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LISTEN: Native actor moving away from Native stereotypes to better characters

Zahn McClarnon

“A big part of my journey is my sobriety in almost 20 years now, and I try to be an example through my sobriety.” —Zahn McClarnon

By Jeremy Harpe of CJWE 88.1 Calgary
Windspeaker.com Contributor

Zahn McClarnon, 51, (Fargo, Longmire, Westworld) is coming into his own.

While every role he’s done is different, he says, “I think in the last few years I’ve done some characters that I’ve really enjoyed doing. I did a series called Fargo and a character named Hansee Dent that I enjoyed very much. I did six seasons on the show Longmire which was like a tribal sheriff in a border town/reservation, back and forth from the town to reservation. I enjoyed working on the character a lot.”

McClarnon said he’s starting to get more patriarchal roles and love interest roles that he’s enjoying very much. It’s a change from the bad guys—the stereotypical Native stuff—he’s played in the past. People are opening up to different story lines, he said.

“The characters are getting better.”

Growing up in the 1970s, he was exposed to some of the greatest films of the last half century—Godfather, Deer Hunter—and Saturday nights were spent at the drive-ins with his dad being a big film-buff.

McClarnon never thought of pursuing acting as a career though until his early twenties, when he started to audition for theatre roles and local commercials in Nebraska.

But the arts were always front and centre in his life, from music to reading. “My dad was a big reader; always had us reading stuff.”

Asked if he considers himself a role model for youth, he says all he can do is to pursue his dreams.

“A big part of my journey is my sobriety in almost 20 years now, and I try to be an example through my sobriety.”

His advice to youth who want to pursue a career in film and television is to “jump in feet first” and move to the big markets—Los Angeles, New York or Vancouver. And Calgary that has become a going concern, he said.

And study.

“If that is what you are interested in doing, you have to put the work in.”

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