Not a single character in the grueling first season of "1923" had an easy time. However, while various members of the Dutton clan experienced moments of joy amidst the death and heartbreak of life on the Montana plains, Teonna Rainwater found little reprieve. Teonna, a Native American teen, was introduced as a student held against her will at a Catholic boarding school. All the students at the school were indigenous children who had been taken from their families and forced to give up their language and culture in an attempt at assimilation. Teonna chose to run away after experiencing repeated physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of the nuns and priests who ran the facility. Throughout the entire season, she was in constant danger, with the only temporary relief coming in the finale when her father, Runs His Horse, and friend Pete Plenty Clouds caught up to her, providing some protection and comfort.
Many people have expressed surprise at the revelation of indigenous children being taken from their families and placed in boarding schools like the one Teonna attended. As someone who was already aware of this history, how does it make you feel?
The government is skilled at hiding things they do not want the world to know, and it is astonishing. However, I have always thought about indigenous communities as a whole, not just on Turtle Island but worldwide. When I first read the audition pages and then the script, I was hit with a rush of emotions. Indigenous stories are rarely told with such truth and honesty, so it was painful to read at first. It brought up a lot of emotions, fears, and everything in between. But I believe it is crucial, and I feel blessed to be able to share our stories and be part of this.
Teonna's character had some heavy scenes in the first season, with all of her scenes being intense. How did you transition out of those emotions when the day was over?
Everything we felt and everything you see on screen feels so real, and our bodies instinctively live in that moment. So, when Leenah (Robinson, who plays Baapuxti) was with me, we would talk about it on the way home in the car. We would drop off Sebastian (Roché, who plays Father Renaud), then Jennifer (Ehle, who plays Sister Mary) and Kerry (O'Malley, who plays Sister Alice), until it was just Leenah and me. We would hug each other tightly and acknowledge that we had done it. We would remind ourselves to rest and go to sleep. Finding that balance is difficult, but we were fortunate to have great support. I leaned heavily on Leenah and the rest of the cast, and they were always there for me.
Even though I am aware that TV shows are not real, I find it hard to picture you and Sebastian joking around in the same car at the end of the day.
(Laughs) Oh my gosh, I love Sebastian with my whole heart. He is such a cool and sweet person. I can understand why it might seem strange, though. Even my parents are like, "Oh, hell no!" when they hear me on the phone with Sebastian. (Laughs)
You mentioned that going to a nearby Walmart was the main form of entertainment when you were not shooting. Can you share some details about those Walmart trips? Were you running around the aisles, trying on different things?
(Laughs) Oh my gosh, if you saw our photos in Walmart, you would see us trying on different sunglasses, hats, and running up and down the aisles. Our only options for fun during breaks were riding horses, hiking, and going to Walmart. We went there so often, especially when Julia was there with me. We would go about four times a day, it was crazy. Slurpees were definitely a must. We indulged in popcorn, ice cream, and anything else that was bad for us. Sometimes, you just need a vice to soothe yourself.
Throughout most of Season 1, Teonna was constantly under attack. In your opinion, what is her true nature when she is not in fight-or-flight mode?
I think you catch a glimpse of her true nature when she is talking with Pete in the Season 1 finale. She is still exploring what it means to be a child and how it feels and looks like to her. But she also has a sassy and smart side. She can be a bit of a smart-mouth and enjoys stirring things up in the best way possible. I really hope that in Season 2, you will get to see the subtle comedy and wit she possesses. But who knows, I hope we can show all sides of her in Season 2.