Gary “Litefoot” Davis, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and current President and CEO of the National Center For American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) is raising more eyebrows with his role as BIA Notable Michael Frost in the second season of House of Cards, a political drama starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, on Netflix. Davis recently took a few minutes to discuss his character, his career and how Native actors and filmmakers might benefit from the success of projects like House of Cards.
How was it being a part of the House of Cards cast?
It was a real joy to work with those folks — it is an A+ production that they have. These guys absolutely know what they’re doing. There is no difference from anything I’ve seen done right in Hollywood Or on a network show that was a full production. I saw great attention to detail, with the same production value and organizational skills that would go into any full-scale production.
It was a first-class group of folks, and the end result — the product that they put out, House of Cards — reflects that.
How is your character Michael Frost involved in the plotline of the story?
I play a high-ranking official in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the episode I’m in revolves around folks who are trying to pursue an agenda that may or may not be in line with policy out of the Bureau. Of course I am not an official representative nor do I speak on behalf of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This is a TV show and I’m certain they take liberties artistically.
What scenes does your character Michael Frost play in?
My scenes were with Michael Kelly, who plays the chief of staff for Vice President Underwood in the film. I worked for a few days with Michael Kelly and Moses Brings Plenty.
How do you juggle what must be a pretty full schedule?
Given that I wear a lot of hats these days, including my role at the National Center which is my main priority in what we do on a daily basis, It was great to take a couple of days off In my schedule and do a TV show.
Some people take a few days off and build a model ship or play tennis, but I get to play in TV show once in a while. Things should be so bad right?
Distributing an original TV show through Netflix is a new and interesting approach — do you think this is something Native filmmakers could take advantage of?
Absolutely, I think that this is the future. No more are we held to the day when you only had a few outlets and then you had the gatekeepers of those outlets determining what goes through and what doesn’t go through. I think that we’re seeing technology and the diversification of this industry create more outlets for more shows like House of Cards. I think that you are going to see quality productions coming out of Indian country. I think that is the future.
What are you doing these days and will be looking for to do in the future?
My intention at this time is to definitely continue to move forward with the National Center For American Indian Enterprise Development. There is so much important work that needs to be done, creating economic opportunity for Indian country and creating opportunities in the workforce for Indian people. That to me is so satisfying.
I am just so blessed to be able to continue to have opportunities in film and TV and this is something that you never discount — what a tremendous blessing that it is for me to be able to do these types of things.
I think there’ll also be one more album that I will do — to put a period at the end of that sentence. It has been six years since I have put an album out, and not one day goes by where someone on Facebook — or a journalist from Indian Country Today — doesn’t ask me, “When is the next CD going to come out?”
What advice do you have for Indian Country?
One thing I don’t think people realize is that I have always been a business person before I had the luxury to be a rapper. I had to figure out how to be able to sustain my talent, which required business acumen.
These artists out there have got to get that because they have so much to say — but if they don’t have the business sense along with the artistry and talent, no one is going to hear it. We’ve got to find a way to take our artists and make them entrepreneurs — we’ve got to have both.
When the playing field was smaller, you could stay in the game a lot longer. But now it’s open, and it’s as horizontal as it is vertical, so if you are not on your game, two seconds later someone just passed you. I don’t think people realize that if you step out of the game for one second, you are losing ground, and it is going to be very hard to make up.
It’s been a remarkable journey. There is not a day that goes by I’m not aware of the eclectic journey that I’ve had. Business has helped me get everywhere. If I could not have done that, I would not have been able to do all the other things I have done.