Tribal’s Brian Markinson: “Everywhere you see, this is Indigenous peoples’ lands”

I’ve been a fan of Brian Markinson’s for years. I first saw him on Da Vinci’s Inquest (Seasons 1 and 2 are on CBC Gem) and Da Vinci’s City Hall as Police Chief Bill Jacobs. Since then, he’s appeared on countless TV shows I’ve watched, from Shattered to Sanctuary, Arctic Air to Continuum, The Romeo Section and more.

So when I saw he was co-starring with Jessica Matten on Tribal, I had to reach out and book some time to talk. Ron E. Scott’s newest series—airing Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on APTN and recently renewed for Season 2—puts Matten’s interim Tribal police chief Sam Woodburn alongside veteran, white city cop Chuck “Buke” Bukansky, played by Markinson, to solve crimes on and off the reservation. Season 1 storylines include pipeline protects, healing lodge justice and murdered and missing Indigenous women.

How did you come to be on Tribal in the first place?
Brian Markinson: I first heard of Ron through Blackstone. Friends and some other folks that I know, that I respect, had gone and done arcs on the show. I’ve always heard that he’s just one of the nicest guys, a fantastic producer. And so, when I was sent Tribal, I was really only sent three scenes. I read these three scenes from the first episode, and I really had a sense of who [Buke] is. The prototype was maybe a little bit different for me. He was sort of maybe an older, bigger, a big, heavy old school cop.

But I loved those three scenes so much that I called my agent, and I said, ‘I have a handle on it.’ I thought I did a good job at the audition. I said, ‘If there’s any interest, let’s please pursue this one,’ because it’s very rare that you see writing, and characters that are sketched for me. This guy, for me, I just understood where he was coming from, and his pain, and all that fun stuff. And then Ron and I met because there was interest, and we sat down, and we thought we would talk for an hour. We talked for three. And then it was sort of sealed at that point.

When we first meet up with Buke, he’s sitting in a bar, these young guys are asking about old war stories, and he goes to the washroom and pops some pills. There’s some pain there in his life.
BM: You find out a little bit about where that comes from. And then, there’s an event that happens. I think he was a very good cop, and I think he had a run-in, that sort of feeds into where his prejudices lie when it comes to Indigenous peoples. After that, I think he’s not the same person. He’s in physical pain, and I also think he’s in immense emotional pain. He’s a guy who is not, as you said, he’s not a part of these young studs on the force, and he doesn’t really have a foot in Tribal, so he’s in limbo a lot of the time.

Ironic, because Sam’s going through the same thing. She’s told by members of the Indigenous peoples that she’s a sellout. But yet she doesn’t fit with the city cops either.
BM: Exactly. So you have these two people who float, and the whole intention of the justice department is to create this new sort of thing, and, unbeknownst to them, they do. And then, these two seemingly parallel lines, that we never think are going to meet, are skewed enough towards each other, that through the course of this season, they become closer, and they find a way to trust each other, and things that spin outside of their relationship sort of force them together as well. There’s a lot of room to plumb some great stuff, and he’s created this relationship that we can really hang our hats on. We have the crime of the week that you can hook into, but I think at the core of this, as Ron likes to call it, it’s a serialized procedural.

What’s it like for you, acting on this show, in these storylines, that is very true to life and involves colonialism?
BM: My politics are very progressive. I live in Vancouver. Whenever you go to any sort of public event, whether it’s the theatre or whatever, they start by saying, ‘We’re honoured to be performing on the unceded lands.’ But as Ron said to me, ‘It’s all ours.’ It really hit home when he said that, that everywhere you see, this is Indigenous peoples’ lands. Wherever you travel. I don’t, in any way, pretend to be anything else except a student of this history.

Tribal airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on APTN.

Images courtesy of Prairie Dog Film + Television.

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One thought on “Tribal’s Brian Markinson: “Everywhere you see, this is Indigenous peoples’ lands””

  1. I’ve enjoyed the show but everybody on the show calling the Indigenous people ‘Indians’ and referring to the ‘The department of Federal Justice’ makes the whole thing sound so American that it is enough for me to abandon it, especially when it is an APTN Original. Make it Canadian by inserting local references and getting rid of these stupid terms and it will be my favourite series.

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