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Q'Orianka Kilcher as Pocahontas in 'The New World'
Photo ©2005 Merie Wallace, SMPSP/New Line Productions

Did You Know?

Singer Jewel Kilcher is Q’Orianka’s second cousin.

Q’Orianka enjoys making her own jewelry and clothes. She made her dress for the premiere of The New World.

Q’Orianka has two brothers. Thirteen-year-old Kainoa also appears in The New World. Her five-year-old brother was considered to play the role of Pocahontas’ son, Thomas, but he didn’t have the British accent that filmmakers wanted.

Q’Orianka wasn’t allowed to meet Colin Farrell until the first day she filmed with him.



From Promenade to Pocahontas

By Belinda Elliott Daily Life Producer What is it like to be in your early teens, starring in a movie, and portraying on-screen romances with celebrities Colin Farrell and Christian Bale? To 15-year-old Q’Orianka Kilcher it is just another day at work – with a little good luck thrown in.

Kilcher, who had been performing at Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, has been acting and singing since age six. Her first film appearance was as a choir member in Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The young actress was 14 years old when she began filming The New World, Terrence Malick’s latest film about the founding of the Jamestown Settlement and the legend of Pocahontas and John Smith. Kilcher, who stars in the film as Pocahontas, had to do quite a bit of work before filming even began to convince the filmmakers she could portray the intricate character.

Originally submitted to be considered for a television series, Q’Orianka Kilcher said her photo happened to catch the eye of Rene Haynes, casting director for The New World. Kilcher said that Haynes thought she looked like an “Indian Julia Roberts,” and she decided to have her audition for the role of Pocahontas.

After an hour-long audition, Kilcher said she was turned down for the part because she was too young. However, two weeks later she was called back, and after 15 to 20 more auditions, she was given the role. “I was actually more tired on the end of the auditions than after five months of filming,” Kilcher said.

Her auditions included everything from being asked to perform an improvised Native American dance to singing and playing a Native American flute. “They would just throw a bunch of obstacles and challenges at me to see if I was able to withstand it because, of course, on the set it would be pretty hard,” Kilcher said.

Producer Sarah Green said the rigorous auditions were as much about getting to know Kilcher as they were about her acting. “It was a very slow process of (asking) does she really understand what this character will have to go through and can she live there? And it was very clear that she did,” Green said.

Perhaps Kilcher’s multicultural background is something that helped prepare her for the role. She was born in Germany, has Quechua/Huachipaeri Indian and Alaskan/Swiss heritage, grew up in Hawaii, and now lives in Los Angeles. She is proud of her heritage and is relearning the Quechua language that she spoke as a child.

“I really identified with Pocahontas’ struggles as a young woman trying to identify herself in a modern changing world and trying to stay true to her culture and her heritage,” Kilcher said.

As she researched the life of Pocahontas, Kilcher said that she fell in love with the character and worked hard to accurately portray her story.

This included trying to imagine the wide span of emotions that Pocahontas would have experienced in her short life. One instance where Kilcher feels she succeeded in this is in Pocahontas’ decision to forsake her tribal way of life and live with the English.

“I had them put my corset extra tight and my shoes a size too small to feel how I imagined Pocahontas to feel, and it was really sad because I felt like a caged bird. Actually, I cried that night because it was just so confining,” Kilcher said.

She said portraying the Indian princess was a life-changing experience for her. “Pocahontas has such great qualities, like courageousness and love for everything in life, so I hope she will always be a part of me.”

Has the sudden fame and media attention changed the home-schooled teen? She said she doesn’t think so. She admits the movie has cultivated a new love for history, but other than that she is just enjoying the experience.

Hopefully, moviegoers will see more of this talented young actress in the future. She said she looks forward to new projects, and she would like to do “films that give you something to think about when you walk out of the theater.” She certainly achieves that in her superb portrayal of Pocahontas in The New World.

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