Entertainment

Indigenous actors tell their stories on Actors and Ancestors podcast 

Cree actor Joel D. Montgrand hosts a Vancouver-based podcast.

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The new podcast Actors and Ancestors is one of those necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention-type situations.

In this case, Cree actor Joel D. Montgrand, a member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in northern Saskatchewan, wanted to hear about other Indigenous actors and their experiences. But, when he ventured into the populated land of podcasts, he had a hard time finding those kinds of interviews and discussions.

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“I was looking for something with Indigenous actors, their journeys and, much to my sad realization, I couldn’t find one that had it all,” Montgrand said recently from his Vancouver home. “There are interviews out there with greats like Wes Studi. There are one-offs out there.”

A discussion with his partner, and now editor on the podcast, Daniella Barreto, led Montgrand to launch a podcast of their own that digs deep into the world of Indigenous creatives.

The Actors and Ancestors podcast, which drops new episodes monthly, premiered on Nov. 26 with three episodes, including an introduction to Montgrand. Episodes include interviews with comedian/actor/screenwriter/radio personality and Secwepemc Nation member Darrell Dennis, and Seaconke Wampanoag pro boxer and actor Kali Reis. Reis stars alongside Jodie Foster in the new True Detective series. Montgrand, plays Reis’s love interest in the series.

“I was honoured when asked to be a part of the podcast. After meeting and working with J.D. (Montgrand), it was a no-brainer. He is such a talented and amazing soul. I couldn’t not take a chance to chat with him,” said Reis by email from Philadelphia.

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Photo of Kali Reis
Actor and pro boxer Kali Reis joins Vancouver actor Joel D. Montgrand on his new podcast Actors and Ancestors. Reis co-stars with Jodie Foster in True Detective: Night country. The latest edition in the crime drama series premieres Jan. 14 on HBO. Photo by Olga Filatova /sun

Reis said the podcast has the potential to uplift Indigenous talent while also offering some career road maps.

“There are so many of us out there — from actors to director to writers, producers, etc. — that are telling so many great stories. Our stories. As well as making some serious waves in the mainstream,” said Reis, who is currently taking a break from her fighting career.

Reis is set to make serious waves in the industry as True Detective: Night Country will likely make a splash when it premieres on Jan. 14 on HBO. Set in a fictional Alaskan town, Reis plays Det. Evangeline Navarro who, along with Foster’s Det. Liz Danvers, is investigating the disappearance of eight men from a research station.

“I will say this about True Detective: Night Country: brace yourself. And I hope the TD (True Detective) fans will appreciate the route we took while honouring the masterpiece that is TD,” said Reis, keeping spoilers for the series well under wraps.

Through sharing stories such as Reis’s on Actors and Ancestors, Montgrand is hoping to convey to listeners that Indigenous people are not a monolith.

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“There’s still a misconception out there that we’re all the same. But each tribe has their own unique belief system, their own connection to where they are, their own land. I want to hear about that too,” said Montgrand. “That’s the first thing I always ask my guests is, ‘Who claims you? What land are you from? What’s your connection to it.’ ”

Photo of Joel D. Montgrand
Actors and Ancestors podcast host Joel D. Montgrand says his podcast doesn’t focus on trauma but rather shines a light on the creative worlds of his guests. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

While his guests are Indigenous, the podcast isn’t solely aimed at an Indigenous audience. It’s also setting out to be a primer to the industry for anyone who may be interested in acting.

“One hundred per cent, this is a resource for any actor out there,” said Montgrand. “They’re going to learn about the business even if they are not Indigenous: How difficult and absolutely rewarding this industry can be.”

Montgrand hopes young people tune in and get turned on to a career in the arts.

“I wish I would have known that this was an option for me when I was young,” said Montgrand, who began his pro acting career a decade ago. “If I knew I could have been an actor as a kid then maybe I would have started at a much younger age.

“I thought (acting) was impossible. I thought TV and movies were things that happened on another planet, to other people. I’m just hoping there are kids out there that listen to this and then make that choice for themselves.”

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