NEW YORK | Newcomer Sivan Alyra Rose represents a rarity as one of the few people of Native American descent to star in a Netflix series — or any television series, for that matter. But she hopes her breakthrough in “Chambers” will encourage more opportunities for women like her.
“I think ‘Chambers’ is really (at the forefront of) an important conversation of inclusion and how simple it really can be,” said the 19-year-old actress from the San Carlos Apache tribe.
The show centers around Sasha Yazzie, who receives a heart transplant and starts having disturbing visions and impulses that lead her on a quest to learn more about her deceased donor.
While Rose describes “Chambers” as a supernatural horror show, she says it touches on real-life issues as well.
“Real life has its stress. Real life has its scares and real life … plays into the fantasy world at the same time,” she said.
The show also explores real-life cultural issues affecting Native Americans, including the use of its mascots and other imagery in mainstream culture. In one scene, Sasha sees a mural of a Native American on horseback, wearing a feathered headdress and lifting a tomahawk into the air.
“I went to a high school that was off a reservation town and there’s so much insensitivity in the world. Those kinds of murals, they’re everywhere. We have football teams, we have high schools across the country that love to wear war bonnets to their football games on Friday nights,” said Rose. “We’ve got to stop covering up that there’s bad things in the world and that there’s insensitivity.”
Rose hopes that the show gives a more realistic representation of Native American culture, calling her character “an Instagram loving, super cute teen girl.”
“And that’s literally everyone else on the (reservation) that I grew up with,” said Rose. “That’s all I hope they see, too, is like, ‘Yeah, she’s very normal.’ And Native American, the subject, it sounds dark and it’s ominous and so big and grand, but … we’re still here and we’re nice people.”
Besides Rose, other Native Americans who are part of the series include executive story editor Jason Gavin, as well as other Native American cast and crew.
“It was nice knowing that it didn’t start at me, to have to make calls and to make sure everything’s right. Yes, I am one of the newer generation Native American actors but I’m not the only one,” said Rose. “It was nice knowing that I didn’t have to do all the checks and balances. There were people all the way at the beginning.”
The series also co-stars Uma Thurman and Tony Goldwyn as the donor’s parents. Rose praised the pair for welcoming her and treating her as an equal despite her inexperience.
“(They) are so kind and so loving and they made me feel accepted. Even though I’m a beginner and I’m new, they never made me feel like that,” she said.
Though Rose recognizes that not everyone is a horror lover, she thinks there are pieces of the show that will resonate with all audiences — well, most.
“I think ‘Chambers’ is really for everyone — not kids, though. I wouldn’t tell kids to watch ‘Chambers.’ I’m not going to lie about that,” she said with a laugh.