Meet Kaniehtiio Horn; Kanien’kehaka-Bear Clan. This fantastic actress from Kahnawake is showing up all over the small screen, currently starring in two series; as Irathient alien Rynn in Syfy’s Defiance and gypsy-brat Destiny in the Netflix original horror series Hemlock Grove.
TRT: What was the first moment you knew that you wanted to perform?
Horn: Well I think there were lots of things in my early years that one could have said, ‘that kids gonna be an artist’. My family placed me in the middle of the kitchen counter and while they ate I serenaded them with my beautiful angelic voice. I have 6 older sisters and they used to dress me up all the time like I was their doll, and I was put in every extra curricular activity possible by my parents. I signed myself up for school plays when I was in grade 4, I think the first one I did I played the Mayor of Munchkin City (in the county of the land of Oz), the chaos backstage, the excitement on stage, and the immense satisfaction of making people laugh got me hooked. It wasn’t until I saw Ace Ventura Pet Detective on a trip to Plattsburgh when I realized that ‘acting’ was an actual profession, like I could get paid to make people laugh. That’s when I was like ‘That is what I want to do’.
TRT: What was it like working on Defiance and playing your character Rynn?
Horn: Defiance was a lot of fun, it is a great group of people. It’s also nice seeing an Onkwehon:we family headed by Mr. Graham Greene. I auditioned for some of the main parts and they ended up offering me the role of Rynn, which ended up being a smaller but super rad part. Especially as a woman in this industry, there aren’t that many cool parts like that, although it does seem people are coming around to the fact that women can be even more badass than men, and usually are.
Rynn was super fun to play, I think as a Mohawk I have that stand-offish persona down to a T, but adding amazing costume, make up, hair and prosthetics on top of that reminded me of one reason I became an actor: to play dress up! Also learning an entirely new language was a really interesting challenge. I think I had an easier time letting the Irathient roll off my tongue because of my background in Kanien’keha. I am no where near fluent but the language was all around me and still is at home. I am really pleased that people enjoyed Rynn so much, I love her too.
TRT: Did you enjoy that makeup?
Horn: I really liked the make-up part. It took a bit of getting used to since it takes around 3 hours to be camera ready. But there is nothing cooler than watching yourself transform and become the full character. After hour 16 it gets sort of old though to be honest, the novelty slightly wears off, but I don’t take it for granted one bit. This is the best job ever.
TRT: The #NotYourTigerLily campaign is abounding on social media, reacting to casting Irish actress Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in the next remake of Peter Pan. What are your thoughts about non-indigenous talent accepting roles in what some are calling “Redface”?
Horn: From an actors point of view it is hard to absolutely oppose it, only because it’s simply an actor playing the part they were given and that’s what we do. I play an Irathient alien from outer space on Defiance. I am not actually an Irathient alien from outer space believe it or not. As an Onkwehon:we person it does get frustrating seeing ‘non-natives’ portray us because I think as a people we can sense each others authenticity. Also Tiger Lily is a scrap part when you think about it, what real native woman wants to play a captured ‘indian princess’ anyway?
TRT: I loved the short on the Smoke Shack! Any plans to do anything else production wise behind the camera?
Horn: Niawenhkowa!! Seriously, I was so surprised and happy at the response I got for that little short. I was inspired by the 1491s videos to get up and just do something. I was bored and always thought the cigarette store job was silly. I have spent many many hours in that industry and am glad people got a little glimpse of it or can relate. Also I totally wanna bring that angry french-man back for some more adventures.
Catch Kaniehtiio Horn as Destiny in Hemlock Grove on Neflix. You can also see her as Rynn in the second season of Defiance which airs on Showcase June 19th.