Photo by Matt Sanders
Rick Mora with Nanook, a husky put up for adoption by, a charity Mora supports.

Rick Mora Says Tonto Role Would Have Been 'a No-Brainer'


Rick Mora is more than just a pretty face -- not that it's strictly necessary with a face like his. After a rapid rise as a model, appearing in advertisements for such companies as Toyota, Wilson Leather and Anson’s Germany, he made his film acting debut with a small part as Ephraim Black, great grandfather of Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), in Twilight (2008). His filmography has grown since, with the 2011 releases The Dead & The Damned and Yellow Rock, and he's got more projects in the works. He recently took a few moments to give ICTMN an update.  

Yellow Rock is an interesting recent project, in which you got the chance to work with fellow Native actors Michael Spears, Eddie Spears, Zahn McClarnon, and the comedian Larry Omaha (among others) -- what can you tell us about that experience?

There comes a time in an actor's life when you truly feel the Great Spirit enter your body and share his warmth in your heart, and Yellow Rock was that movie. Truth be told, I would have paid to be on that set. Working alongside Michael and Eddie and Zahn has always been a personal desire of mine. I find those actors to be on top of their craft in the business we are in. Aside from being the top actors they all brought a beautiful element of spirit and culture with them, which made every day on the set amazing and rich. Doing a movie with the Spears brothers together -- priceless!  Larry was great to work with, but I had no idea he was acting as well.

What's on your plate at the moment? 

My schedule is pretty full at the moment. I am very blessed to have diversified my work in enough areas to keep me busy. In terms of acting, I've got two films that will be released soon. One is Little Boy, with Kevin James, Sean Astin, Emily Watson, Michael Rapaport and many more A-listers. I also have a small part in a horror film called Savaged. I continue to co-host on LA Talk Radio; modeling never seems to end; and I'm jumping into the publishing industry with some book projects, including "The Codex of Awakening" and "To Venus and Back." And finally, I'm always staying true to my humanitarian work. Those who want to keep up with me can do so by visiting my website, or by liking my Facebook page and following me on

For better or worse, the biggest story about American Indians and Hollywood in 2013 has been the Johnny Depp/Tonto controversy. Putting aside the fact that The Lone Ranger was basically a bomb -- what would you have thought or said if you were offered the role of Tonto? Is it a role you would want to play?

The movie biz is a gamble, this much is true. But what is not a gamble is the opportunity for promotion! We all know the story and the role Johnny plays. Do I think it is fair? No. Do I think it is wrong? No. Johnny was able to get the movie made. He had the respect of the industry and the money to back it. He was willing to put his reputation on the line, always respecting the culture and acceptance he received from the Comanche Nation. He honored his opportunity and those who showed him the way. He was very kind to the Native community around him and he honored my Elder Saginaw Grant who plays a chief in the movie. The production provided jobs for many and put food on many Native tables. In my eyes the movie was a success because it kept Native American tradition in the mainstream. Would I play Tonto? This question is a no-brainer -- you're asking a Native actor, "Would you play a Native character in a blockbuster film?" That's so Smoke Signals.

Speaking of Saginaw Grant, he recently recruited you to a project he was working on called Eagle Lake -- can you talk about your relationship with him?

I have had the honor of working with my Elder Saginaw Grant on many different productions. We have worked everything from commercials to films, but I am most proud of our humanitarian work. So when Saginaw came to me with a request to play Detective Cruz in his movie I was more than honored.

Unfortunately, the Kickstarter funding campaign for Eagle Lake has been put on hold -- but let's assume it resumes at a later date. What drew you to the story?

Eagle Lake reflects a wonderful journey to reintroduce the importance of tradition and family values lost in generations past. The movie has the backdrop of a Native American framework but the message carries through for most families from many cultures. There are values being lost and it is the responsibility of the family to ensure specific traditions are not lost.

Is Kickstarter, crowdsourcing, or the Internet in general, the answer to the perennial question of how to get more (and better) Native films made?

Kickstarter has its pros and cons depending on how it is used. I think it is a wonderful tool to use in the media promotion and initial introduction of specific projects. It gives fans a chance to show their dedication by allowing them an interactive process of support. But, at the same time, the industry at large is getting inundated with so much content that one has to be real ingenious nowadays about how they choose to market, promote and generate the buzz needed for Kickstarter to work. There can never be enough Native-content films made and the Internet is definitely a wonderful tool to get the process rolling along at a much faster pace. When it is all said and done, its all about getting your movie in the right people's hands so that it may spread its wings and fly.