Tyler Christopher: Native Son

Soap Opera Weekly: Congratulations for the NAACP nomination as Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama Series this year [Note: the awards were presented last spring; Y&R’s Kristoff St. John won in Christopher’s category.].
Tyler Christopher: Yeah, that was very nice and surprising. But I’ll take it.

Weekly: As I understand it, you’re part Native American.
Christopher: Right.

Weekly: On your mom’s side, your dad’s side?
Christopher: Both. Both my mom and dad are part Native American.

Weekly: You’ve been recognized as a Native American actor before.
Christopher: I’ve been recognized within the Native American community in terms of entertainment. There’s not a lot of us out there, not tons of competition. We are definitely a minority amongst a minority, but we’re out there. Not everyone’s Italian or Latin that has dark hair and dark eyes.

Weekly: Was being of Native American descent an influence on you culturally growing up?
Christopher: No, not growing up. I always knew that I was part Native, but I never pursued anything in terms of it, religiously or spiritually until maybe five or six years ago.

Weekly: What was that process like?
Christopher: It was interesting and quite a journey and it’s a journey still in progress. I’m still learning, still practicing, and still part of the community. It’s an ongoing thing right now.

Weekly: What was the most interesting and surprising thing that you’ve learned so far on that journey?
Christopher: What I find interesting is how simply they live life. I like to try and live my life somewhat simply. I have my toys and things that I like to splurge on, but I enjoy my time alone. I enjoy where I’m at spiritually and that’s a big part of their lives: how they’re connected to God and how they’re connected to the earth and the universe. That was a heavy influence on me and it made me grow up for sure.

Weekly: We infrequently see any depiction of Native American culture or life in modern television and movies. As an industry professional, is that something you are conscious of?
Christopher: The big problem with how minorities are presented in television and film is that they’re presented as minorities, not as just everyday people. You show an Indian in a TV show, you don’t see him without war paint and a headdress on. But that’s what America identifies with. When you say Native American, they don’t see your doctor, they don’t see your lawyer, they don’t see your sports figures. That’s what they see, from the old cowboy movies of the past. It’s part of the culture, but it’s not all of it. And it’s not even most of it.