A Brand ‘New World’ for Q’Orianka Kilcher

Hollywood.com: How excited were you to get this role?
Q’Orianka Kilcher: I was so excited. When I got the call from the producer Sarah Green, I was actually walking in Beverly Hills and I stopped in the middle of the street and started screaming and dancing. The odds were definitely not in my favor because I was much younger than the actresses being considered for the role. And I found out that they were actually looking around on a worldwide search for eight months and I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “Me? No, no, no, no!” [Laughs]. They’re pulling my leg or something. Even to this day, I sometimes wake up in the morning and pinch myself to see if I’m having an extremely long dream or this is really reality. It’s just such an exciting year to experience.

HW: How much of the story of Pocahontas did you know before doing this?
QK: Like everyone, I just knew the cartoon. But when I went to Virginia right before filming, the production there had a really great research team and they’d been doing research for a year prior to that looking through every book possible. So I was reading all those books and reading Terry’s script, making sure I was still thinking of the way Terrence Malick wanted to tell the story of John Smith and Pocahontas. I’m still doing research on Pocahontas today.

HW: Could you talk a little bit about how you prepared for the role? Did you talk to your relatives at all?
QK: No, none of my family in Peru actually has a phone. I would just go camping, sleep under the stars, listen to power music if I listened to music, and then I’d just go on the sets. I applaud Jack Fisk, who designed the sets, because he really made it realistic and so authentic. Just being on the sets really threw you back into the 1600s, wearing the wonderful clothes that Jackie West designed… Being on set with everybody that was passionate about the work and really putting their whole heart and soul into it really helped you to get lost.

HW: Are you in touch with your relatives in Peru?
QK: A month after filming, I went over to Peru. I walked around Cuzco about three days to try to find my grandmother. We didn’t know really where she lived. She used to live in the mountains, actually, except she had to move to the city to be closer to the hospital. Finally after three days we found her and she’s like a foot smaller than me and she’s so gorgeous. The entire family on my father’s side over there… It really filled an empty space in me and it was very humbling and eye-opening to see everyone. In Peru, if you gave somebody a little chance to do something, they took it to the furthest extent. They took nothing for granted. And here in LA, you kind of get caught up in your own little dilemmas and your own little life. It just made me see there are bigger worlds out there.

HW: Has this movie helped you to think differently about your native roots?
QK: It made me love it even more. It made me even prouder of who I am and of my roots. I just want to learn even more about my culture and about the Algonquin culture because I fell in love with Pocahontas and the Algonquin tribe.

HW: What was the hardest thing about making the movie?
QK: Learning a perfect British accent. I learned the entire script in a perfect British accent and then stripped that away for the first 60 pages and learned Algonquin, because that’s her native language. Then I stripped half the Algonquin away and did the different stages of Algonquin mixed with English. That was definitely very challenging. And in some of Pocahontas’ lowest points in her life, when she goes a little crazy… That was very emotionally challenging. I thank my mom for being there afterwards, because when I would go home afterwards I was just so wound up.

HW: What was it like working with Colin?
QK: You know, I didn’t know who he was before. And when I got on the set, everyone said “Oh my God, you’re working with Colin Farrell!” You know, he was really wonderful, a giving actor. He was like my older brother in a way, he took me under his wing and he taught me so much in acting. Very supportive. Christian Bale, Auggie Schellenberg and Wes Studi were all so good at what they did, it was such an honor for me and I felt so lucky being on the set and being able to watch all these actors work.

HW: What did your friends say before you went into filming?
QK: You little chicken, you get to kiss Colin Farrell and Christian Bale!

HW: Did it live up to expectations?
QK: You know, I don’t think I did too bad with having them as my first two kisses.

HW: What do you think, being close to Colin, about his decision to enter rehab…
QK: I was kind of sad to find out about that, but I was very happy for him because that’s the first step in the right direction and the fact he’s taking it is very good, and my entire family’s hearts are with him and we just wish him the best of luck. He’ll make it through, though. He’s very strong.

HW: Are you going to high school now?
QK: I’m home-schooled, in the ninth grade.

HW: You feel you’re missing out on any high-school experiences?
QK: No, because I went to school for fifth grade for one year and I actually didn’t even finish the first school year. I left after nine months. I’m not an easy crier but I’d come home everyday crying because if you don’t give in to the peer pressures or you don’t become the way they want you to be and you’re a little different, then you’re in hell, pretty much. I prefer home-schooling because you can work at your own pace and go towards more what you’re interested in, whether it be history or geography or math.

HW: How has your life changed since shooting?
QK: In so many more ways. I look at life differently and I kind of feel in a way I’ve lived an entire life already in being able to portray Pocahontas. It was definitely an emotional roller-coaster. But, no, we still go camping, we still live in our little apartment, so it hasn’t changed much in that.