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Next Heartthrob Lives in Rio Rancho

By Adrian Gomez
Journal Staff Writer
          Tatanka Means is aware of all the Internet chatter — but it doesn't faze him.
        The shy 25-year-old actor, a native of Chinle, Ariz., who now lives in Rio Rancho, is on the cusp of being a household name — all thanks to author Judy Blume.
        Means snagged the coveted male lead role in Blume's "Tiger Eyes," which recently finished shooting in Los Alamos and Santa Fe.
    With the role of Wolf Ortiz, websites like www.hollywoodcrush.mtv.com are predicting Means to be the next heartthrob.
        "I've read it and laughed," he says. "I don't see it, but it's turning out to be great buzz for the movie."
        For Means, the role of Wolf seemed like it was a world away. He says when he first learned of the role, he thought he would be a great fit — at 6 foot 3 inches, he was tall, mysterious and Native American.
        "My first audition I thought went great," he says. "For the callback, I thought I had crashed and burned. I didn't know Judy (Blume) was going to be there, but she gave me a hug after."
        Despite his feeling, Means landed the role of Wolf, and his wife recorded a video of his reaction.
        "I was walking out of the gym and got the call," he says. "I was doing my happy dance. Actually, I'm still very happy."
        "Tiger Eyes" is Blume's 1981 novel and follows Davis "Davey" Wexler, who is dealing with her father's death. Davey's family moves to Los Alamos, where she meets a mysterious boy named Wolf in a canyon. Later on, she finds out Wolf is the son of the terminally ill patient she looks after as a candy striper.
        "I knew of Judy Blume, but I didn't know this book," Means says. "I knew that signing on to the film would be amazing because she has a lot of respect in the industry."
        And the feeling was mutual for Blume.
        She says she was taken with how Means fit into Wolf's mold.
        Blume says when writing the book in 1981, she wouldn't have imagined to find a perfect Wolf nearly 30 years later.
        "From the first moment Tatanka was on screen, I thought to myself 'I love this guy,' " she said during a recent interview. "Tatanka even took time out to talk to the local kids."
        Means has had his fair share of roles in movies and TV, but this role marked his first time as a lead. He's been in TV shows like "Scoundrels," "In Plain Sight," "Comanche Moon" and "Into The West" and the movies "Black Cloud" and "The Burrowers."
        "I've been very lucky to be a working actor," he says. "I moved out to Los Angeles for a while and found that I landed more jobs from New Mexico. There's so much opportunity for me here."
        Mean's wasn't bitten by the acting bug until 2003.
        Despite being on the movie sets where his father, Russell Means, was acting in films, he was never interested.
        "I started out by doing stunts at first," he says. "After seeing the finished product, I got more intrigued and started taking acting lessons and workshops."
        Means said he and Willa Holland, who plays Davey, got a chance to become good friends during filming.
        "Every scene we had is together," he says. "We were isolated from the rest of the cast, so we quickly became friends."
        Means recalls a funny but awkward situation during the filming at the Puye Cliff Dwellings, where Davey and Wolf were mountain climbing.
        "I never learned how to rock climb, and I didn't know how to tell them that," he says. "It's funny because they just assumed I knew how. We had some training after all."
        Besides the part being Means' first lead role, he was also able to shoot with his dad.
        "He plays my dad in the movie," he says. "But the first time he came on set, I cried because it was a special time for us."
        Want to know more about Tatanka Means? Visit his website at www.tatankameans.com

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