Honouring Those Who Came Before: An Interview With Wonder Woman’s Eugene Brave Rock

Photo: Jeff Lorch

Wonder Woman was one of the most talked-about films of 2017. Buzzing with simultaneous acclaim and controversy, the film excited movie-goers, sparked debates, defied convention, and provided a generation of young girls with their very own superhero. And the accolades continue: on Sunday, the cast of Wonder Woman took home the Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture.

We recently spoke with Canadian actor Eugene Brave Rock, who played the role of The Chief, about the the making of the film, stunt work, representation, and the future.

What was the audition process for Wonder Woman, and how did you land the role?

I went to an audition at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank with casting director Lora Kennedy. I landed this role while on vacation in California. I had been on a break from filming The Revenant. It was my first time in Los Angeles and my first audition in Hollywood! I found out two months later that I was being considered. I was then required to make a trip to London for a wardrobe fitting and to meet with director Patty Jenkins.

Before Wonder Woman you worked as a stunt man on The Revenant; did you pursue stunt work with dreams of one day becoming an actor?

In my life and in my career, I have taken every opportunity that has been presented to me. Each opportunity has been a stepping stone to a new level in my career. Auditioning and landing the role of Chief in Wonder Woman was an opportunity to move to the next level. I am thankful for every step i have taken on my journey and I will continue to make the best of every opportunity presented to me.

You grew up on the Kainai Nation reserve in Alberta. What did your journey to Hollywood entail? Who encouraged you and served as your inspiration along the way?

Kainai, or Blood Tribe, is where I was born and raised. I have had the opportunity to live all over the world. Alberta, Canada is one the most beautiful place on Earth. My journey to Hollywood has been a lifetime of living, learning, and opportunity — along with some trial and error. I feel each day is a blessing and to have gratitude is key in my success.

You filmed Wonder Woman in London under conditions of extreme secrecy. What measures were taken to ensure that details of the film weren’t leaked?

We were required to sign a disclosure form. We were not allowed to speak of the film during the process.

There are some stunning locations and fight scenes in Wonder Woman. What was the process of filming and working with your co-stars?

The process included being on location in London, England for a long period of time. Leavesden Studios is where the majority of filming took place. We also filmed in various locations around England, as well as in Italy. Working with the cast was amazing! Every day on set was a good day. We never seemed to have any tension. I can say I made some amazing lifelong friends.

Did you perform your own stunts in the film? What was the biggest challenge you encountered on set?

Being a stuntman, I try to always do my own stunts. On some occasions, due to insurance reasons, I was not allowed to perform my own stunts. Funny enough, the biggest challenge on set was when I needed to use the restroom and had to remove my wardrobe. It was a lot to deal with. [Laughs]

There are a couple of memorable moments (spoilers!) in the film that deal with Native Americans and the loss of land, as Gal Godot’s Wonder Woman learns about the history of America and British colonialism. Your character speaks Blackfoot and you’ve stated in the past that you were given a great deal of control in the film. How did you work with the production team in creating your character and getting his story right?

I worked with Patty Jenkins in developing the character. She had the utmost respect for native culture.

What sort of a response have you received from the film in your own community?

I feel like a hero in my community now…

What’s next for you?

What’s next for me? I am going to continue taking every opportunity that comes my way and making the best of it, aiming to honor those that have come before me and those that will come after me. In the spirit of NAPI, I want to educate and tell the best stories possible.

Photo: Jeff Lorch