• Hunter Page-Lochard in a scene from season two of Cleverman. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Actor, writer and director Hunter Page-Lochard says colour blind casting is needed to showcase the talents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander actors.
Margaret Whitehouse

Living Black
5 Sep 2018 - 5:11 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2018 - 10:38 AM

Hunter Page-Lochard, a legend in the making across film, television and the stage, believes progress can be made from casting Indigenous actors in the role of non-Indigenous characters.

“Being able to do roles where you're not Indigenous, I feel, is the next step to showcase a lot of our great talent that we have within the Indigenous industry,” Mr Page-Lochard told Living Black.

“If we can showcase that with our beautiful talent, things will start progressing in a different way, because things are already progressing in a beautiful way.

“I think we can go a little bit more.”

Colour blind casting refers to the concept of actors from diverse backgrounds being chosen in roles where the character is not defined by race or ethnicity.

Notable examples include Morgan Freeman in The Shawkshank Redemption, Frieda Pinto in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis and Deborah Mailman in Australian television show The Secret Life of Us.

Mr Page-Lochard says Aaron Pedersen's role in Mystery Road is also an interesting example.

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“Yes, there's moments where [Mystery Road] alludes to his culture. But it's imperfect moments. It's not the thing that carries the story and that's another version of colour blind casting which I love.”

Mr Page-Lochard also believes that behind the camera Indigenous creators should be given the opportunity to branch out into other genres within the mediums of film and television.

“We have a lot of Indigenous filmmakers out there that are making these amazing projects and they're all great and I'm not taking anything away from them," he said.

“But it would be amazing to start seeing these directors and writers creating projects for the complete masses and having that little sprinkle and that little dust of Indigenous spirit within your characters and not so much about the world because then, it incorporates everyone.”

The idea remains controversial within the wider entertainment industry, with support divided over whether this is an effective way to improve screen diversity as well as expand the types of roles being offered.

Mr Page-Lochard believes this is not only an effective way to highlight Indigenous talent, but it can also continue to present and represent Indigenous culture through the moving image.

“Keeping it sacred and shining your own light through your own performance without putting a label on it, I feel can be the most powerful way for us to express our culture and to express our wide pool of talent.”

Mr Page-Lochard has recently shared an important milestone with Screen Australia, with both himself and the film body's Indigenous Department recently celebrating their 25th birthdays.

Since its conception, the department has funded over 160 titles - from comedies to documentaries - for both film and television. The event was commemorated with an event in Sydney last week.

The projects they have supported have included many milestones of Hunter Page-Lochard’s career, including Cleverman, The Sapphires and Bran Nue Dae - where Mr Page-Lochard got his feature film debut in the role of Peter.

“I was around TV shows a little bit for guest roles, and did a couple of short films, but nothing to that spectrum,” he said of his time on set.

The film, directed by Rachel Perkins, received wide acclaim both here and abroad and helped to launch Mr Page-Lochard’s career. It also helped him to see the possibility of a career in the director’s chair.

“Just to have that experience kind of made it known to me that it is possible. If Rachel can do it, I can do it.”

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