It was one of the quieter moments in a busy Academy Award ceremony.
There was Taika Waititi, accepting the Oscar for the screenplay of “Jojo Rabbit,” which he directed and co-starred in. “I dedicate this to all the indigenous kids in the world who want to do art,” he said.
Before the ceremony, much of the focus had been on other underutilized groups – blacks and women. By the end of the night, however, we were reminded just how big the world is … even on shows like “FBI: Most Wanted,” shown here.
There was the Korean “Parasite” winning four Oscars, including best picture. And there was a reminder that the phrase “Native American” is just part of the indigenous story.
Waititi – who also directed “Thor: Ragnarok” – is from New Zealand and is Maori. So is Jemaine Clement, who created the “What We Do In the Shadows” movie with him and turned it into a hilarious series. And Cliff Curtis, who has starred in five U.S. series, including “Fear the Walking Dead.”
And Keisha Castle-Hughes. “It’s always exciting to be an indigenous actor,” she told the Television Critics Association last month.
CBS’ “FBI: Most Wanted” (10 p.m. Tuesdays) has a rarity – two indigenous co-stars from different continents. Castle-Hughes and Nathaniel Arcand (who is Plains Cree) play FBI agents. “You don’t always see … the Native doctor, the Native whatever,” he said.
Arcand — at lef in the photo here, with Castle-Hughes second fron right — is from Edmonton and said his inspiration was seeing a Bruce Lee movie when he was 6. “I knew then that I wanted to be an actor and I wanted to be a martial artist.”
He did both, with the acting part blossoming in his early 20s, when he became a regular on Canada’s “North of 60” series. “I played this kid who came off the streets …. It was very cool. I was the antagonist for the young people.”
Castle-Hughes, by comparison, had a full-blown career arrive suddenly. Born in Australia, she moved to New Zealand at 4. At 12, with no acting experience, she had the title role as a Maori villager in the acclaimed “Whale Rider.”
“When you’re so young, you have no idea what life should be,” she recalled. “A lot of it is a blur.”
One not-blurry moment: An Academy Award nominee for best actress (at the time, the youngest nominee ever in that category), she was introduced – live on ABC – to her favorite actor, Johnny Depp, who complimented her work. “For a 13-year-old, that was something,” she said.
Castle-Hughes was 15 when she played the Virgin Mary in “The Nativity Story.” She had just turned 17 when her daughter was born. This spring, Felicity-Amore becomes a teen-ager, shortly after her mom turns 30. “She’s still a baby to me,” Castle-Hughes said.
They’ve lived in the U.S. for a decade – “she’s spent a lot of time on sets,” Castle-Hughes said – but also visit the homeland. “It’s important for her to know she’s of Maori descent.”
Other Maori actors have thrived lately. Waititi and Clement met in college and formed a comedy duo.
Later, Waititi directed a few of Clement’s “Flight of the Conchords” episodes; they wrote, directed and starred in “What We Do in the Shadows” as a 2005 short and a 2014 movie.
When the FX series started last year, they gave their roles – as unmotivated vampires – to others. Clement co-wrote and produced the show; Waititi directed three episodes. The result drew raves and a TCA nomination as best new show.
It starts its second season April 15, but Waititi has been too busy to return. So has Beanie Feldstein, who got a Golden Globe nomination in “Booksmart” and next plays Monica Lewinsky in a mini-series. “We’re a factory for stars now,” Clement dead-panned.