Actress Irene Beddard
They say good things come in small packages. Native actress Irene Bedard surely qualifies. Though small in stature, Bedard possesses a big personality, exudes personal warmth and radiates a wealth of goodwill. With her infectious giggle and head-turning looks, one can see why she has been wooing film fans and Hollywood hitters since her 1993 debut movie role in Squanto: A Warrior's Tale.
That film was followed by her star performance as Mary Crow Dog in Lakota Woman, and in 1995 by her voice role in Disney's animated film Pocahontas-and an unmistakable visual resemblance to the title character as well. Capitalizing on the film's popularity and Bedard's charm, Disney sent her off to international premieres in Europe and Asia on a corporate Learjet, and to a huge premiere in New York City's Central Park before about 10,000 people.
Next up was a major role in the Miramax hit Smoke Signals, which won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. This was followed by her role in Naturally Native, a film about three sisters trying to launch a cosmetics company. The film was produced by Valerie Red-Horse in 1998, but is still being rolled out in select markets across the country.
Earlier this year Bedard was in New Mexico for production of the independent film Tortilla Heaven, and is set to begin work on another New Mexico project titled Roswell One (about, of course, aliens). In January she hopes to start work on A Cold Day for Murder, based on a series of mystery novels written by Alaskan Native Dana Stabenow.
This fall two other productions featuring Bedard will hit the screen: Wild Flowers (also starring Daryl Hannah) and The Lost Child (see story on page 28). The latter, produced for Hallmark Hall of Fame on CBS, is the true story of an infant Navajo girl kidnapped from an Arizona hospital and raised in New Jersey by a Jewish family. Bedard plays her sister, who has a significant role in helping to return the "lost child" to her homeland. It is scheduled to air on November 19.
For Bedard, it's all been a wild journey. Born in Anchorage, Alaska on July 22, 1976 to an Inupiat Eskimo mother and a French Canadian/Cree father who was active in Alaskan Native political movements, Goodiarook (her Native name, meaning One Who Dropped By) never anticipated international fame.
"I was the oldest kid and grandchild in my family and had many, many aunts and uncles," she explains. "When we would get together, I was always organizing things. We'd put up sheets and put on shows. At Halloween I'd write these little plays about witches and vampires. Whatever the occasion, I was always doing something to tie into it. I recall that they came off great. But I never really thought about acting as a careerit never occurred to me!"
In fact, in college she initially studied physics and philosophy, but her dramatic calling refused to be ignored and she moved into theater arts at the University of Arts in Philadelphia. From there she entered the theater world in New York City, where she was soon "discovered" and brought into the production of Squanto.
Today she lives in the small artistic community of Ojai, California, north of Los Angeles with her husband, a musician, where they enjoy fishing. In addition to her acting career, Bedard also donates considerable time to "motivational speaking" to Native youth.
"What I say depends on the situation, but the basic message I deliver is that you are the only you, through all time, right down to your genetic code. We have this gift of life and everyone has something to contribute."