Taylor Sheridan might have populated 1923 with mega-stars however it wasn’t simply Harrison Ford or Helen Mirren who blew away viewers with a stirring efficiency. For the primary time on TV, Sheridan depicted the darkish legacy of Catholic boarding faculties and the way they dehumanized younger indigenous girls — one in all whom is performed by the brave Aminah Nieves. Whereas the Duttons had been busy saving the ranch in a single a part of Montana, Nieves’ Teonna Rainwater was being held prisoner by savage, paddle-swinging nuns in one other. Right here, the Indiana-born newcomer remembers how arduous it was to determine whether or not to just accept such a life-changing position.
DEADLINE: How did you first land the a part of Teonna?
AMINAH NIEVES: I used to be not conscious of the Taylor Sheridan universe earlier than. It occurs the way in which it at all times occurs, you get it via your staff. I learn it and was emailing my supervisor like, “I don’t know man. I don’t know if I ought to do that. It’s simply heavy and triggering.” My supervisor was so supportive and stated, “you realize what? I assist something you achieve this no matter determination you make is an effective one.” My mother is my reader for every part. We talked about it loads. I did the audition the day it was due as a result of I waited so lengthy. I used to be scared. My mother was like, “Aminah, it’s important to do that, not only for you, it’s for us. It’s for our communities and for all indigenous peoples internationally.”
DEADLINE: Was this your very first job in Hollywood?
NIEVES: I background acted for 4 or 5 years. I used to be working 4 jobs without delay in New York, attempting to make lease. I’m additionally an herbalist, so I used to be working at my natural store and doing my very own observe exterior of that. I used to be additionally a doula and labored in a clothes retailer. However I give up all of these without delay as a result of I spotted I wasn’t fulfilled. The explanation why I began background appearing was not simply due to the cash, however as a result of I needed to know the way it all labored. After I saved up cash, I give up and moved to my mother and father’ home. I had $21 to my title once I booked 1923.
DEADLINE: Do you bear in mind whenever you first needed to behave?
NIEVES: It’s form of fascinating as a result of from the second I may even dream or want up on a star, I needed to be on stage. I knew I needed to carry out. I did music. I believed I used to be going to be this touring symphonic musician. After which I used to be like, psych! I’m going to really go to New York and go to high school for appearing.
DEADLINE: Was your rep encouraging concerning the alternatives for indigenous actors?
NIEVES: We talked loads about my expectations and my sturdy skill to say no, as a result of I’m not going to do one thing that feels icky or doesn’t really feel good in my physique. He was trustworthy that there isn’t loads on the market, however he was going to attempt to get me into each room potential. He solely submitted me for leads. I used to be solely with him for eight months earlier than I booked 1923.
DEADLINE: Do you bear in mind your first day on set? Did it’s important to get proper into the heavy stuff?
NIEVES: I needed to go straight into it. The primary scene we did was the primary scene that you just see Teonna with Sister Mary [Jennifer Ehle}. The moment I put on the uniform, I looked at myself and couldn’t stop crying. I had to step away, go outside and just walk. It was heavy.
DEADLINE: Your character takes a lot of beatings. I imagine there was a lot of preparation involved.
NIEVES: Yeah, there was prep. Right before we shot the scene, we’d have a little conversation about it. But everything that you see, the leather mallets, the rulers and stuff, they had a furry coating. I was hit quite a bit and still got bruised up. But for the most part it was all pretty painless, unless I overextended myself, which I usually do because I like to do most of my stunts. Jennifer is just an incredible talent. I bow to her. She was so tender and kind, moving through everything that we did. We talked a little bit before each scene, but typically they would just give us the stunt choreography in like 10 minutes. Then we’d be, “alright, let’s shoot it.” You kind of have to separate yourself a little bit from what’s happening because it’s a lot of physical and spiritual energy. We always made sure to be with one another.
DEADLINE: You end up exacting revenge on the very nuns who beat you.
NIEVES: That was the hardest scene for Jennifer and I to do together. For Teonna, it wasn’t joyous for her. It was the hardest thing she’s ever had to do because she sees Sister Mary as an abuser. But it’s just like what she told her — “I am the land, no one who is the land is killing you.” In that moment she’s sitting there with her thinking, I wish she could have understood that we are way similar more than Sister Mary thought. We share the same soil. We walk the same.
DEADLINE: When you got back home after shooting each day, what would you do to get out of the dark mood?
NIEVES: I would first take a shower. Water is so healing and I would just kind of sit there, close my eyes and sing a little bit. Then I would stuff my face with goat cheese and crackers and an avocado and be like, “alright girl, burn your medicine, take a breath, go to sleep.”
DEADLINE: How much did you interact with Taylor Sheridan?
NIEVES: Taylor would call me sometimes and say, “don’t stop, keep going.” I’d be like, “OK, you’ll tell me if it’s not good though, right? That’s the last thing I want, but this is hard, so just be honest with me.” And he was like, “I’m never gonna have to tell that to you.”
DEADLINE: At the end of the season, how would you describe where Teonna was emotionally?
NIEVES: I think there’s a little childhood glow, showing her dad how worthy she is and how strong and capable she is. I want to focus on her joy right now. Episode eight was the first [gentle] human contact that Teonna had. Let’s see what Season 2 brings. I’m very excited however scared.
DEADLINE: Do you might have any trace the place issues will decide up within the new season? Have you ever been informed something?
NIEVES: No, and I’m on the fringe of my seat. I’ve no clue.
DEADLINE: So now that the primary season is over, what sort of suggestions have you ever obtained, particularly from Indigenous group?
NIEVES: From what my household says and from what different solid members and their households are saying, it’s actually nice suggestions. Individuals have informed me that it’s given them the chance to be extra open with what is occurring [within the community]. I feel that’s the entire purpose why we do that artwork, to share trustworthy and actual tales that spark curiosity and assist individuals really feel protected. Having a second to see your self and to really feel energy to speak about sure issues is tremendous necessary. That’s all I want for — sharing these tales that make individuals wish to do a Google search to see what actually occurred.