meet hunter page-lochard, tv's first indigenous australian superhero
The young actor takes the lead in the new, politically-loaded sci-fi drama, 'Cleverman'.
Photography Darren Luk
For as long as he can remember, 23 year old Hunter Page-Lochard has been on the stage and screen. Born to parents who were also performers and growing up between Sydney and New York, he's accustomed to the lights, cameras and action. Hunter's father, Stephen Page, is a celebrated dancer and the artistic director of an Indigenous Australian contemporary arts company called Bangarra Dance Theatre. His mother Cynthia Lochard is a former dancer of the New York City Ballet and a muse to ballet icon, the late George Balanchine.
So far, the young Indigenous Australian and Haitian American actor has starred in The Sapphires, acted alongside Geoffrey Rush in Bran Nue Dae and appeared in Around The Block with Christina Ricci and Ruby Rose. Although he's always been involved in enlightening works that inform people about Australian Aboriginal culture, it is his latest project Cleverman that has put him in the spotlight.
Cleverman is an Australian sci-fi drama by Ryan Griffen, that tells the story of a legendary Indigenous superhero figure played by Hunter. With a mostly Indigenous cast, and also starring Iain Glen from Game Of Thrones, the narrative is set in a dystopian future which follows Page-Lochard's character Koen West, a reluctant young man with hereditary powers who's tasked with saving the conflicted world.
The show delves deep into the roots of Aboriginal culture giving a contemporary twist to ancient spiritual Dreamtime stories, whilst at the same time exploring relevant political, social and cultural issues like racial discrimination, class division, cultural oppression, governance, border control and police brutality.
We sat down with the rising talent to discuss playing a superhero and his thoughts on current issues.
i-D: Can you tell us about Cleverman and your character.
Personally, I think Cleverman is a project that's purely based around identity, especially within clan and family. Also, obviously on the surface how people treat subhumans or 'the other' and how society deals with that. It's interesting because we're kind of dealing with that ourselves. My character is someone who is wrapped up in the middle of that, but very selfish. He's only selfish because of the things that have happened to him in the past as a child - growing up without a mother and father, disowned by his older step-brother, auntie and clan community. Ultimately he has this big responsibility that forces him to acknowledge his place.
What's it like taking on such a legendary figure and essentially playing the role of a modern day Indigenous Australian superhero?
It's a privilege. It's kind of daunting at first but also awesome because it's a huge responsibility. I'm so grateful to have been given the opportunity. The one thing that I've seen from this show is that young indigenous kids, and non-indigenous kids, are really looking up to Cleverman already as a role model; like a superhero figure. I heard a story of one kid using the theme music and calling himself the Cleverman in a wrestling match with his dad in the lounge room, which is awesome!
The series also looks into Dreamtime stories, would you say that you're a spiritual person?
Yeah, very spiritual and intuitive. I think everyone who worked on the project feels the same.
Although it's a sci-fi series set in a dystopian future, how relevant do you feel the social and cultural issues dealt with are to our present?
It's extremely relevant. I think the writers and creators of Cleverman didn't shy away from holding up that mirror. Wayne Blair, one of the directors, has acknowledged his responsibility as an artist to show the ugly truth. This is what Cleverman is and always will be. Hopefully we can help make a difference or at least help to fight back.
The show comes at an interesting time in terms of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. What are your thoughts on this?
It's very powerful and it's a great movement. But at the same time, if I have to be quite personal with you, I'm someone who likes to sit in the audience and have the opinions aired somewhere else. I feel our society at the moment is like a broken record and I'm annoyed because most of us are smart and educated. These movements are great but this is the same thing we did years ago and still nothing has changed.
I know what you mean, but you're definitely communicating messages via the screen.
Yeah, I think the creative arts industry is one that's least publicly controlled by people who love to control everything, so we have a great platform for our revolution. There's a great line in this movie I just watched where they said that revolutions are fuelled on Youtube these days. So let's use all this stuff to our advantage.
Growing up as an Australian with mixed heritage, did you ever feel any social stigma?
Yes, to be brutally honest. It's definitely changing, but we've done that for ourselves and also with a lot of help. I've kind of dealt with it all my life. It's just something I use to make myself stronger.
With your mother and father being such respected performers, was being involved in the arts something that was inevitable, or are there other avenues you've wanted to pursue?
Because they were both dancers, my dad always wanted me to do ballet and stuff like that. I love to dance and have always loved film, TV, acting, the arts and being on stage, but actually I love writing and being behind the camera or curtain. I love creating and I'm very thankful to have had my parents because they've taught me everything I know now and they're very inspiring. They keep pushing me in the right direction and keep making sure that I understand that everything is quite sacred and really choose when to share my spirit from my heart in the right way. But yeah, I want to write and create movies.
What's the best advice your parents have given you for this industry?
Probably to keep my head straight, to be present and stay very focused. My dad's all about being sacred and choosing your moments wisely and my mum's all about keeping your head level and grounded...and not letting it get too big.
Do you have a favourite film?
I've got a lot! But I'll pick Fury. The moment when they all know they're deciding to basically go down the road where they're all going to die is, I believe, one of the most beautiful moments acted by men in the 21st century. There's some superb acting. And the scene with Michael Pena where they're having breakfast and he interrupts and talks about the horses.
What do you have coming up?
Cleverman Season 2 and a few things on the horizon that are under wraps.
Lastly, from your perspective, what's it like being young in 2016?
It's quite scary. Scary in a good way, because if I can acknowledge that it's scary I can have a strong path in helping this world.
SBS VICELAND is hosting YOUNG AND BLACK, a panel of Indigenous people with diverse perspectives, at at Splendour in the Grass on Saturday the 22nd of July at 12PM. Hunter Page-Lochard will be joined by Indigenous Liberal candidate Geoffrey Winters and musician Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.
Text and photography Darren Luk