BC actor can finally talk about breakout role in Martin Scorsese epic

Now that the actors strike is over, Jillian Dion no longer has to be ‘hush-hush’ about her role in Killers of the Flower Moon

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In the new Martin Scorsese movie Killers of the Flower Moon, Vancouver’s Jillian Dion stars as Minnie, one of four Osage sisters.

The movie, based on a book by journalist David Grann, uncovers the truth behind the murders of key members of the Osage tribe in Oklahoma, at one-time the richest people per capita in the world.

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Originally from Alberta, and of Plains Cree, Métis and French-Canadian descent, Dion has been mostly acting in guest roles on episodic TV like Alaska Daily and Legion before this breakout role.

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We talked to the actor about her feature film debut.

Q: Was it frustrating not being able to promote the movie because of the actors’ strike?

A: Yes, this being the biggest project I’ve ever done and having to be so hush-hush about it was so hard. Everyone I worked with did a phenomenal job and I just wanted to scream it from the rooftops but we had to keep quiet about basically every facet of the movie

Q: And it’s not a small indie film. It’s an epic. How many times have you watched it?

A: Three times now. I’ve clocked in a little over 10 hours watching it.

Q: Are you one of these actors who likes to see themselves on screen, doesn’t mind it, or cringes every time?

A: I wouldn’t say cringe. I like to do the work and leave it. I’m the type of performer who just wants to do my job, do it well, and move on to the next.

Q: You said in an interview that, before landing this role, you weren’t taking acting that seriously. Has that changed?

A: I think there was a belief that I couldn’t succeed, just because there weren’t enough Indigenous parts. Unfortunately, it’s still sort of this way, where Indigenous people will only be cast in Indigenous written roles. I think there was sort of a flippant attitude toward it because of an aversion to being typecast. And then when I decided to take it seriously, I put my all into it and stopped having the mindset of throwing it away and, instead, actually trying.

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killers of the flower moon
In Killers of the Flower Moon, Jillian Dion (far right) plays Minnie, one of four Osage sisters, along with Janae Collins, Lily Gladstone, and Cara Jade Myers. Photo by Melinda Sue Gordon

Q: Did you do any research into the Osage people?

A: I was completely unfamiliar with the story, which I think you’ll find across the board. It’s this huge tragedy that people in Oklahoma don’t even know about it. There was little to no research I knew of other than the book, and even then Minnie is given a sentence: “Minnie perished by a peculiar wasting illness.” So it was just looking at the script by Eric Roth.

But once we got to Oklahoma, that’s when it started to feel real. You’re able to visit the grave sites, the sites of the murders, talk with ancestors, and be where it all happened.

Q: Do you feel that, with this movie, more doors are going to open for you?

A: Yeah, I’ve gotten an offer. And I think barriers are being broken based what we’re seeing with Reservation Dogs and Rutherford Falls and this movie and people like Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi writing cool stories where the characters might be Indigenous, but they actually are more than a horseback-riding, bow-and-arrow slinging person. So yeah, I think things are going to change. Hollywood is finally seeing a little bit of a breakthrough with Indigenous stories and characters.

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Q: What kind of red-carpet things have you been doing and what’s ahead of you?

A: Well, last week, we did a Variety thing called Power of Women, which was showcasing a bunch of female powerhouses. And, of course, there’s the Oscar buzz. So I’m kind of just prepping for potentially going to the Oscars, which is very strange thing to say.

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