Gordon Tootoosis - Leading the Way
By John Lagimodiere
with permission from
When you do an issue of a newspaper that is dedicated to the arts community, one would be foolish to overlook the contributions and input of one of Canada's most prolific actors, Gordon Tootoosis of Poundmaker First Nation. Eagle Feather News approached Mr. Tootoosis and he was more than happy to spend an hour with us and share his stories about the business and the trials and tribulations that come with it.
I had to start the interview by asking Gordon about North of 60, his role as Albert and about my hero, Tina Keeper.
Much to my surprise, Gordon informed me that he does not watch the show on a regular basis and since he was written out, he had no idea how the show would conclude. "The show was fun to do and Albert was a great character to play because you get to be such a rotten SOB. It was an honor to work with Tina, and yes, she is as beautiful in person as she is on the screen. The producers of the show made enough episodes so that it could be syndicated in re-runs. Unfortunately, the actors get no residual pay from re-runs like they do in the States. It has something to do with how the unions are set up."
Q: So do you prefer acting in American productions?
A: "Actually, yes. They are better equipped, they pay better and they receive broader distribution."
Q: Who were your role models in the industry?
A: "Marlon Brando, Charleton Heston and Chief Dan George. I worked with Heston on Alaska and I had the privilege of working with Chief Dan George in my first film ALIEN THUNDER. He played my father. It is now on video under the name DAN CANDY'S LAW after it was re-edited by Donald Sutherland."
Q: What's Donald Sutherland like?
A: "Very difficult. Him and Mickey Rooney I can do without."
Q: So what was your favorite movie to be in?
A: "Legends of the Fall was my favorite. Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins are classy guys and great to work with. They were very down to earth. It also helped working with my dear friend Tantoo Cardinal. My most difficult role would have to be Big Bear. It was tough playing such a well-known character. I didn't feel worthy because I have a lot of respect for him, but once I got into it, it was okay."
Q: I saw you at the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards and you didn't have a moment of peace. How do you deal with the crowds?
A: "It is very difficult. I have to spend time alone and prepare for it like I do for work. It needs a lot of energy and focus and I can't think about myself for that time. Some people are jerks. Two fellows came up to me in the airport in Montreal and spoke French to me. When I didn't respond they got ignorant. The saw North of 60 with French dubbed in so they assumed I was bilingual. Finally, a bilingual guy came and cleared up the situation, but people expect you to take time for them."
Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: "Most of my spare time is spent taking my grandchildren to school and their various functions and classes. My great love is horses. I am involved with team roping and penning. I used to wrestle calves, but no more. The other day, my grandchildren and I watched my mare give birth. The kids were fascinated. After the birth I started working with the colt. It is a process called imprinting, and we will do more when we get home tonight. I also love old black and white movies. My favorite movies are probably Ben Hur and The Godfather. I read a lot of scripts and if I am watching TV it is usually a talk show like Oprah or for a laugh, Jerry Springer. When I was younger, I ran cross-country and played lots of soccer which I love to watch on TV."
Q: Do you have any tips for young aspiring actors?
A: "Study the industry and the craft. Start with live theater and work your way up. People do not just get discovered anymore. Also, have a back up profession, jobs can be few and far between."
Q: How long do you want to act for?
A: "Forever. I have an agent in LA and one in Toronto working for me and it seems the older I get, the more work they send me. Unfortunately, it is the opposite for women actors. There is lots of discrimination out there."
Q: Tell me about your family.
A: "I married my wife, Irene Seseequasis in 1965. She has her Masters in Social Work and teaches at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology and will soon be a program director. We had three daughters and two adopted sons. Of the girls, Disa is in LA doing costume design, Alanna is in North Dakota and is a social worker with four kids Ryland, Nelson, Cidric (J.R.), and Mitchell. Our daughter Glynis died in October 1997 from cancer and we are currently raising her four children, Ferran, Coral, Tanner and Weeb (Ryder). Our two boys, Lee and Clint are out of the house now so it's like we are starting over again with a young family. My grandchildren are the light of my life."
Q: What's next for Gordon Tootoosis?
A: "I am filming a movie in Prince George and Vancouver called Reindeer Games and then in May I will be shooting a film in Saskatoon called Now and Forever."
Q: Do you ever take time off?
A: "I try not to."
Thanks for your time.
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