Puffed up underneath a thick layer of authentic Native American garb sits a crippled, leathered man. Stoic, with a sparkle of deeply-veined knowledge in his eyes, Billy Black reduces himself to the mindset and laughter of a teenage boy when Charlie Swan dangles a Rainier beer in his face.
Gil Birmingham tackles the role of Billy Black not just convincingly. Gil IS Billy Black. And it’s not until he exposed his true nature that I could peel back Black’s exterior to reveal the complexities behind Birmingham.
A Comanche through his father’s side, Gil appreciates the benefits of his heritage and the ability to portray Native Americans who made an impact throughout history. “Projects like Into the West, by Stephen Spielberg, have given me the opportunity to explore the Native American experience in ways I might not have been able to do in other walks of life,” Gil said. “Having to reach into the depth of a character like Dogstar, for example, and understand the experiences he went through and how his life was shaped by the historic events he witnessed, helped me better understand what my own ancestors went through.”
You may be surprised to learn that Gil’s background includes polar opposites- both bodybuilding and a background in petrochemical engineering, thanks to his administration degree from USC. “I actually fell into acting during my bodybuilding days. I was asked to appear in a Diana Ross music video for her song, “Muscles,” which was written by Michael Jackson,” say Gil. “It was my first acting experience in front of a camera, and I was hooked.”
Not surprisingly, Twilight is his most memorable recent film, thanks to the youthful energy, director Catherine Hardwicke’s vision, and the sheer scope of the film, says Gil, which made Twilight a unique project.
He does admit to enjoying the diversity of roles that come his way and looks for roles that will challenge him as an actor. Two recent roles include a TV episode of the improve comedy 10 Items or Less, where Gil experienced a different pace and spontaneity than that of traditional drama.
In Love Ranch, Gil plays corrupt Sheriff Johnny Cortez, right-hand man to Joe Pesci’s character Charlie Bontempe. Based on a true story about the couple who founded the Mustang Ranch, Reno Nevada’s first legal brothel, Love Ranch is currently in post-production. “I had the opportunity to work with award-winning actress Helen Mirren and Joe Pesci, who both are extremely talented individuals,” says Gil. “I was able to watch them and how they approached their roles; it was an honor to work with them.”
For a chance to win Bella’s wardrobe enter t5m’s exclusive Twilight competition click here.