Cowboy-turned-actor Brady Jandreau talks about his leading role in the western festival hit The Rider.
Cowboys & Indians: You more or less play yourself in The Rider, a movie about a rodeo competitor who recovers from a serious head injury after a horse steps on his head during a bronc riding event. After seeing the accident portrayed in the film — well, most people in the audience will be surprised that you actually survived.
BradyJandreau: Yeah, the doctors didn’t know if I was gonna make it either. When I was in a coma, they didn’t know if I was gonna wake up and be fine or if I was never gonna wake up again, you know? But seeing it on-screen — just being able to actually see it — that’s helped me deal with a lot of things. You know, it helped me come to terms with it.
C&I: The irony, of course, is that the accident occurred on April 1, 2016 — April Fools’ Day.
Brady: [Laughs.] Yeah. The funny thing is the accident didn’t even knock me unconscious. I was actually awake for about 12 minutes. And my wife was calling and telling people while I was actually still awake that everyone thought the news was an April Fools’ Day joke.
C&I: For you to reveal so much about yourself in the movie, you must have trusted Chloé Zhao, your director, a great deal. How did she earn your trust?
Brady: Chloé came out to the ranch where I was working, down on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. She watched us break horses, and watched us herd cattle — and before long, she was coming down and working and riding horses with us. She learned how to ride, and she trusted us completely. So there was no reason for us not to trust her, I guess.
C&I: As a rodeo competitor, you’re used to performing in the spotlight. Do you think that helped prepare you for acting in a movie?
Brady: I would say definitely. Not only that, but also being around and selling horses, and training horses for people, you have to present yourself in a certain way. Not only to the person who’s going to buy your horse, or the person you’re training the horse for, but you also have to present yourself in a certain way to the horse. You know, each horse is so individual. And you have to earn the horse’s trust.
C&I: What do you think you learned about yourself while making a movie — and then watching you playing yourself on-screen?
Brady: I sure have come to terms with a lot of my emotions and stuff. By seeing myself on-screen, seeing myself acting, I guess. Honestly, like the grocery store scene in the movie.
C&I: Where you think you’ll be forced to give up riding and get into another line of work altogether.
Brady: That was one of the scenes where I was doing the most acting. In fact, that was the only scene where I could really visualize myself as an actor. Because I never worked in a grocery store or anything like that. [Laughs.] I mean, the only thing I’ve ever done for work besides working with horses is working in the movie, being an actor. Just the idea of having to do something else kinda freaked me out.
C&I: Even though you’re no longer competing in rodeos, you’re still working with horses, correct?
Brady: I still train horses.
C&I: Isn’t that, well, a little dangerous for you?
Brady: There’s still a good chance that something could happen at any time. I don’t wear a helmet, you know. And I got this metal plate in my head. If I hit it hard enough, it’s gonna make an injury the size of my plate, which is gonna be about three times the size of the initial injury.
C&I: So you could make the argument that what you’re doing now is riskier than competing in rodeos.
Brady: Well, if you think about it, yeah. I mean, when I’m training colts, I’m not sitting where there’s an ambulance right nearby, like at the rodeo.
C&I: How difficult would it be for you to imagine a life away from horses?
Brady: That would be pretty unfathomable to me. I’ve been around horses my whole life. I could sit up and ride my own horse by myself before I was out of diapers — when I was a year-and-a-half old — with nobody leading me.
C&I: But what if you received offers for other acting jobs?
Brady: Well, we already have had some people talk to me about it and stuff. Actually, to be honest, I really enjoyed the challenge of acting more than anything else about it. And I’ve always been a person that likes to accept a good challenge.
Background: Brady Jandreau — the star of Chloé Zhao’s The Rider — is a Lakota Sioux enrolled in the Lower Brule Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
From the May/June 2018 issue.