Forrest Goodluck is one of my favourite up-and-coming actors, best known for his turn as Leonardo DiCaprio’s doomed young son Hawk in The Revenant. He’s a member of the Dine, Mandan, and Hidatsa and Tsimshian tribes living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is just twenty and has spent half his life acting and studying, amassing twelve credits including TIFF 2017 fave, the residential schools drama Indian Horse, and TV’s Designated Survivor. Goodluck stars with Chloë Grace Moretz and Sasha Lane in The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Desiree Akhavan’s troubling look at teens forced into sexual reorientation camp in the American Midwest. Goodluck’s compassionate, intelligent performance helps bring the story to vivid life. We spoke with him from his home in Albuquerque.
You’ve made four films this year! That’s a lot.
It’s been good and I am very fortunate to be able to do the kinds of roles I’ve done.
Did you shoot in Canada?
Yes, I was recently in Montreal shooting Blood Quantum with Jeff Barnaby. We finished in October. It’s definitely one of the most interesting places. We also shot in Ristigouche, near Campbellton, New Brunswick. It was amazing, everyone speaks French. I’d never been to those parts; it’s so beautiful and so different. Canada’s crazy, just 30 million people so spread out and the landscape just imprints on my mind.
What happens in Miseducation is appalling; teens are sent to sexual reorientation camps under staff with a religious agenda. Did you know there were places like this?
I was aware of it, being in Indian Horse (about residential schools) and what happened to indigenous people across the world. It didn’t surprise me, but it wasn’t in my mind until this film. I am still meeting with people who struggle with this treatment. It’s really harmful and it’s still around, Mike Pence supports and believes in it and pushes to expand programmes like that. It’s very real and still happening. The film’s set in the 90’s but it’s very current.
You play Adam Red Eagle who never get down, on the outside at least. What was going on inside him?
I think it was a delicate balance with the director. I tend to go dark with things fast and joked about it. But the director had co-written the film and I was trusting in those words, it was really important. And it was super cool playing an Indian character who first and foremost was sarcastic and dry. It was necessary for him. Indian people make it through horrible things with humour. The dynamics between me and Chloe and Sasha was important. Our characters were inseparable character and so were we on the set. We felt uncomfortable without one another. We were the two brown kids in this crazy white commune, so we smoked weed and found comfort as friends. It was nice.
You played Adam with a clear idea of who he was. It’s an amazing performance, really consistent and full. How did you find him?
I was diving into a lot of the deep backstory and the whole though process behind the character and taking that research and being able to pepper in those funny and real moments, when I read it. It was immediately funny and was even funnier in the film. Not in the reading when you’re trying to connect with the other kids but in the reality of connecting.
Do you think about a character afterwards? Do you wonder what became of Adam?
In the film we talked about it. It’s the sad reality origins story for homeless teenagers. I heard someone say that 80 percent of homeless teens of teens are gay. It was a sad motivation. The kids are at least free in a certain sense, with no plan but happier. But there’s nothing on the horizon and that’s the sad reality. They have nowhere to go. I didn’t have too much time to think about it because I had to go straight to the set of Indian Horse. The good thing is that starting from the place where I’m playing a camp victim to someone in a residential school so there were certain things to draw on. It was difficult thinking about it all afterwards.
You made a big sacrifice for the film, shaving that wonderful head of hair!
I knew it was going to happen. It was one of the things we talked about because both productions wanted me to shave my head, so they split the cost of a wig. It was crazy, My agent told me this never happens in the indie film world!
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