Amber Midthunder (Fort Peck Assiniboine/Sahiya Nakoda/Hunkpapa Lakota/Sisseton Dakota) did something no one else has done before–she played a Comanche action star and Native woman lead named Naru, who protected her tribe from a murderous advanced alien in the sci-fi thriller part of the Predator franchise, “Prey.” Set in the 1700s pre-colonial, the exhilarating tale takes place in Comanche country and follows Midthunder’s Naru as she searches for a mysterious threat lurking in the forests. The film, with its fighting sequences and hunting sprees, celebrated the resiliency of Native people. It presented an accurate history that depicted how innovative and intelligent Native people were–and continue to be–and Midthunder’s role as the hero redefined how Natives are portrayed in Hollywood.
We’re in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for Midthunder’s interview and photoshoot for the cover of our annual Empowering Indigenous Womanhood issue. She was excited to be back in Santa Fe, where she grew up. To be sitting across from such a powerhouse of an actress was exciting. Her presence and power radiated through the whole room. Her many action scenes replayed in my mind when the interview started, yet, she was cool and calm; she answered every question elegantly.
Midthunder’s journey of pursuing acting was entirely her own. She is the daughter of well-known film and television actor and stunt performer David Midthunder and Emmy-nominated casting director Angelique Midthunder. Regardless of her parents, who were immersed in the film industry since birth, Midthunder decided to pursue acting. She also made her own way into the industry and spent a year and a half auditioning for parts but didn’t get a single booking.
In time, Midthunder nabbed roles in TV shows and films, both Native- and non-Native-produced and -directed. She played Rosa Ortecho in The CW series “Roswell, New Mexico” and the Netflix-distributed film “The Ice Road,” where she starred opposite fellow action star Liam Neeson, to name a few. Midthunder also flexed her humor and quip as MissM8tri@rch in an episode of “Reservation Dogs,” where she was invited to improv. Midthunder doesn’t limit herself to certain parts or genres, preferring to play strong characters and ensuring she’ll bring her best work to the role.
Then, “Prey”–the latest film in the Predator franchise–debuted last Summer, which starred Midthunder as the lead role. “Prey” had a killer first weekend when it was released on Hulu. According to Disney, the film scored the number 1 premiere on Hulu to date, beating out all film and TV series debuts on the platform. It also created quite a buzz on social media and all of cyberspace. Midthunder took on red carpet premieres and press tours and even graced the cover of Teen Vogue’s New Hollywood issue earlier this year.
Taking on the most significant role of the latest installment of the Predator sci-fi action franchise, which debuted in theaters thirty-five years ago, was a milestone not only for Midthunder but for all of Indian Country. That was the first time many of us had seen a Native female lead as a hero. With “Prey,” Midthunder is changing the face of movies in her own way–that a Native woman can star in an action thriller playing on a mainstream platform such as Hulu while making space for other Native actors.
All heroes have a superpower, and Midthunder finds hers through Native fashion. A big fan of Native fashion and jewelry, it reminds and grounds her in her culture–present-day and what’s existed farther back.
Read our full interview with Midthunder as she shares her journey into acting on her own, the responsibilities of being in “Prey,” and how much her Native people inspire and impact her in our latest issue.
- Photography Assistant: Daniel Joe
- Designer: Sage Mountainflower
- Jewelry: Tolpiyine Simbola
- Makeup/Hair: Dr. Carmella Roybal
- Makeup/Hair Assistant: Crystal Gamboa