie.’ It doesn't usually just happen like that.”
Hunt had to prepare to contend with things she never had dealt with before. For the first time in her life, she had to leave home.
“It's really the farthest I've ever been away from home. I had to move to Boston for four months and live in a hotel and it was just overwhelming. I mean there were definitely moments of just like complete excitement, you know, but it was crazy.”
Hunt realized with all of the responsibility and anxiety, came another reality, and she had achieved a dream of almost every kid everywhere ... to be in a superhero movie and have superpowers.
Nobody ever tells you what to do when your dream comes true. It's like, ‘What do you do? What do I do now?’
What do you do when your dreams come true?
After filming the movie. And she had the perspective of having worked on the highest levels of the film industry, Hunt says she didn’t really know what to do right off the bat. She still admits she had to venture on a personal journey of sorts.
“I don't know if I necessarily did all the right things after my dream came true. I was frozen, but I wanted to run away and back away from the challenge. But when the movie got pushed, it actually was kind of a blessing in disguise for me, because then I got basically three years to grow up to reconnect. At that point, I still hadn't been to Pine Ridge. I still hadn't actually gone to South Dakota, even though I had connections and over the phone relationships with people there and of course with my grandmother. I hadn't actually really gotten to experience it myself. And in the past three years, I've been three or four times and I just feel like I got to grow up,” she says.
“I got to create new coping mechanisms. I got to find a language that I didn't have my whole life of ‘this is what I'm feeling right now and this is why I feel that.’ I was able to look at Dani differently. When I was making the movie, I didn't want to see how much alike I was to Dani. I was like I'm playing this character and the character is exactly me. She's going through what I'm going through. And I didn't want to face it, just like how Dani doesn't want to face it in the movie. And I finally feel that who Dani Moonstar becomes at the end of “New Mutants” is who I finally feel like I am now. I feel like I've finally faced my demon bear in a way.”
“I now know what to do after my dreams have come true. And that's that to accept that your dreams never really come true. You just get new dreams. And it never ends and you have to evolve and grow constantly and just keep working really hard.”
Having Adam Beach as a movie dad
For Hunt, the movie was an amazing experience, even if she was sometimes struggling with doubt or anxiety. But one special memory included working with Adam Beach, who portrayed Danielle Moonstar’s father in the film.
“Someone else played my dad first and then they recast Adam Beach. I found out I got to do it with Adam Beach while we were filming and that was really cool. He was so kind to me and so welcoming to me and gave me so much advice. And even when I was there, I was talking to him, [and asking] ‘Do you think I'm good enough to play Dani? Am I Native enough to play Dani? Do you think people are gonna like me? Because I'm scared. I'm nervous for when this movie comes out.’ He was just constantly like, ‘You're here and you're doing it.’’
“We got along really well. And he gave me advice that I didn't know I was going to realize so much. I was on a high when I was making this movie. He was like, ‘It's not gonna get easier just because you've done this.’”
Hunt realized Adam Beach was right.
“I came home from filming it and it didn't get easier, you know? Um, it still was like the same hardships getting cast in roles. Especially when you're really mixed and everyone else has an opinion on my skin complexion and on whether or not I look too white or whether or not I don't like white at all. It's a really strange thing when you're going through casting processes. I can't play a million different actresses' daughters. People think I'm way too ethnic, but then sometimes I'm not ethnic enough.”
Despite all of her struggles, Hunt knows with hard work and determination, anything is possible.
“Especially to Native kids, you can do it and it's hard. It's hard to get there, but it is so rewarding. You really can do it and you can't let anyone tell you, you can’t. I really hope that you like the movie and I hope that Dani Moonstar is a good representation of what it is like to be a modern Indigenous person and a young Indigenous person today, because she's not archaic. She's very now. And I just hope you like it.”
The New Mutants is releasing to all US theaters Friday, August 28. There have not as yet been any announced dates for video on demand.
About “The New Mutants”
Twentieth Century Studios in association with Marvel Entertainment presents “The New Mutants,” an original horror thriller directed by Josh Boone and written by Boone and Knate Lee. The film stars Emmy® nominee Maisie Williams, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlie Heaton, Alice Braga, Henry Zaga and Blu Hunt. The producers are Simon Kinberg, p.g.a., Karen Rosenfelt and Lauren Shuler Donner with Stan Lee and Michele Imperato Stabile serving as executive producers.
Rahne Sinclair (Williams), Illyana Rasputin (Taylor-Joy), Sam Guthrie (Heaton) and Roberto da Costa (Zaga) are four young mutants being held in an isolated hospital for psychiatric monitoring. Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Braga), believing the teenagers are a danger both to themselves and to society as a whole, keeps a close eye on them as she struggles to teach them how to rein in their mutant abilities. When newcomer Danielle “Dani” Moonstar (Hunt) joins the other patients in the facility, strange occurrences begin to take place. The hospital’s patients are plagued by hallucinations and flashbacks, and their new mutant abilities—and their friendships—will be tested as they battle to try to make it out alive.
Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, is associate editor of Indian Country Today who enjoys creating media, technology, computers, comics and movies. He is a film critic and writes the #NativeNerd column. Twitter @VinceSchilling firstname.lastname@example.org he is also the opinions’ editor, email@example.com.
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