Martin Sensmeier is an American actor of Tlingit, Koyukon-Athabascan and Irish descent. Raised in a Tlingit Coastal Community in Southeast Alaska, Martin moved to Los Angeles in 2007 to pursue acting and modeling.
To support his career, he worked on an oil rig in Alaska in 2011, but after years of a grueling two-weeks on, two weeks off and the realization that working to support big oil hurt his heart and mind, he quit the oil industry and began pursuing acting and modeling full time.
Martin Sensmeier recently appeared on screen in last year’s The Magnificent Seven, directed by Antoine Fuqua. He is starring alongside Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, and Vincent D’onofrio.
In an interview with ICTMN’s Vincent Schilling, Martin Sensmeier spoke about his journey to become one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, as well as discussing an amazing memorable moment with an Oscar-nominated actor.
How did you get the role in The Magnificent Seven\**?**
I auditioned several times — you don’t get a role like this without a long process. They invest a lot of money. The process is a lot of work. The room was full of casting directors, they do a cold reading and you have to act with emotion. It is a really interesting situation.
How did it feel being on par with such big name actors as Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’onofrio?
At first it was a dream come true to be able to work with these guys, but then you have to try to not psych yourself out, I tried not to get into my head too much and I told myself I got this part because I earned this part.
Magnificent Seven Actor Martin Sensmeier and actors Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke and more – Sam Emerson/©2016 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
I’ve been chasing this dream and imagining in my mind what it would be like for a long time, so when I was there, I just thought, Now the real work begins.
I got off social media, I put my head down and I just got to work. I gave it everything I could. I was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for four months and I didn’t even visit New Orleans. I just stayed where I was and worked hard and studied.
Hopefully that will play out on screen.
Did you always have that work ethic?
There has always been a struggle to be a Native man away from home and I didn’t always take it as seriously for the first couple of years. Sometimes I would get distracted and hang out with friends. But now, when I have an audition, I learn my lines, I learn the other actors’ lines, I really work hard.
Magnificent Seven Actor Martin Sensmeier – Sam Emerson/©2016 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
But there was one time I had an epiphany, an elder passed away back home and I was unable to attend even after I was asked to come home. I couldn’t go home because I couldn’t afford it. I realized I was missing out on important things at home as a Tlingit man, and I needed to make it work [in L.A.], I need to give it my all and I need to work as hard as I can. I decided to focus … and do everything I can as an actor.
Good things started to happen.
I enjoyed being an extra in Longmire and met Lou Diamond Phillips. I watched everybody, it was fascinating to me, and I thought, man I could do that!
Any memorable moments for you in your career?
One morning, my clock was off by six minutes and I was one minute late for the van to take us to the set. I won’t say his name, but an Oscar-nominated actor tore into me – he said I was blessed to be in my situation, and tore into me for being late. I thought, Wow, what an experience to be chewed out by an Oscar nominee!
I felt very blessed to be in that position.
Any memorable or funny moments on set of Magnificent Seven?
Every day was a new and great day, that group of actors is amazing. Chris Pratt is a very funny and laid back guy, yet he is extremely intelligent and an incredibly hard worker. He is one of the hardest workers I have ever met.
Every day was light and fun and a lot of joking around.
Movie image from The Magnificent Seven – Sam Emerson/©2016 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. and Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
How was it to portray a Native character?
Antoine Fuqua, the director, worked to create a diverse cast. I helped to create the character with him. He gave me a lot of freedom to bring a lot to the character. He gave me an idea of what he wanted and then he let me put it through my own filter.
My dad told me that working as a storyteller is honoring my traditions, so I have to take it seriously.
What is your advice for young Native actor hopefuls?
You can’t get bummed out about not getting a role after an audition, no matter how big the production. You have to have thick skin and not take things personal.
We need more Native actors and models — I really encourage everyone not to give up and to stick with it. But you have to work, and that is really all there is to it.
The Magnificent Seven hit theaters September 23, 2016 and can be found on streaming video sites currently.
Follow ICTMN’s Arts and Entertainment, Pow Wow’s and Sports Editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter – @VinceSchilling
This story was originally published September 6, 2016.