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May 3, 2014

Cherokee star talks humble beginnings

PRYOR, OK — Actress Jamie Loy knows its important not to boast, though she's got a lot to boast about.

The Salina native, who attended Tahlequah-Sequoyah High School, was known for  being a state champion in cross country track and basketball. Now, Loy is most commonly known for her role in the recent Western Heritage Award-winning film “The Cherokee Word For Water.”

“I've always been interested in Cherokee culture, but I was always more interested in the legends and mythology aspect of it. This film introduced me to the reality,” said Loy.

Culture and reality collided for the first time when Loy met Wilma Mankiller who was attending a Sequoyah basketball game.

“My favorite Cherokee story growing up was the one of how the possum lost the hair on his tail” said Loy, explaining that it was because the possum was boastful. “I actually got to act the story out in the “Trail of Tears” drama.”

Loy performed in the drama around the time she was graduating high school, it was a performance that would spark her desire to act.

“The film “The Cherokee Word for Water” is a true story based on the life of Wilma Mankiller,” said Loy. “It's a family movie, a community movie.”

Loy said the movie is about a community coming together to solve its problems. More specifically, she said, it's about Mankiller's role in the Bell Waterline Project.

“The Cherokee Word for Water,” is a feature-length motion picture inspired by the true story of the struggle for, opposition to, and ultimate success of a rural Cherokee Community to bring runningwater to their families using the traditional concept of ‘gadugi’ working together to solve a problem,” according to the film’s website.

“I play Elizabeth Canoe, which is a supporting role. Elizabeth is the daughter of one of the women helping Wilma. At first, Elizabeth is a troubled teen, dealing with the fact that her freedom has been taken away. As her mom is helping Wilma, she's forced to stay home taking care of younger siblings,” said Loy. “Later she comes to see and understand the bigger picture and realizes what's really important.”

Putting her athletic background to good use, Loy was also chosen as the lead actress's stand-in and body double.

“I got to be the stand-in double because lucky for me, I'm the same size and build as the lead actress Kimberly Guerrero who played Wilma. This was such a great opportunity, I got to be on set during the entire filming process.”

Loy said while working as the stand-in, she learned the technical aspects of filming and gained some valuable on-screen experience. Loy has done several other independent and festival-winning films in her short career.

“I just finished working on a film called “Light from the Darkroom,” where I was the stand-in for the lead,” said Loy, adding that the lead actresses are well-known in the latino community. “I got contacted on Facebook for that one because I look like the lead. I got to work with the guy from “Breaking Bad,” Steven Quezada, which was pretty exciting.”

From a religious thriller to an independent film about vampires, Loy is willing to do it all.

“I want to show other Native Americans they can do this too, and to show other ethnic groups that Natives can be in films as more than just native characters,” said Loy. “My hope is to play in a larger movie, not as a native character.”

When it comes to being a role model Loy said, “it's a little scary but I know that someone's got to do it.”

In addition to dozens of films being shown at festivals, Loy has also done several commercials.

“I always put that I am ethnically ambiguous,” said Loy. She cites this as one reason she gets so many call-backs. “People think I'm Asian or Polynesian. Lots of people think I'm Latin American. Typically native american is the last thing people guess,” said Loy.

Her advice for other young actors, Native American or ethnically ambiguous, is to never be afraid to try.

“You never know what they're looking for. If you think you aren't pretty enough or too average looking, do it anyway. Sometimes they don't know what they want until they see it. You never know what will happen, and every audition is a new experience” said Loy.

Loy recently attended the Western Heritage Awards at which “The Cherokee Word For Water” received the highest honor, Outstanding Theatrical Motion Picture.

“It's a big deal. It's an Oscar's style ceremony so I have to get all dressed up and be there early to sign autographs,” said Loy. “I'm looking forward to the food, not the attention.”

Coming up Loy said she's excited to wrap up work on a film, “Violet” and begin working on a film based on a comic book, with some Native American influence. She recently submitted an audition video to NBC for a diversity project in the works.

“I'm excited about every new opportunity, ever audition, every call-back,” said Loy, recalling her time in the Cherokee Nation Heritage Center, when she never imagined this kind of success.

“The old story of the possum was told to keep children from bragging and boasting,” the legend says. “The possum was a beautiful creature, but he didn't know that.”

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