Emotionally, I brought attention to the chaos, despair, trials and tribulations of soldiers. You want to be able to fall into the life you’re portraying in the storytelling, and some are deeper than others. Right now I’m doing a TV show we are calling Combat Hospital (13 episodes beginning in June on ABC).
What do you consider your greatest performance to date?
I’d say Flags of Our Fathers (the story of the men who raised the U. flag on the island of Iwo Jima in World War II, including Pima Indian Ira Hayes, and the subsequent fame that followed them). You take on something as dramatic as Ira Hayes, after work you still think about it and cry yourself to sleep.
I joined a volunteer theater group (Manitoba Theatre for Young People), whose purpose was to take underprivileged kids needing attention and to teach them acting. That led, in 1990, to a role in the film Lost in the Barrens (based on the Farley Mowat novel). I never had high hopes because I didn’t want to disap- point myself. I had motivation for it, like I had motivation for hockey as a kid. It’s hard to find good projects that cater to Native actors or characters, and even harder to find parts outside of standard roles, and I’ve been able to pick up a few of those as well.
I’ve had enough experience now that I’m the go-to guy when it comes to a big Native project.
We recently were able to snatch a few hours from his busy schedule while he was in Albuquerque to speak to a student group and help with a fundraiser. I don’t remember too much of it because the bad side of it overcame all of the good. I didn’t grow up within the traditional ceremonial life of my tribe.Traveling with his two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Phoenix and his buddy and fellow actor Brandon Oakes, Beach plopped down in a chair for a few smokes to chat as we looked out over the city toward the Sandia Mountains. I knew something about it, but I started really learning when I was 16, when I made friends with some folks who were teaching kids about another side of being Indian that wasn’t linked to living in impoverished neighborhoods, being part of a gang, and the other negatives of city life. The process began when I was 14, at Gordon Bell High School.