Believe it or not, Joe Buffalo has always been my dad’s favorite Canadian skateboarder. Back when I was a kid, he was almost happy to drive me all over the place to local contests just so he could watch Joe skate. The style, the power, the strength, the warp speed, the look… He really stood out from the rest. Joe is literally a beast. And being a beast in this world is not always easy.
After years of running away from the law, the man is finally free. Free from prison, free from alcohol and drugs, free to pursue whatever project he’s got going on. Acting school, movie productions, reconnecting with the fam and of course, skateboarding… If you wonder what Joe has been doing for the past 10-15 years, here’s your answer.
photos by Dan Mathieu shot between 1999 and 2007
Hey Joe! What’s up?
Hey man! Chillin’. Just finished eating breakfast. I’m currently having coffee while filling an application for some acting school I’m supposed to audition for.
Didn’t know you wanted to become an actor.
Yeah. I’m just applying, but once I pass the audition, I’ll apply for funding with my Reserve/Government so I can get money and get into school, actually getting paid to learn. I never really took advantage of the native status to get educated. Never really thought about it before. Seems like the right thing to do.
Damn. That’s ideal.
Should have done this 20 years ago. I just need to touch up on the skills and technique a little bit. Get prepared for what’s out there you know.
Did you appear in movies already?
I appeared in a bunch of productions and I want to keep going in that direction. I’m still considered a non-actor because I haven’t been trained properly. I basically learned everything while doing it. Fresh out of the gate.
I did some auditions, but never got the role. Like I said, I need training and preparation for that kind of stuff. The first one I did was for a very big movie called Indian Horse, coproduced by Clint Eastwood. It was a big opportunity for me and I was bummed I didn’t get the part, but I pretty much walked in there blind, not knowing what I was up against. Now that I’m sober and focused, I can grab the bull by the horns. I’m fed up not getting picked for roles, so I’m focusing on that. I’m lucky to have a good support system behind me. There’s a lot of actors in my family. It’s in my blood.
Can you name some of the movies you appeared in?
The first role I got was for this movie called Hello Destroyer. It did very well and won awards in a couple film festivals. Also got a major part in a movie called Luk’Luk’ I, a documentary about East Side Vancouver. There’s another one called Helltown, which was this feature film for Discovery Channel we filmed in Toronto. It was cool. Had an Airbnb for 10 days and was only filming for a day and a half. It was me going in details about the Algonquin legend Wendigo. It’s this big creature with the head of a deer and the body of a man. There’s actual footage and recordings of this thing and I had to explain what it was. I don’t think this one did so well.
I also got this edit planned for a website/newsletter called True Calling Canada. Their moto is “for people who love what they do”. The thing is about me as a skateboarder turned actor or something. It’s cool man, these guys have budget and stuff. They went to my reserve in Alberta to film my hometown and my stomping grounds like the flatbar in front of my parent’s house. It’s only 3-4 minutes long, but it looks very cool.
Is it related to that Buffalo’s Return edit I’ve seen running on Facebook?
Nah. What I’m talking about isn’t even out yet. The other one was in 2013. It was a pilot we pitched for APTN, which is Aboriginal People’s Television Network. The new one will be sick. Everything these guys do go viral, so it’s good for me to appear in this kinda stuff. I’m in the midst of looking for an agency right now so appearing in these edits is good help for sure. Helps me to be seen and gives me some kind of portfolio to work with.
Where are you living right now.
Been living in Vancouver for the last couple years.
Do you still skate?
Yes I do! I live just up the street from the plaza. That’s my go to. I got hurt a lot over the past couple years, but now I’m back. I broke my foot and kneecap a couple years ago. That was a harsh one. I’m finally feeling good on my board. Anything I do on the board, I’m just stoked. Whatever it is.
Speaking of injuries, what’s the story behind the cover of Exposé Mag #13.
Ok, let’s start from the beginning. When I was like 9 years old, I fell off of an 18 wheelers during a parade. I fell and then the thing ran over me. I was in a coma for 2 months man… While I was out, Wayne Gretzky came to see me. The Ronald McDonalds foundation or something. I’m so bummed I wasn’t awake to actually meet him, but whatever.
When I woke up from the coma, the doctors told me I would never walk again, but my dad didn’t believe it. He put me on ice skates and so I could rehabilitate faster. I got better really fast, but the accident left me with this massive scar on my ankle, right where it twists you know. I had over 500 stitches on my ankle.
I ripped it open twice and the cover of Exposé Mag #13 was one of them. It was during a Premium Wood tour, we went to the Orkus bank to ledge after a demo, we were all tired and shit, but I decided to skate anyway. It was kinda stupid. Tweaked my ankle and tore my old scar open. So much blood everywhere. It was messy.
How’s your ankle now?
It fucking looks like Freddy Krueger’s face man.
Haha! How old are you?
I’m turning 42 next Thursday! Getting old. My brain is still ready to crush, but my body is fucked.
Back when you were living in Montreal, you were considered a Peace Park regular. What’s the craziest thing you saw go down there.
Seen so much gnarly stuff happen at this spot. One time, this old and fat black lady got her titties sliced open. She had huge and droopy tits, falling all the way to her belly button. I got to Peace that day and saw she was going through some guy’s pockets while he was passed out. The guy was usually pretty mellow. French dude, rarely speaks. Just goes to Peace to drink and smoke his joint, but all of a sudden, he woke up and saw the lady taking a 5$ from his pocket. Black lady was acting all crazy and the French dude just got up and cut her breast open with a razor blade. Straight line from shoulder to shoulder, cutting the massive tits in half. It was so gnarly, all I saw was pink and white flesh. It was gross. While we waited for an ambulance, she was doing her best to hold her humongous saggy tits as they were basically falling off. All that for 5$…
Are you thinking about coming back to Montreal at some point?
Not for now, but I came to visit two years ago. Went to watch Crazy Dave’s Peace Park documentary premiere in Quebec City and then came back to Mtl to see the boys. Good times!
Also went to Toronto recently for that horror documentary for Discovery Channel I mentioned before. I’m very happy I got the chance to reconnect with my daughter while I was there, which is fucking sweet. She hasn’t been in my life for a long time because I’ve been doing stupid shit, but now that I’m clean and sober. I’m ready to go forward and be legit. For my acting career and for my daughter. She’s coming to visit this summer, I’m hyped.
What kind of stupid shit were you doing?
Just a bunch of random stuff. Drinking all the time and doing drugs got me in trouble for sure. I was on the run from the law for a while because I had something like 15 warrants to my name. When I got my daughter’s mom pregnant, I was still on the run. I was trying to find jobs to support, but no one would hire me. At one point, a friend who said he could hook me up with a job came back to me and told me even him couldn’t make it happen because my criminal record was too heavy. I decided to just turn myself in and did 9 months in jail. I had to get my shit together for my daughter.
I think you did the right thing!
Thank you. Sometimes, you got to hit rock bottom to finally start to go up!
True. Next step, first role in a major movie!
2018 is going to be my bitch! Haha!