LUNA: SPIRIT OF THE WHALE D: Don McBrearty, with Adam Beach, Tantoo Cardinal, Graham Greene and Jason Priestley. Sunday (May 13), 7 pm, on CTV. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Adam Beach is like some sort of native Canadian Keanu Reeves.
The star of this Free Willy-like movie of the week is an actor whose performances in films like Smoke Signals, Windtalkers and Flags Of Our Fathers swing between intense, vacant and intensely vacant. His vocabulary is equal parts dudespeak and tribal mysticism. And he looks good in a tight white T-shirt, as demonstrated in a prominent Gap ad a few years back, when Beach was being positioned as Hollywood's next big thing.
The heat on Beach's career died down following Windtalkers' tepid reception, but it's since reignited thanks to Clint Eastwood's Flags Of Our Fathers, starring Beach as real-life war hero Ira Hayes.
"There was a huge spotlight on me for a while there, dude, but you can't get caught up in that whirlwind or it's like, whoa!
"Dude, when you're in a world where everybody wants to suck you dry, you can fall apart, and I know now why actors fall into alcohol or drugs you need that quick fix of what they've just taken from you," he says of the rush of instant celebrity.
Beach credits his Aboriginal heritage for providing much-needed balance.
"When I was 16 I was introduced to my spiritual life and traditions and values," he says. "In the last couple of years, all my dreams and aspirations have come true. So I've laid to rest my Adam Beach life. I have a spirit name that means Leading Bear Man, and I'm now on the path my name is supposed to take me on, the journey to help other people achieve their dreams and aspirations."
Beach is on the phone from the New Jersey set of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Producer Dick Wolf was so impressed with Beach's two-episode guest appearance this season that he's made his character, Detective Chester Lake, a series regular and signed Beach to a three-year contract.
"This is the best, dude," he says. "Every week you'll see my little mug."
While Beach has done plenty of TV guest shots on JAG, Third Watch, Everwood, The Dead Zone, Walker Texas Ranger and on and on this is his first as a series regular since North Of 60 almost 15 years ago.
"This is a whole different ball game," he says. "Everything's faster, and it's so hard to play catch-up since [SVU castmates] Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni have been doing this for so long. These are the big boys they don't mess around. They come to work so well prepared, you're like, "Whoa, I've got some homework to do. '"
Beach needed a lot less preparation to play Luna's Mike Maquinna, a strong-minded BC native who returns home following the death of his father, the tribe's chief, and is expected to take over the leadership. Oh yeah, there's also a killer whale in the harbour that may be the spirit of his dead dad. Tantoo Cardinal plays his grieving mother, Graham Greene his rival for tribal leader, and Jason Priestley twists his imaginary moustache as a government official who wants to capture and ship the whale to the U.S. And it's based on a true story.
"The story behind the chief's connection to the whale after his death made me feel it needed to be shared," says Beach. "This is the kind of film that APTN should be airing, but that's a whole other story. I'm glad that Canada as a whole accepts and tries to bring First Nations stories to the whole country."
Beach admits that even after 17 years in the business, he still gets a lot of offers for native characters. "I've established myself as one of the breeds, you know? I pass on a lot of them."
But he's reluctant to call playing native roles a burden.
"I would call it an emotional drain. You're trying to live up to the standards of being lifelike. Ira Hayes destroyed me emotionally, because I had never been so in-depth with loss and wanting to hide those emotions through alcohol. There were nights I couldn't sleep, and my wife would take care of me, let me cry on her shoulder. But that's what we have to offer the role, some sense of reality.
"But dude, I don't go to restaurants and start crying about the pain and anguish of these characters."
What to watch this week
Monday, May 14
Degrassi: The Next generation (Drama) About as far away from "a very special Blossom" as you can get, the conclusion of this two-part ep wraps up the sixth season by taking Alex from waitress to stripper so she and her mom can pay the rent. 9:30 pm on CTV