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Sam Badger on Raising Awareness

Darren Deschambeault

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER 2001      v31 n01 p09  
Russel (Sam) Badger believes in the importance of cross-cultural education. His goal is to dispel the myths that mainstream society continues to hold about Aboriginal people. "Many people have preconceived notions about Indian people out there because of what they see or hear. I think it's important that we have to educate people on what we are all about," he explains.

Badger is an actor whose most recent work is Shanghai Noon, a western comedy that takes place in the 1800s. The film stars action hero Jackie Chan, Ally McBeal star Lucy Liu and Simon Baker, who has appeared on North of 60 and in other productions. The whole production includes about 500 people with all the Aboriginal roles being played by Aboriginal people.

Despite this attention to authenticity, Badger says that the movie raises a lot of cultural biases, for example, the pipe, dance, powwows and language. He believes that most Aboriginal people will recognize the humour intended in the comedic feature but expects that the production will offend some. The plus side of this, he says, is that "maybe if I can get a few of my people ticked off, they will do something about the issues".

Badger considers this film to be an opportunity for cross-cultural education. "Sometimes it feels like I'm trying this cross-cultural awareness by myself," he says. "I think there should be more people trying to educate more people about cultural issues. There are a lot of our own Native people out there that do not know their own culture."

This accomplished actor began his career in 1987 on a show called jenny. The local production was shot in Lac La Ronge and aired on Super-channel. He calls his involvement in the film a "fluke". His name was mentioned to the casting crew and they approached him to see if he was interested.

After several weeks, he received the part. He believes that he got the role

Jackie Chan star of the movie
lead actress Lucy Lui poses for photo with Badger
On the set:
Top: Jackie Chan star of the movie “Shanghai Noon” plays around with Saskatchewan’s own - Sam Badger.
Bottom: lead actress Lucy Lui poses for photo with Badger.

largely because he "looked the part" with his Aboriginal features and long braids. Badger says that the acting coaches taught him what was expected from him. He found his first experience as an actor to be exciting and interesting.

Badger's next job was a commercial, which featured Maxwell Smart. He recalls seizing the opportunity to challenge some stereotypes, saying, "I talked to him about who Native people are in my culture."

Cross-cultural awareness is beginning to pay off, Badger believes, judging from the increase in the number of roles offered to Aboriginal people. Last year, he, along with 34 other First Nation people, went to Italy where they worked as movie extras for four days.

Jan Cash owns a talent agency called Iron Star Agency under Falcon's Dream in Prince Albert. She does many programs throughout the year and some of her clients have received parts in commercials and movies. She agrees with Badger's assessment saying, "Aboriginal People's Television Network will be looking for programs in the near future, so there is potential for a lot of work. There is a need for Aboriginal actors out there."

If young people are interested in acting she advises them to contact an agent. "The agent does all the work for you," she says. Cash also encourages young people to get experience wherever they can. "I think theatre is a good thing for young people if they are interested in acting," she says.

As for Sam Badger, he was "pretty thrilled" to meet Jackie Chan and is looking forward to the premiere of Shanghai Noon in Los Angeles. He hopes that if enough Aboriginal people are not happy with the movie they will go out and do cross-cultural awareness education of their own.

When he's not acting, Sam Badger counsels at Youth Futures and penal institutions in Prince Albert. He has a Bachelor of Education degree and has taught for eight years.