Burien Rapper Travis Thompson Makes His Acting Debut In FX’s “Reservation Dogs”


The sound of a baseball hitting in a leather glove – the sound of a million American childhoods – echoed through the concrete tunnel in the bowels of T-Mobile Park. Slipping away from the field, where a minute earlier Travis Thompson posed for photos and hammered it with Mariner Moose as his chillingly shimmering “Parked Cars” blared over the stadium speakers, the Burien rapper snuck in a few warm-up pitches to his dad before throwing the first pitch as part of Mariners’ Native American Heritage Night last month.

Wearing a personalized Mariners jersey stitched with his Navajo name, which translates to “little black bear,” Thompson smiled wider than the hole on the left side of the infield when opposing teams put the change on the outfielder. of Mr Jesse Winker, strolling towards the mound under the lights of the pitch. A former baseball player who made college his freshman year, Thompson delivered an emphatic punch after putting the ceremonial pitch on the plate. “He didn’t even move his glove,” his proud mother said later in a slow-motion replay.

It was a “top five moment” for the local luminary, who used to arrive at the ballpark two hours early to watch batting practice as a kid. Thompson, who is half Navajo and half white, has never been shy about talking about his heritage, but over the years it’s been an aspect of himself that he’s become more comfortable sharing. with his music.

Growing up as a mixed-race kid in suburban Seattle, Thompson was often seen as one of the few white kids in his friend group. Thompson would take road trips to visit his father’s family in Fort Defiance, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation Reservation, the largest reservation in the United States, covering parts of Arizona, New Mexico and southeastern Utah.

“At first I didn’t really push for the native thing, because I didn’t want to feel like I was flattering or trying to be something,” Thompson said in the stands, surrounded by so many people. friends and family he felt like half of the white center was in Section 119.

“I started releasing music and then things in my life happened where people were calling me to represent, so I’m like, ‘OK, I bet. If you want me to represent, I’ll tell you exactly what I saw on the reservation, how me and the homies grew up, what was cooked in my house, what languages ​​were spoken in my house – I’ll tell you all about it.’

“So being here for [Native American Heritage Night]I almost feel like I’m recognized and accepted by my people in a weird way.

The game night honor also previewed Thompson’s first foray into acting, an appearance on the second season of “Reservation Dogs.” To mark the occasion, Thompson is hosting a screening/Q&A night on Wednesday in the Crocodile’s Here-After theater, followed by a release show for his new EP at Madame Lou, also under the Crocodile’s roof (literally). . (The screening is sold out, but tickets for the show were still available on Tuesday.)

Although Thompson has long had a propensity for ambitious music videos, he never dreamed of adding “actor” to his resume. When he first saw the trailer for the hit FX/Hulu series, which centers on a group of mischievous teenagers on an Oklahoma reservation, Thompson reached out to co-creator Sterlin Harjo, who knew his music already, thinking they might want to use a song or have him appear as an extra.

“Six months went by, he was like, ‘I think we could have an audition for you,'” Thompson recalled. “I’m like, ‘What the hell [expletive] are you talking about?! What?!’ ”

Thompson took a crash course in acting for a week of “little [expletive] YouTube Videos” and eventually landed the role of Tino, whom Thompson describes as a “rowdy boy from the reservation” and a troubled young father with a kind heart who bonds with one of the main characters. Tino first appears once in the seventh episode of the second season, alongside another guest star in Marc Maron.

Clearly, those YouTube videos paid off. Thompson’s first day of filming went so well, including an off-script kiss on the forehead that made “the whole cast and crew…die,” that they wrote Tino in a second episode later. this season.

“The coolest thing the show does is show that Native people are really funny,” Thompson said over the occasional roar from Mariners fans. “Native American humor is at the forefront right now and I think it’s really great.

“I feel like when you talk about the natives, most of the time it’s just trauma and sadness [expletive]. Don’t get me wrong, the show is going there. But the show also shows a fun and normal neighborhood reserve [expletive] that everyone can identify with.

As the focus shifts to Thompson’s first acting role, the local rapper landed a song in the ‘Reservation Dogs’ soundtrack, which has become one of the most talked about on TV since ‘Insecure’. . (Coincidentally, her song “I Might Jump” appears in the Season 2 premiere alongside tracks from other North West artists Beat Happening and Black Belt Eagle Scout, Katherine Paul’s Portland-based indie-rock project. , who grew up on the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Reserve near La Conner.) Thompson’s selection was the lead single from his new “If I’m Alive, That Is.” EP – his first since parting ways with Epic Records this year.

There’s a wild whimsy running through the breezy five-song set, which Thompson describes as something of a warm-up project ahead of a full album with Seattle heavyweight producer Jake One due early next year. .

“The world is crazy,” Thompson said. “Do you want to make plans in six months? Where is the world going to be? That’s the whole idea behind the project. It’s really the energy to say [expletive] and do our own thing.

“Reservation Dogs”

New episodes of “Reservation Dogs” Season 2 air Wednesdays on Hulu.

About Michael B. Billingsley

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