Gil Birmingham Compares ‘Yellowstone’ To A Western Classic
Veteran actor Gil Birmingham recently opened up about the portrayal of Native Americans in Yellowstone, comparing it to a 90’s film classic. The character actor has been playing solid supporting parts in projects for decades. Some of his more high-profile acting roles were in the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the Twilight films.
However, Birmingham has also collaborated with Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan in Neo westerns Wind River and Hell or High Water. Currently, Birmingham appears on Sheridan’s show Yellowstone as Thomas Rainwater – the chief of the Broken Rock Indian Reservation. Throughout the show, the Dutton family has had to contend with many adversaries. Nevertheless, none may be as formidable as Rainwater.
With a lot of experience in the industry, Birmingham has witnessed various attempts to portray Native Americans on television. He has made it known that his work in Yellowstone is unique compared to other projects he’s taken on and openly spoke about how Indigenous people are presented throughout the show.
Hollywood has, regrettably, not always been known for its respectful and accurate depiction of Native Americans. Thankfully though, progress is being made toward remedying this issue. Gil Birmingham is thrilled to be part of the new wave with Yellowstone, as it offers a refreshing take that honors Indigenous peoples in comparison to perhaps outdated depictions from earlier Hollywood films.
Gil Birmingham a 1990 Kevin Costner film was a respectful portrayal of Native Americans
“I’m just so excited that we’ve gotten to a place that we haven’t been in since like, Dances with Wolves,” Birmingham told Playlist. “A respectful portrayal of the Native American community and, more importantly, that it’s contemporary.”
The actor goes on to point out that many people believe that Native Americans aren’t still around. “You’d be shocked to know that the majority of people think that Native Americans don’t exist,” Birmingham explained. “So to be able to tell their own stories as the writers and the producers and directors. It gives it a level of inherent experience that no other writer or artist could bring to it and people are really coming to appreciate and be exposed to a real authentic portrayal of the Native community.”
It’s disheartening to hear Birmingham say there hasn’t been a respectful portrayal of native Americans since Dances with Wolves. That film (directed and starring Yellowstone‘s Kevin Costner) was released back in 1990. Still, Sheridan’s vision to revolutionize Hollywood for the betterment of indigenous representation is actively working. According to Birmingham, Yellowstone has been a success in this mission.
In the interview, Birmingham also revealed he had a show in development that was shelved right before Yellowstone. “I had worked with Sterlin Harjo, who’s one of the producers of Reservation Dogs,” Birmingham explained. “This was right before Yellowstone. We did a DC graphic novel book called, ‘Scalped.’ And it was all indigenous cast, so we thought we were going to be groundbreaking.” However, a studio shake-up derailed their plans. “The networks made some purchases of each other and they dropped all their dramas. I guess the industry wasn’t ready for it just yet – but they sure are now!”