Beyond The Lens – Native American actress, model, and singer Jasmine Rochelle Goodspeed has kindly opened up to answer a couple of questions I had sent her before the summer. I had got in contact with the multi-talented actress sometime in May to do an interview with her. After she accepted the interview I sent her some questions around June time and patiently waited to receive her answers back. As soon as I did I started to work on this story as soon as I found the time to. I hope you enjoy reading the interview!
~*~*Beyond The Lens /w Jasmine Rochelle Goodspeed*~*~
Internet Hollywood: Hey Jasmine! I appreciate you giving me the time to have this small discussion with you. After learning about everything you do it became an honor of mine to have the chance to interview someone as bright and talented as yourself. Before we start, could you give us a brief history on who you are, where you from, and what you do?
Jasmine: Of course! It’s an honor to be interviewed! Hi! I am Jasmine Rochelle Goodspeed of the Nipmuc people. I am an indigenous actress, and singer, and I am dedicated to bringing visibility and prosperity to my people. My very first role in a show was playing Susan in Miracle on 34th st when I was around 7 or 8 years old in a community theater, but I was entering myself in pageants and any competition that I could convince my parents to let me sign up for long before then! My dad is a talented musician and pulled me up on stage with him as soon as I could sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and well…It was all downhill from there! Now, I’ve moved on to acting in larger scale productions, and am working to push forward the musical that I wrote with my dear friend Atticus about the tragedies of King Philip’s War and Deer Island titled “1675”. I’ll be graduating Umass Amherst and the Commonweath Honors College this coming Spring with degrees in Theater, English, and Native American Studies. It’s been a crazy ride, and I’m looking forward to my future as a performer and activist.
Internet Hollywood: You have allowed yourself to become more than just a person that sticks with one thing and made yourself something more for a greater cause. I remember you telling me all the good you wanted to do for Native Americans. Care to share what you’re trying to do?
Jasmine: There is so much I want to accomplish. As you’re probably aware of, people don’t think of indigenous people as “real”. I know that it sounds weird, but I definitely grew up in a world where kids looked at me and told me that I couldn’t possibly be Native American because I wasn’t a “savage”. I mean, heck, I was at work this past week and some guys came in talking about casino’s and “dirty indians” and when I told him not to talk about my people that way he looked at me and said “Well, you don’t look like one of those savages” and it was like a slap in the face. This is 2018, and people are still saying those things! Visibility is SO important. History has been trying to erase us for as long as anyone can remember. There were assimilation acts, and downright massacres, internments, and boarding schools, and we rose up through it all. We are still here. We are resilient and strong, but sometimes it is so hard. I want to establish scholarships for Native Youth in the performing arts. Storytelling is a huge part of our culture and traditions, and there aren’t nearly enough accessible scholarships and mentorships for our children. I want to create spaces where indigenous people can come together and talk. I want to work with everyone to create, and grow, and preserve everything that we’ve fought so hard for. I want to see a world where we work together, despite differences. But there need to be more spaces for that. I want to help spread language programs for Native Youth, and places where traditional practices and knowledge can be shared with new generations. I don’t want kids to have to feel isolated or afraid of a culture that is very much theirs just because they are missing pieces that were stolen from them through the effects of colonization. We are a vibrant and talented people, and I want to find a way to nurture that. I would love to set up spaces for native communities throughout Massachusetts, and if I’m successful in that, I want to help other communities do the same. Like I said, there is so much that I want to accomplish, but I want to hold my hand out and welcome any one who wants to be a part of accomplishing it. I don’t care about validation or credit. I care about our future, as a people.
Internet Hollywood: The Native American plays that you be doing are pretty creative and educational as well. I saw some of the photos and it makes me wonder what it will be like experiencing everything in person. When did the idea of the play come up and how hard was it to put everything together?
Jasmine: 1675 is the first musical, and the first play and musical that I’ve ever written! It’s been… rewarding, and I hope that it grows even bigger. You see, I grew up with my amazing cousin Larry Spotted Crow Mann being like… this amazing guide to me. I was always super ambitious, and I always wanted to do more. Even when I was like… 8, haha. I watched him tell stories, and I wanted so much to be… Big? I don’t know how to describe it. I wanted to make an impact, and inspire people. It’s something I’ve always held onto, and I found out about Deer Island and the tragedy that our ancestors faced there during King Philip’s War a while back and it just felt so wrong to me that no one seemed to know about it. I’d ask people, and they only knew that Deer Island is now a waste treatment facility…. Not that it was a place where innocent people who had gone so far as to swear themselves as Christians, live in “praying towns” only to be swept away in the middle of the night in October 1675 with 6 carts to place the belongings of 200+ people in their town(more towns would follow in time) all the way to Deer Island. They didn’t even tell them where they were going, and they dropped them off there with absolutely nothing but what they’d packed. They were kept there for 9 months. The general court refused to bring them back, so John Eliot(who had established the towns) had to bring them back with his own money and…. It was so tragic. There were a lot of things that happened during that war to the people out here, and no one knows about it. SO. I had been doing all this reading and digging, and then I was placed in Umass’s Honors College and needed to do a Thesis. Well, I’d done a ton of research, I thought it might be easy to make a musical. So I proposed it… And it was accepted and… Things suddenly became really real. Like “oh no, I’m doing this now…” Because it had been a plan for the future. But I’m ambitious, right? Thankfully, my friend Atticus can play a lot of different instruments and I asked if he’d help and I don’t think I really told him how big the project was until we were already in way over our heads. I didn’t even know it would be so big! But we ended up with like 20 songs in a year. We somehow auditioned an amazing cast, and threw together this brand new show in a little under 2 months. Here’s a link to a quick website I made for it! (link) There are a lot of future plans, and I’m excited to have an indigenous cast, and work towards pushing it as far as it can go. Broadway was always something I’d dreamed of performing on. If you’d asked me 4 years ago if I thought that I would write a musical and try to bring it to Broadway… Well, I’d probably have told you that it sounded like a good idea, but that I wouldn’t know where to start. Now, I have a start. Now it’s about the next steps, and I’m looking forward to those. I want to bring as much attention to this history as possible! Like Hamilton! Lin Manuel Miranda wrote, “In the Heights” for his thesis! That can only mean that there is hope.
Internet Hollywood: You also get yourself involved in things politically to try to make a change for your people as well. How has that been going? Do you have any worries as you continue the journey to fulfill your goals for indigenous groups?
Jasmine: I am a passionate person, and I’m not afraid to speak. Sometimes, it can get a little scary. Last year, while speaking out against the “Indians” Mascot in the Turners Falls school system, I was attacked by an online group. There were some pretty hefty threats that came about from that. It didn’t shake me, but the people around me were worried. I’m worried that threats might become actions at some point in the future, sure, but I’m not going to let that stop me. There’s too much to do, to decide to be scared.
Of course, though, I do have the worry of “what if I fail?” “What if I don’t succeed?” “What if I’m not good enough to make a change?” Oh yeah. I’m terrified of that. I’m very worried that my dreams may be bigger than my achievable reality. But I’m not going to let that stop me. If I did that, I’d never have a chance. If I keep fighting, even if I’m worried, I do.
Internet Hollywood: You also added a musical to the plays that you be doing. When did you come up with that idea and how did the crowd respond when you performed it live for the very first time?
Jasmine: When 1675 actually went up in front of an audience it was insane. People loved it. There were so many good reviews that I was overwhelmed. People understood the story, and the music, and I feel like I was able to share with them the pain and horrors of that event, and the humanity of my people. I didn’t expect it to be such a huge hit, but it was, and that gives me a lot of hope.
Internet Hollywood: What inspired you to want to get into modeling and what is your favorite character to dress up as when doing cosplay?
Jasmine: I was probably born a model! haha I mean, I have a trophy from a competition in Florida where I guess I got “runner up” for cutest baby or something at some event I don’t remember. I was always eager for people to take pictures of me, and I loved dressing up in all sorts of stuff. I would run around in shorts, a hat, and no shirt as a 3-year-old, then go throw on a dress and a cousins makeup. I’d also alternate between my Glinda ball gown and my pink power ranger suit for clothes to wear to pre-school when given the choice. I was always kinda odd, so it wasn’t a surprise when I really got into anime and then cosplay. I LOVE being different characters. It’s so fun. But as for my favorite character…? I’ve gotta say I love being Anna from Frozen. She’s so spunky! The blue contacts are a bit of a drag, but I love chatting with kids as her. Their eyes always get so big when they see me just walking around sometimes for no reason like: “LOOK IT’S ANNA!” and then the parents freak out too, and it’s really wonderful to be able to make people smile. That’s my favorite part of dressing up.
Internet Hollywood: Last question; what are some of the things that you are currently working on right now that you would like everyone to know?
Jasmine: Well! Aside from working to produce 1675 in bigger and better ways, I’m doing my local Shakespeare show in Look Park at the Pines Theater! About 4 years ago I got frustrated at the lack of free theater in the valley. Like, there’s not really any. It can get really expensive to take your family to see a show, so I wanted to create something that people could go see for free and well…Look Park was kind enough to let me use their space. Every year I’m amazed at how lucky I was to get to get that chance, and now we’re on our 4th year, with Romeo and Juliet AND it’s not traditionally cast! Romeo is a girl! The nurse is a guy! Gender doesn’t matter with my little Billy Shakes group, and I LOVE it. It’s really fun to let characters breathe a new life, or hey! Come out as gay! I absolutely want to encourage people to go see the FREE show at Look Park this coming 4th of July Weekend! Thank you for this chance to talk at you, and for all the support!
Internet Hollywood: Thank you for the interview, Jasmine!
~*~*Thank You For Reading*~*~
~*~*Credits & Links*~*~
Jasmine Rochelle Goodspeed: Instagram