“I want to inspire people with the experiences I’ve had getting into film and television,” said Beach, an award-winning actor, producer and political activist from a First Nation northwest of Winnipeg. “I’m going to talk about the success of Adam Beach, not only in Hollywood but in my life.”
Born in Ashern, Man., Beach spent his early years on the Lake Manitoba/Dog Creek First Nation. When he was eight years old, tragedy struck: a drunk driver killed his mother and just two months later, his father drowned. Beach and his two brothers lived with their grandmother for about four years before moving to Winnipeg and into the care of an aunt and paternal uncle. It is a chapter in his life that informs who he is today.
“Trauma was my best friend,” he said. “My mother and father were taken from me but there’s a strength that comes from loss because I realized nobody could steal anything else. I bring that emotional experience into whatever I do.”
Beach attended his first drama class in high school, and then began performing in local theatre productions before securing a lead role with the Manitoba Theatre for Young People. It was the start of a career that now includes appearances in more than 80 films and television programs.
His first major role was in the 1994 Walt Disney film Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale. Subsequent career highlights include roles in Windtalkers opposite Nicolas Cage, the television film Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and in the Clint Eastwood epic Flags of Our Fathers. In 2016, he played Christopher Weiss/Slipknot in the supervillain film Suicide Squad.
A list of his television credits includes roles in Suicide Squad, Law and Order: SVU, North of 60, Touch by an Angel, Walker, Texas Ranger and Arctic Air.
Speaking from New Mexico where he and his family had escaped the wrath of Hurricane Irma (their Florida home reportedly suffered little damage), Beach said the support of friends and family has been key to his success, “but they also laughed at me sometimes and wondered when I would quit. What I learned was not to let anybody misdirect you from your passion.” It’s a lesson he shares through the Adam Beach Film Institute in Winnipeg, which provides resources and training to largely First Nations young people who aspire to careers in the film industry.
“When I began this trek in the movie business, I believed I had something to offer the industry from my culture and teachings,” he added. While he has done many First Nations roles, “I don’t believe in stereotyping because that means someone has the power to give and take away my opportunities. I look for characters that I can infuse with who I am, and I say no when I want to.”
Beach will present Breaking Character: The Life and Art of Adam Beach at 2:30 pm in the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Student Centre and Rewriting the Hollywood Indian at 7 pm in Convocation Hall in the Peter MacKinnon Building. Both events are free and open to the public.