Lily Gladstone says there were moments filming Killers of the Flower Moon when panic would set in at the thought of playing a role that could be so triggering.
She plays Mollie Kyle in Martin Scorsese's historical drama about the Osage murders, a period in the early 20th century where members of the oil-wealthy Osage Nation in Oklahoma were murdered by white interlopers. She has won the Golden Globe award for best female actor in motion picture (drama) for the role and has been nominated for an Academy Award.
Gladstone, whose father is Blackfeet and Nimiipuu, split her childhood between Seattle and the Blackfeet reservation in Montana.
She said it was the sense of community of the Osage Nation and the people from 230 other tribes who were on set at times that got her through difficult moments.
"You know what it's like when we get together, when that many of us are together, we laugh," she told CBC Indigenous.
"There's kids around, there's elders around. It just felt like, you know, very comfortable and familiar. So when the cameras were rolling on the trauma, you had this whole community with you that some, in between cuts, were laughing and enjoying themselves and having fun."
Gladstone said the days when they were filming the wedding or parade scenes, or when the Osage community members showed up for the platform shot of the delegation going to Washington, were great.
She said one of the featured extras, Ericka Iron from the Osage Nation, asked all the Indigenous people on set their tribal affiliations and learned there were nearly 230 different tribes represented in the movie between the cast and crew.
Gladstone said even surrounded by so many Indigenous people there were difficult moments for her while filming.
She recalled a scene that stood out — not only for herself but also her co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro — when her character's mother, played by Cree and Métis actor Tantoo Cardinal, was dying surrounded by her family.
Gladstone recalled trying to shake it off after they were done filming that scene.
"We're doing these takes where we're just sobbing and, you know, really feeling it and how hard that is and thinking about, you know, just in the film what's happening," she said.
"You're watching her ancestors come collect her."
She said as soon as they yelled 'cut,' Cardinal comically popped up and looked around, breaking the tension.