‘Catch The Fair One’ Star Kali Reis Talks Indigenous Stories That Need to Be Seen

Professional boxer Kali Reis has had a lot of titles after her name — Female World Champion Boxer, Middleweight WBC World Champion, and current WBA Super Lightweight Champion, just to name a few — but now she can add yet another title, Indie Spirit Award-nominated actress. In her first bout in the acting world, Reis gave a knockout performance as Kaylee “K.O.” in Josef Kubota Wladyka’s 2022 crime thriller Catch the Fair One. The story of a former champion boxer who goes undercover in search of her missing sister, Catch the Fair One introduces audiences to Reis in a passionate and thrilling performance making her a shoo-in for a “Best Female Lead” Spirit Awards nomination.

I recently got the opportunity to sit down with Reis to talk about her career, bringing untold Indigenous stories to the screen and what it feels like to be nominated straight out the gate.

LV Taylor/We Live Entertainment: So first of all I just want to say congratulations on your Spirit Award nomination — you gave a hell of a performance. How does it feel to be nominated for your very first performance out the gate?

Kali Reis: It feels unreal. I mean, I had such a unique experience even getting into this industry. It’s like fighting your pro debut and winning the World title — it’s an honor. I mean, we told the story and I wanted to tell a story to the best of my ability, and we did. I didn’t have any intentions of wanting to be the best at it. It wasn’t about me. It was more or less about the story. So it’s even better.

LV Taylor: Definitely. So you’re currently the WBA Super Lightweight Champion — which one do you think is more intense, filming CATCH THE FAIR ONE or preparing for a boxing match?

Kali Reis: There are so many parallels with boxing and acting — I have the WBA IBO in WBO right now — I’ve been boxing on the hole for over 20 years. I’m 35 now, so that’s more than half my life that’s kind of been on autopilot. But you can always learn something new, so the parallel with acting — it’s new territory, but it’s also an art, and boxing is as well. It’s beautiful chaos, expression — a stick to your choices kind of thing. You have to be very disciplined as far as practicing and working that muscle. So there was definitely some parallel. What I think is harder, because it was such a mental cathartic level, was the acting. It was tough because it wasn’t a comedy, and it was something that was really close to me. I’m an Indigenous person so I think that was a little bit tough, tougher, but I get in that ring with the same thoughts and the same energy as well because I don’t fight for just me. I represent a whole community of people, and I have a purpose. So I would say filming at the time, but it runs neck and neck.

LV Taylor: Alright, so along with boxing and now acting, you’re an activist in the Indigenous community. Why did you feel like you needed to tell this story and it needed to be told now?

Kali Reis: Number one, missing and murdered Indigenous women or anything that has to do with a lot of Indigenous communities and Native Americans as a whole is not on mainstream media. Right? You’ll see somebody built a new casino but they won’t put that there’s somebody missing — boy, girl, men, women — every day on a reservation, they’re hotspots. Everything’s connected. Even with these pipelines being drilled through sacred lands and broken treaty areas, it all has a lot to do with missing and murdered Indigenous women because they bring those men’s camps there for years which causes problems. It’s the statistics that were already leading in — violence, domestic abuse, murder, kidnapping — all skyrockets, and then you have these residential school children being uncovered. Those kids were stolen from their families. It’s all interconnected. And just like I feel the need to speak on issues that involve the Indigenous community when I get interviewed about boxing, it’s the same reason why I need this story needed to be told. And kudos to my brother from another, Josef Wdladyka, because he is such an amazing human being and such a caring person who wants to tell these stories. But he knew this wasn’t his story to tell. Right?! He was already aware of that and just wanted to get the perspective, not just mine, but the community I represent. So it needs to be told. Just because movies are modern-day storytelling — everybody watches movies — you can draw an audience in now. With a documentary, a lot of people don’t want to watch something they know is a problem, but with a genre film, you can educate and bring awareness — not by beating it over your head, but giving you a story and entertaining, but also educating you. So I knew this had to be told because no one was telling our stories.

LV Taylor: Diving a little further into what you just said, not only did you act in the film, but you were also heavily involved in that creative process. What was it like working so closely with Josef?

Kali Reis: It was amazing. For one, it started almost five years ago, in 2017, when I was an already established fighter. He reached out to me, asking if I was interested in acting. I was like, you know, whatever, boxing is an art. It’s just crazy how this happened. A week prior to that — being a natural artist anyway — acting was on my heart and I was like, you know, universe if it’s meant for me, it will find me. Fast forward a week and he hits me up and it just unfolded from there. It was crazy. Very early on he had a barebone script where he knew he wanted to tell a story about somebody going missing. So we connected immediately because we’re both half breeds — very confused as children — OCD, Virgos — I mean, the list goes on. But it was just amazing how this whole thing manifested. He asked me to be a creative collaborator to the story and I had a heavy hand in creating my character, the other characters in the story, the context of the story, what and how we’re going to tell this very delicately. His respect and artistic eye meshed really well. We could have gone darker, but we had to walk that fine line of entertainment and not have people like, ‘okay, this is too much.’ However, we had to stick to the real story. And it was amazing to me. Not too many people can say that the first time starring in a film, they also got to help create and write the story. That’s heavy.

LV Taylor: Very true. How much of your real-life experiences — whether yours personally or from the people you meet through the talks that you do within the indigenous community — influenced what we saw in the film?

Kali Reis: A lot of it. It’s not just me, though. I’ve traveled to a few different reservations and communities to tell my story and to hear theirs. At one specific event where I was invited to speak — which was crazy to me because it was in South Dakota for the Violence Against Women Act Conference, and we’re talking lawyers, politicians, senators, and the Indigenous community in the, you know, more west than I am — and I got asked to tell my story. It was like, I want to tell you my story and where I’m from. But what I found there are these heartbreaking stories of these people, and to see it firsthand and feel it, I you know, was something else. Anything I found out I was telling Josef about it — read this article, take a look at this person, look at this organization. There was this woman who built this organization who was still looking for her daughter; she was missing her daughter by 10 minutes every time, and her kidnappers were calling her on FaceTime with a gunman. These stories I’m telling you are insane. So it was just a combination of us going back and forth and sharing information.

Obviously, the character’s name is Kaylee. She’s into spirits. She’s a fighter, those types of things, and the kind of not being accepted from our mother was a little bit pulled from my real life — not really getting accepted in an Indigenous community, the Cape Verdean or Native American, as a whole because I’m mixed. There are a lot of different parallels that we tried to throw in an 80-minute movie. But I think that character Kaylee, everybody has a little piece of that in them, especially any minority group, can kind of relate to her. A lot of things we pulled from my real life and just my experiences from being black or people thinking I’m Spanish or just not being white — put it that way. And we just kind of compiled it all this one character.

LV Taylor: So what do you hope viewers will take away from this film after watching it?

Kali Reis: Again, this film is not an answer to this very prominent, very important, very disgusting epidemic we have going on. People leave the theater in silence. I mean, it’s you it’s so quiet — you can hear a rat piss on cotton quiet and I’m like, ‘okay, this is effective because we didn’t give you guys a happy ending.’ Nine times out of ten there are no happy endings with this because people are still looking for their sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, uncles — the list goes on. So we had to keep it as Josef will call it ‘unpredictable yet inevitable.’ What I want people to take from this film is the awareness. A step going forward is trying to find out what land am I on, what laws are trying to be passed, what laws have been sitting in the House for years, what can I do? What resources can I have? And start having these conversations amongst your friends. I mean, there are all kinds of organizations you can donate to, but there also may be a resource that you have that this community doesn’t — have these conversations and recognize first and foremost that Indigenous people of this land are not extinct like dinosaurs — I’m a sitting, living, breathing a world champion and I know exactly where my lineage comes from. So that’s number one. Native American people aren’t just drunks sitting on the reservation, we’re actually real people and we do have real jobs and we have to put one foot one shoe on and one moccasin on all the time.

We can speak our language now, publicly. We weren’t able to do our ceremonies. We still relearning our history because you tried to take it away from us. And this is what’s happening. This genocide — this issue is just another form of genocide — is just 2022’s form. We still have our children being taken out of their homes via the foster care system and the childcare system. There are issues that go on that just because we have a nation that is federally recognized and has its own community does not mean everything’s okay. It’s like a double-edged sword, sovereign nations don’t get outside help from the government, this shit is really going on still. And that’s something I want them to take away from this film. This is one of many issues, and it’s probably the most prominent issue. So you know, start doing research and have these conversations instead of playing find Pokemon, help find a missing girl.

LV Taylor: Yeah, it’s very powerful. My final question is, what’s up next for you? Are you going to continue with the acting? Do you have more films lined up? What’s next?

Kali Reis: Um, boxing is a short career. I’m 13 and a half years in the game. I’m one of the most relevant female fighters right now, which is crazy to me. Thirteen and a half years at 35 years old is crazy. So you know, I got the undisputed fight coming, but I never planned on fighting past like 36-37. Because Josef threw me into the wolves, I definitely plan on doing this long-term. I fell in love with it and you know if I can tell more necessary stories, of course, I want to be in this. I want to be a face, a familiar face, for everybody, all minorities, because we don’t see these faces in many films. We don’t see a black Native in film, let alone a Native, not in a “native mold.” If they need a screaming woman running away from us, they’re gonna call me. I want us to be familiar faces in a role because we’re talented, not because we need to check a box and make sure we get one of those Indigenous people in the movie. My mom named me very well, ‘many feathers, many talents,’ and what good is a gift if I’m not giving it? Let’s see where it takes me.

LV Taylor: Nice. Well, if this first film is any indication of how the rest of your career will go, you’ve got a bright future ahead of you. So thank you and thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. 

Kali Reis: Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.

Catch the Fair One is now available to stream on digital.

Written by
LV Taylor is an entertainment attorney, freelance writer and film lover. With previous experience in the music, fashion publishing and sports worlds, LV works with all types of creators and creatives helping to build and protect their brands and artistic visions. It is through this work that LV cultivates her love for film and writing. Her love for film was ignited in middle school as a drama student when she first discovered Turner Classic Movies and fell in love with classic Hollywood. LV is also a budding producer having produced a short film with more in the pipeline. She believes in the power of a beautiful or engaging story that allows one to see the world from a different point of view and speak a common language. LV shares her passion for film and good storytelling through her writing and reviews for sites such as AwardsCircuit.com and Musings of a Streaming Junkie.

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