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Actor's Indian Heritage Adds Dimension to Roles

Sandi Davis Published: June 15, 1997

BIOG: NAME: UPD: 19970619 -TEXT-

Larry Sellers is good at turning any situation into a positive thing.

The Oklahoma native and Osage, Lakota and Cherokee Indian actor flew to Oklahoma City recently to help judge the American Indian Film & Video Competition for the Red Earth Festival, which ends today.

Winning films will be shown today beginning at 10 a.m. at the Myriad Convention Center.

When Sellers arrived at Will Rogers World Airport, he found the silk shirts he had packed had been taken from his luggage. The only shirt he had - a collarless, soft-white cotton pullover - was on his back.

"It is very frustrating," Sellers said. "I guess I'll go out tonight and buy some T-shirts.

Still, when it was time to meet the press, Sellers put that calamity behind him and talked about his place in Hollywood and how he's able to help change the way people view American Indians.

The actor stars as Cloud Dancing on the hit TV series "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman." He has appeared on "Walker, Texas Ranger" and "Beverly Hills, 90210," and his film credits include "Wayne's World II" and "Crazy Horse."

Sellers is a spiritual man. His children have traditional American Indian names and he has moved from the bustle of Los Angeles to a quiet Colorado city whose name he prefers to keep to himself.

He finds it interesting that many people are discovering the American Indian heritage and then want to know more about the background and the culture involved.

"Problems arise when people want to immerse themselves in that little bit of their heritage and forget who they are," he said. "They must understand the entirety of their self. They must learn about that and incorporate that."

Unlike many actors, Sellers didn't grow up wanting to be a star.

He was born in Pawhuska, where he lived until he graduated from high school.

After a stint in the Navy, he graduated from Arizona State University. With a degree in education, he taught American Indian history and culture for seven years.

At the same time, he became a rodeo cowboy, competing in saddle bronc and bareback horse events.

"I enjoyed the agony of victory, the devastation of defeat and the sympathy of the ladies," he explained with a devilish smile.

He left the world of education and rodeos to take a job with a friend in a live stunt show.

"I learned to crash cars, fall from buildings and kick box," he said.

He also moved from Arizona to California, where he lived for 19 years, working as a stuntman, translator and technical adviser.

Sellers got the part of Cloud Dancing almost by accident.

"I was offered a part in Kevin Costner's movie, 'Dances With Wolves,' but I had to take off two days during the filming to attend a spiritual ceremony. They wouldn't let me go, so I turned down the part. For me, the spiritual always comes first."

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