You may recognize him from season five of “Osiyo: Voices of the Cherokee People,” but that was just the beginning of Wayne Garner’s screen time. Born and raised in Indian Country, this Cherokee musician has traveled around the world to perform with his band. For Garner, being on the road started as a means to his dream of being a successful musician, but as he met more and more fans across the globe who didn’t even know that Native people still existed, he knew his career was about more than just making music, it was about representation.

“It seems like [Natives] have been kept in the back throughout all of the entertainment industry and that needs to change ASAP,” Garner said.

With the rise of film productions coming to Oklahoma and Texas, Garner has been cast in a handful of roles and been able to give the film and television industry more Indigenous representation that it needs.

Garner, who can be seen in the “Yellowstone” prequel “1883” this December, sat down with CNFO to talk about the Indigenous film community, and the need for more representation throughout Hollywood.

Why is Native representation important to you?
I think Native representation is more important than anything in film myself. We have an awesome unique opportunity to finally help our people that want to be in the entertainment industry get the exposure they need and deserve by having programs like the Cherokee Nation Film Office and other networking platforms. We have all the venues, stages and connections we need to succeed in music, theatre and film.

What advice would you give to someone who was looking to get into acting?
Getting into music and touring so much prior and having dealt with shady booking agents/managers before was a good training ground for me to see what I needed to do to actually get casting opportunities. You gotta work hard for yourself cause nobody else is going to do it for you. There are a lot of good casting agencies out there especially in Oklahoma and Texas that cast for tons of different mainstream cable tv shows and bigger film projects and you don’t have to be with them exclusively to be cast in the projects they’re working with. Also ask questions on film sets and make connections. You can make some really awesome friends on film sets. That’s the unique part I think in this industry is that everyone has the same goal in mind in “making it” but everyone seems more than willing to help each other.

What was it like seeing more and more Native representation in the media?
It felt refreshing seeing more Native representation in the media and the fact that they aren’t seeing us like they have in the past as basically a costume or mascot. I think there have been several shows like “The Red Road,” “Longmire” and now “Reservation Dogs” that show us more in a true light now.

What has been the most exciting moment of your career so far?
Getting cast in American Underdog. I grew up watching Kurt Warner play football and always thought his story was amazing. When I got the email from the casting agency that I needed to be in Oklahoma for testing for the film the next day I was currently in LA. I thought ‘of course I’d be across the country when this happens,’ but I hopped on a plane the next morning OKC bound.

What’s your dream project to work on?
That’s a really good question. I’ve gotten the opportunity lately to perform in a film with my band and have soundtrack work on Butcher’s Bluff and Heartland Cartel, both films set for release in 2022. So maybe to lead in a 50’s style Elvis type movie.


Do you have any upcoming projects that you can tell us about?
I have a couple of current projects coming up. One is a film that I wrote the screenplay for while being on tour two years ago. It’s called Merciless Indian Savage and it’s about a Native federal agent whose daughter goes missing on a reservation while he’s working there. He finds out she’s thrown into cartel trafficking and then pursues them, taking brutal measures to get her back. I want to use fighting techniques that Cherokee’s used in close up battle. I think it’s going to be great and I’m really excited about it. We have already started filming pieces of it and we are set to start back it looks like in a month.

I also a new album to drop at the first of the year.