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Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

Dear Creator in the heavens above, what is it about Jason Momoa?

Is it the fact he seems as though he could care less about the film industry semantics and just instead delivers realistic and gritty portrayals that are completely believable?

Jason Momoa as Aquaman

Jason Momoa as Aquaman

I think so.

I am not saying he hasn’t studied Anton Chekhov or Stanislavski in theater arts in college (I did study all of that in theater arts in college, by the way). But what I am saying is that Momoa comes across like the guy who tossed the acting book everyone else had earmarked and highlighted — and he just threw his into the trash and got up to deliver a profoundly incredible acting job.

Native Nerd Review - Snyder's Cut

The world thought it knew what gritty was, until Momoa stepped up to the plate.

Admittedly, I feel super fortunate to have interviewed him as a journalist. He was driving in his car and told me he was sitting with Lisa Bonet as he took some time out of his day in 2014 to talk to me about his latest Sundance TV series, “The Red Road,” and his self-directed and produced indie film, “Road to Paloma.”

Robert Homer Mollohan, left, and Jason Momoa in 'Road to Paloma.' Image courtesy Anchorbay Entertainment.

Robert Homer Mollohan, left, and Jason Momoa in 'Road to Paloma.' Image courtesy Anchorbay Entertainment.

He hadn’t even gotten the gig as Aquaman yet, and still, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, this is awesome, I’m interviewing Jason Momoa, not bad for a skinny little Native kid who grew up on Compton boulevard in California.”

(Related: Living in the Dirt, Making Art: Jason Momoa Explains 'Road to Paloma')

And more wow, he was seriously cool, and talked to me like an old friend. I felt equal, at his level, and our conversation was a lot of fun. I appreciated him even more as a fellow Indigenous man, and to this day, I still do.

Momoa is an Indigenous man, his father is Native Hawaiian and he has stated in interviews his mother has Pawnee ancestry.

He has made good on several occasions in his efforts to put Native and Indigenous issues in the limelight in his films as well as his efforts to help water and land rights protectors. 

Jason Momoa of the film 'Justice League' holds up his sign supporting the opponents to the Dakota Access pipeline, which would run dangerously close to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Jason Momoa of the film 'Justice League' holds up his sign supporting the opponents to the Dakota Access pipeline, which would run dangerously close to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

He fought and still fights against development on Mauna Kea and has sent supplies to water protectors across the country.

Native Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa has led a social media campaign joined by celebrities including Nicole Scherzinger, who is also of Hawaiian descent. Source: Instagram

Native Hawaiian actor Jason Momoa has led a social media campaign joined by celebrities including Nicole Scherzinger, who is also of Hawaiian descent. Source: Instagram

His latest Indigenous film

Jason Momoa leads Native cast in ‘The Last Manhunt’

Jason Momoa in 'The Last Manhunt'

Momoa stars alongside Martin Sensmeier, Zahn McClarnon, Tantoo Cardinal and others to tell the story of the Chemehuevi tribe and the Willie Boy manhunt story.

As reported this week in DEADLINE’s article: WME Independent Launches Sales On Jason Momoa Western ‘The Last Manhunt’ About Legend Of Willie Boy; First Look Images — AFM

The film is set in 1909 “when a reputed murder spawns a tragedy reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, the film follows Willie Boy and his love Carlota who go on the run after he accidentally shoots her father in a confrontation gone terribly wrong. With President Taft coming to the area, the local sheriff leads two Native American trackers seeking justice for their “murdered” tribal leader.”

In the film, Sensmeier will portray Willie Boy, Mainei Kinimaka will play Carlota, McClarnon her father, Lily Gladstone her mother, and other cast members will include Raoul Trujillo, Brandon Oakes and Cardinal. Momoa will play Big Jim.

Here’s the beauty of this film, the producers (which include Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss, Michael Acierno, Momoa and Brian Andrew Mendoza) are recognizing that the original story was spun into a sensationalized “savage Indian murder.” Momoa and the other producers want to tell the real story.

In my opinion, this was largely Momoa’s doing.

When he heard of the story, Momoa called on Pa’a Sibbett to help work on a script to tell the true story. They worked with tribal leaders (some of whom were direct descendants of Willie Boy) and said if there were any reasons they didn’t like the story or script - they would stop filming and the movie would not be done. Elder Matt Leivas one of the last keepers of the Chemehuevi Salt Songs chanted the songs in the film and consulted on the language spoken in the film.

Momoa told DEADLINE, “I love Joshua Tree and the community out there. I remember hearing about Willie Boy, the Desert Runner, and was fascinated by the story surrounding him. What should be a universal story of a relationship gone bad, quickly became a muddy, complex story about the power of crooked media and how Native Americans are portrayed to the public. The true story of Willie Boy has never been told, and it’s a beautiful one. I developed the story with my team because I wanted to set the record straight, and set the spirits of this story free.”

Momoa’s two latest epic performances

Baba Voss in ‘See’ and Duncan Idaho in ‘Dune Part 1’

‘See’ finale 10 out of 10

See Season 2 series poster

I don’t know if all of you out there have seen Momoa as Baba Voss in AppleTV+’s ‘See’ starring Momoa as well as Dave Bautista and Alfre Woodard. I started watching a few months ago and agonized each week waiting for the next episode to become available.

If you haven’t seen it - I am telling you now, there will be a spoiler paragraph below. But I will tell you so that you can skip it if you need to. But let me tell you this, ‘See’ which is a series based on an apocalyptic world wherein the vast majority of people in the world are blind. There are literally a handful of sighted people who are considered witches.

Momoa plays the leader of the Alkenny tribe, or mountain-dwelling people. He has two sighted children he must protect from the witchfinders (blind soldiers who kill sighted ‘witches.’)

The build up in the series is the interactions between the Trevantian and the Payan people. The second season finale is one of the most epic things I have ever seen in a series finale. Momoa is at the center of it all.

Spoiler paragraph

The Trevantian and the Payan soldiers are in the midst of a cited war by the now dethroned Queen Kane, who has slept with Baba Voss’s son in hopes of bearing a sighted child. As Edo Voss, (Dave Bautista) arrives at the gate and begins to use a battering ram against the much smaller Payan army … Baba Voss pulls the most epic thing I have seen in a battle. Instead of waiting for the Trevantians to tear down the gate, he tells the Payan soldiers to open the gate to let them in! I sat with my mouth gaping open. Baba Voss helps fight the army with the Payans … then, Baba Voss seeks to find his brother Edo Voss. The last battle between two brothers ensues.

I literally cried because it was so good.

‘Dune part 1’ 10 out of 10

Jason Momoa in 'Dune'

The movie itself was sincerely incredible, but admittedly I can’t give the entirety of the credit to Momoa, though he was awesome.

The entire movie was phenomenal, even if maybe Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica Atreides cried every three seconds and when Momoa calls Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides ‘boy’ it didn’t really work for me, but literally, that is the only microscopic criticism I could think of for such an amazing film.

And because the last Dune was so awful, I thought for sure it wasn’t going to work, but I was completely mesmerized. It was beautifully done.

A father, a filmmaker, an iconic figure with blockbuster status roles

So, wow, yes, I interviewed Aquaman. I interviewed the man who ruled the Game of Thrones, and Conan. And yes Baywatch. Jason Momoa has done so much, it resonates with me in so many ways.

Jason Momoa as 'Conan the Barbarian' in the 2011 film adaptation of the Marvel Comics title.

Jason Momoa as 'Conan the Barbarian' in the 2011 film adaptation of the Marvel Comics title.

But I have to say the moment I truly grew to appreciate the man that he is.

I navigated to his filmmaking/production company website Pride of Gypsies (http://www.prideofgypsies.com/) and watched his beautiful short film titled “Canvas of my Life.”

Here is the short film description:

Long before Hollywood got ahold of Jason Momoa and turned him into a savage warlord and our latest superhero, he was just a kid who grew up the son of an artist from a family of builders and hunters from a small town in Iowa. Raised by a strong single mother, he craved everything his mom opened his eyes to, from art to music to rock climbing and skateboarding. All of this left a deep sense of adventure in his blood.

This is the story of a man hell-bent on remaining that kid - no matter how big he gets or where the world takes him. Because family, “My Ohana” as Jason likes to say, is all that matters to him.

It is a beautiful short film about his family, the love for them, the specialness of his children and who he is as a man. As the tears rolled down my face, I was reminded of just why there is such collective Indigenous love for Jason Momoa.

jason-momoa-native-nerd2277x1920

Thanks / Nia:wen for all you do for Indigenous people and the world Jason.

Native Nerd Phone

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P.S. As I was publishing this article, I learned Momoa was diagnosed with COVID-19, the actor says he is doing alright. Blessings and prayers for your safety and recovery.

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