When he was casting Prey — the new Predator prequel set three centuries before Arnold Schwarzenegger tangled with the deadly E.T. — director Dan Trachtenberg insists the idea of hiring a predominantly Native American and indigenous cast wasn’t just part of the conversation. It was the conversation.
“We’re making this underdog story,” Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane) tells us during an interview where he was joined by producer Jhane Myers and stars Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers (watch above). “Not only was I just like, ‘Oh, it’d be great to see a movie that has a Native American protagonist. We never see that.’ But even more so for this movie we’re making a story about someone who is not really seen. And trying to say, ‘I deserve to be doing what I’m doing.’ And have that also be about people that in media and pop culture are often relegated to playing the sidekick or the villain, never the hero.”
Prey’s hero is Naru (Midthunder), a young Comanche woman in 1719 who yearns to leave the gathering behind and become a hunter — and is the first person in her tribe to suspect they’re being hunted by an otherworldly force, one she’ll ultimately go toe-to-toe with.
“It means everything in the world,” Midthunder (Legion) says of the film’s groundbreaking casting. “That’s the thing about the movie that I’m most proud of. There’s so many amazing pieces to it, but to me, that is what really touches my heart. … In terms of representation, that’s like the secret Navy SEAL mission of my career, to show that indigenous people can be and do everything and add value where I think it hasn’t been shown yet. You go all the way back and we are oral storytellers. Storytelling, this is our medium.
“You so rarely see a period piece where indigenous people get to be full people. It’s either people who are very savage or overly spiritual. So getting to show a variety of personalities with social dynamics and all kinds of things like that, and inside of a movie [series] like Predator, which is also just fun and exciting and entertaining, to me is just like the best thing in the world.”
Beavers, who makes his screen debut as Naru’s brother, Taabe, agrees.
“It was just an honor for me,” he says, adding how much it meant for Trachtenberg to bring on Myers, a Comanche woman, as a lead producer on the project. “It was just better than anything I could ask for. … They did everything that they could to make things right. And that carries a lot of weight in my mind.”
Says Myers: “This movie really sets the bar for representation.”
— Video produced by Kyle Moss and edited by Jason Fitzpatrick
Prey premieres Friday, Aug. 5 on Hulu.
Watch the trailer: