“Prey” may be an entry in the “Predator” saga, but it stands on its own by taking on-screen representation to the next level. In his first-ever acting role, actor Dakota Beavers looks at the film as a step in the right direction for an industry that has been historically fraught with problems regarding the representation of Native American identities.
“Being Native is a part of who I am,” Beavers said. “Being able to represent Native people as accurately as you can with [producer] Jhane Myers — who is a Comanche woman herself — as the producer on this project, just meant the absolute world to me. So many times in the past, people are misrepresented or inaccurately depicted. You know, sometimes not on purpose, but just because there’s not a whole lot of Natives on the top of the film industry. So hopefully after this, that will change.”
“Prey” follows the story of a young Comanche woman, Naru, played by Amber Midthunder. The deadly warrior sets out to protect her people after the Predator invades her land and begins hunting down everything and everyone in sight. Beavers stars alongside Midthunder as Taabe, Naru’s strong and kind brother.
Even as a newcomer, Beavers took the time and care to think about what went into his role. The actor is a self-labeled “Southwestern hybrid”; his mother’s side has roots in the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo and Apache nations, while his father is mostly white with “some Hispanic.” In order to give his all to the role, Beavers looked inward.
“I tried to look deep within myself and just try to make it as genuine as I could possibly make it,” the star explained. “Because, you know, every one of us as a person is kind of a result of their parents. And their parents. And their parents. I just tried to look within myself and ask myself, ‘What do I want to put into this? What do I feel in my heart that I want to translate?’ And for me, that was just trying to be someone who is strong and tough, but also a kind and caring person.”
The film, directed by Dan Trachtenberg of “10 Cloverfield Lane,” aims to offer as accurate a portrayal as possible of the Comanche people. With Native Americans both in front of and behind the camera, “Prey” focuses on depicting the Native experience with respect and dignity.
One digression viewers will notice from true authenticity, though, is the language; the Comanche characters in “Prey” all speak English. Beavers explained that, in the early stages of production, there were talks of doing the entire film in the native Comanche language. In Beavers’ view, that idea was scrapped for “mass appeal and also for it to look fluent and fluid as it would to the Comanches themselves.”
The story doesn’t stop there though. Along with the English version of “Prey,” Hulu will be releasing a version of the film that is dubbed over with the Comanche language. Beavers believes that the two versions create balance.
“I wanted to make sure that the language was spoken as correctly as I could get it,” Beavers said. “Luckily, one of the Comanche translators is a good buddy of mine so I could just sit down there with him. And so that was a big importance to me, just to keep that there for the future generation to learn.”
The film is setting out to blaze trails and shake up how Hollywood has traditionally represented Native American groups and identities.
“I saw certain people talking before the previews came out about, ‘How are these people with sticks and rocks supposed to be able to defeat the Predator?'” Beavers said. “And I would like people to know that they were intelligent. They were very capable people. And they flourished, you know. A lot was going on in North America before written history for these people. It was a pretty hoppin’ area. And they were pretty skilled people. Just because it was a little bit different than their neighbors across the pond, doesn’t mean they were inept. They were very capable and very intelligent people.”
“Prey” is coming exclusively to Hulu on Friday.