Tag Archives: APTN

Tribal’s Jessica Matten: “There’s always going to be prejudices and stereotypes”

It’s always a pleasure to speak to Jessica Matten. The actress doesn’t shy away from discussing issues that are close to her heart. And many of them are tied to Tribal.

Ron E. Scott’s newest creation—airing Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on APTN—puts Matten’s interim Tribal police chief Sam Woodburn alongside veteran, white city cop Chuck “Buke” Bukansky, played by Brian Markinson, to solve crimes on and off the reservation. Season 1 storylines include pipeline protects, healing lodge justice and murdered and missing Indigenous women. The last topic hits particularly close to Matten, who discusses that—and more—with me.

What’s it been like being the lead and working alongside Brian Markinson on this series? On Frontier, you had a large role, but I’d argue that this is probably the largest television role that you’ve had.
Jessica Matten: The beauty of Frontier is that I was considered a lead, but that was an ensemble, and ultimately it was Jason [Momoa’s] show. The pressure didn’t really fall on me in a lot of respects. With being a lead, I realized there’s a whole new amount of responsibility, the biggest one is setting the tone for the entire show. I just wanted everyone to feel super welcomed and for them to understand, no matter what the size of their role was, that they were super integral to the process and the storyline.

There definitely was a lot of pressure to just make sure everyone was always cool. But I think because we created such a strong foundation of being a kind, collaborative set, there were no problems in that regard. The hardest thing was the amount of dialogue because we really …  Ron, Brian and I really, everyone, the whole crew, we really pushed it. We shot eight one-hour episodes in 39 days. A full day is six to eight pages of dialogue and I was doing 13 to 17 pages a day.

What is it about Ron E. Scott that makes him such a great showrunner?
JM: I think Ron is sincerely one of the kindest humans ever. And I think when you’re working with a kind human in any industry, I mean, you’re just going to feed off of that, right? With kindness comes empathy, a person who knows how to empathize, and also instinct to understand what the other person needs. So imagine a kind person who happens to be your director, showrunner, producer, writer, guiding you throughout the whole thing. He’s coming from a place from the heart constantly.

Blackstone was my first big gig, and even though I knew some of the actors since I was literally a child. I’ve known Glen Gould since I was 10 years old. That helped me with any intimidation that I had or felt. But when I met Ron, he’s not only amazing at giving an actor good direction, but he’s just calm, and that’s what you need in a leader is when shit hits the fan. You need a calm leader that isn’t going to delegate things in a disrespectful or non-passionate way.

What kind of feedback did you have with regard to Sam and who she was and how you wanted to play her?
JM: I’ve turned down roles, which I’m extremely grateful for, big studio roles where they were perpetuating a negative stereotype of a native woman. And I was just like, ‘I haven’t come this far, I didn’t do the role as Sokanon in Frontier just to revert back to a stereotypical character.’ How can I empower people of what it means to be a native woman, and they’d go back to something that very much dehumanized a native woman in a lot of respects. And the cool thing is I had brought that up with Ron as well. As Ron’s like, ‘Jess, you and I have the same thought. I want to create the first female native superhero. She doesn’t come from a bad family. She doesn’t have a bunch of baggage. I want her to present yourself in a way that you know exists in our native communities.’

Ron has been at the forefront of putting Indigenous people in a contemporary setting, in the spotlight forever, and he always just pushes things forward and I just respect him so much. It was a very, very much a collaborative effort about making Sam believable, tough and likable at the same time.

Sam is called a sellout. She’s caught in this world. She’s a cop. She’s got an old white man as her partner. So she’s not fitting in the white world traditionally, but she’s not fitting in her own world. Is that part of her journey this year, walking between these two worlds?
JM: Thank you for catching that because that was a powerful moment for me too as an actor, so I’m so happy you caught that. Yeah, and I think what we’re going to explore later on in future seasons is where that comes from, more about her family background and her history. I think that’s kind of the theme throughout the entire season is Sam walking in between two different worlds constantly. And not only her careers walking between different worlds, but her being half-native, so it’s like she was born walking between two different worlds and I think that’s what’s really given her an inside and outside perspective of what happens within her native community, but also an understanding of what happens outside of native communities as well.

Some of the storylines this season include a pipeline explosion and murdered and missing Indigenous women. These are stories that are true, are being ripped from the headlines. How does it feel to have these stories that are so close and part of your life being shown in a drama on television? Is it kind of a way of educating?
JM: It’s a way of educating and continuously creating awareness, and also in a lot of ways, to be honest, coincidental. It just proves how relevant and how those issues have not gone away. And that is something that I’m very happy that Tribal touches on, two issues that have not gone away, have not been resolved. My biggest thing was, with the missing and murdered Indigenous women is that one of my relatives is one of the victims.

My family to this day still has not gotten justice. They still struggle every day. It’s hard. It’s extremely hard. And yet, remember five years ago there was this big awareness for it and it became kind of trending on the news for a hot second? And all the celebrities were joining on board. And trust me, even celebrities in Hollywood were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to make a documentary about this.’ And then once that died down, the new hashtag and the new trendy thing, topic to follow, everyone jumped on board that wagon and everyone disappeared off the MMIW train. That annoyed me and I knew it was going to happen. I was grateful for it. But at the same time, that’s why you’ll notice on my social media, I never support anything outside of MMIW or if it’s related to it, because my biggest thing is, nothing got resolved and this isn’t a hashtag, trendy, charitable thing. It’s not trendy. It’s my life, and it’s other people’s lives and it’s super important.

I’m glad that Tribal is still harping on that issue. I’m glad that Tribal is targeting the pipeline issue because what’s happening in communities right now in B.C. And I really want to emphasize this, for non-Indigenous people who don’t understand why people are protesting, it’s not just because it’s on our territory. It’s because these people on the frontlines are protecting our future girls and women from being raped and murdered.

What happens is these manned camps get built while the pipelines are made, and that is where the highest rate of girls go missing and murdered. And so I want the general public to remember that, no matter what, there’s always going to be prejudices and stereotypes in the world against any culture because we have this beautiful way of forgetting that we’re all one and the same, we’re just human.

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

Images courtesy of Prairie Dog Film + Television.

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Links: Tribal, Season 1

From Eric Volmers of the Calgary Herald:

Link: Calgary-filmed series Tribal mixes Indigenous storytelling with police procedural
Partway through the first season of the new Calgary-shot police series, Tribal, an investigation leads the show’s two mismatched protagonists into the tragic world of missing Indigenous people. Continue reading.

From Sabrina Furminger of the Vancouver Courier

Link: Vancouver actor tackles ugly role in APTN police procedural Tribal
““I’m drawn to the challenge of challenging an audience to empathize with characters who, on the page, may not seem terribly worthy of empathy.” Continue reading. 

From John Doyle of The Globe and Mail:

Link: Tribal is a First Nations crime drama as pugnacious as a slap in the face
Scott, a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, has described Tribal as “more accessible,” and it certainly is that. Also admirably brisk and lacking in the superfluous melodrama that often weighs down police procedurals. Continue reading. 

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Ron E. Scott returns to APTN with procedural drama Tribal

It’s no secret that I loved Blackstone. Created by Ron E. Scott (above right), the APTN drama series was an unflinching look at life—and death—on a Canadian First Nations reservation. Violent, dramatic and unflinching, it was very much like The Sopranos in tone while its stories were about what life is really like on reservations.

Now Scott is back with a new series. Debuting Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on APTN, Tribal is more procedural but no less dramatic. Jessica Matten (above left)—last seen on Frontier—plays Samantha Woodburn, a First Nations woman who is teamed with big-city cop Chuck “Buke” Bukansky, played by Brian Markinson (Unspeakable, Continuum), to solve crimes on and off the reservation.

We spoke to writer, creator, director and executive producer Ron E. Scott about Tribal‘s beginning and where it goes in Season 1. At press time, APTN had announced a second season of Tribal had been ordered.

How did Tribal come about? Was this something you were developing while Blackstone was going on, or did you take some time off from Blackstone and then start working on this?
Ron E. Scott: As a content creator, I’m always developing projects. I had three or four projects that I was working on, and Tribal was one of them. You just don’t know what’s going to go. We’re just so thankful that APTN saw a lot of value in the project and saw that it was going to be great for their audience, so they went ahead and greenlit the show.

Did anything change in the time between pitching APTN and them green-lighting it and then you heading into production? 
RS: They definitely had some ideas of what they wanted to deliver to their audience. And so there were discussions and there was some back and forth. We shaped it for a certain demographic, a certain time zone, time period, which is always something that of a content creator goes into, your conception of what you’re delivering to your audience.

What is the tone like? 
RS: Blackstone has its aggressive, confrontational, very kind of in your face. I think this is kind of a progression of North American native storytelling. This character has a lot of dimensions and it’s something that I don’t think we’ve seen before. In that way, I think it’s a progression. It’s not Blackstone and it’s not anything that’s really been out there. At the same time, it’s told with a Native American voice. Our lead is a Native American woman. I think the tricky part is we don’t know what to call Native People in America or Canada anymore. It’s Indigenous one week and it’s Aboriginal, First Nation.

So we’re running around, trying to figure this out, and I think that we deal with that a little bit in the show. It is a crime drama, so there’s a crime of the week, but it’s a character-driven crime drama. We’re driving characters forward and story and then we get into this really beautiful kind of arc and later in the season, where we’re starting to see a real crescendo of commentary from like I said, a Native American viewpoint.

Jessica Matten is your female lead. 
RS: Whenever we create a story world where there’s a mashup between Tribal Police and the city police, a lot of people don’t understand that the jurisdictions of any Canadian reserve is held with the Canadian government. Technically, in the traditional days, the RCMP, which is the federal government, would have control over the reserves.

And so what happened is there have been hints of corruption. It hasn’t been sustained. It’s just allegations. And so the federal government comes and goes. In this day and age, this is not looking good for us, so we’re going to take over the Tribal police, but we’re going to remove the chief who is corrupt. Let’s say he is an old boys’ club kind of thing. It’s a very interesting kind of dynamic that unfolds. It’s a story world that I don’t know how far away it would be from reality because, in this day and age, there’s still some reserves that are being third-partied by the federal government. A lot of people don’t know this, but it’s a very interesting dynamic that unfolds. Let’s put forward the most politically correct candidates and let’s go from there, but we’re still in control, which is a big part of what the government does everywhere.

Talk about working with Brian Markinson.
RS: He’s just so talented and he was very impressed with the role. He loves the writing and so he was all over it. And I can’t say enough about him and Jessica. They create this collision on screen, but there’s a chemistry that is really interesting. I’m looking forward to hearing what people think about their chemistry, too, how it develops throughout the first season.

Has it been a bit of a learning curve for you then when you’re talking about filming a more procedural show?
RS: I definitely learned a lot on Season 1, and it’s just like when you’re flexing different muscles. It’s not like you’re learning a new sport. It’s just finding opportunities to kind of get in there and have a voice.

At the same time, we’re still trying to be aware that we’re creating a dynamic of characters. And so that’s not lost whatsoever. So I’m very proud of how these two characters navigate the season and they don’t always see eye to eye. We get a perspective from the Native and a non-Native perspective on both sides. There are always two sides presented.

That kind of collision, I think, is intelligent television. And I think that’s what I always strive for.

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

Images courtesy of Prairie Dog Film + Television.

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Jennifer Podemski’s new series, Unsettled, headed to APTN

The last time I spoke to Jennifer Podemski, I reached out to her to discuss Season 2 of her series, Future History. This time around, Podemski contacted me about her newest project.

Unsettled, for APTN and TVO, follows an urban Indigenous family who loses their fortune and must move from Toronto to a Northern Ontario First Nation.

Created, written, directed and executive-produced by Podemski and Hard Rock Medical‘s Derek Diorio, the 10-episode first season of Unsettled stars Cheri Maracle, Brandon Oakes, Tamara Podemski, Wesley French, Pam Mathews, Lawrence Bayne, Mitchell Loon and Albert Owl. Recurring cast includes Michaella Shannon, Glen Gould, Joshua Odjick, Lisa Cromarty, Tasheena Sarazin, Miigwan Buswa, Sid Bobb, Stephanie Aubertin, Willow Podemski-Bedard and Michael Podemski-Bedard.

Shot almost entirely on Nipissing First Nation, Unsettled is the first dramatic series to be funded through the CMF Aboriginal Language Program. Podemski’s open casting call resulted in over 50 Indigenous community members landing roles as principal actors, actors and background performers; out of 55 roles, 50 are Indigenous characters played by Indigenous actors.

Images courtesy of Jennifer Podemski.

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Comments and queries for the week of February 7

I am so looking forward to [Spirit Talker]! Shawn brings so much love and peace to people. I am so proud to call him my friend and mentor. Thank you, Shawn, and congratulations! —Bobbi

Looking forward to this series Shawn. Wela’lin. —Mary

So proud to say Shawn Leonard is my mentor and friend. This will be an incredible journey and reach even more people that need healing and hope. Congrats. —Melinda

I am a student of Shawn Leonard and can say he is an exceptional medium, a compassionate, generous healer and a humble man of honour. In deep respect. Wela’lin. —Linda

I can’t wait to see your show Shawn. You are a gifted soul. I am blessed to know you!! HUGE HUGS. —Jean


“Rigid Silence” is one of the best episodes so far in Season 13. The jail gangs and the Bell Telephone strike were both powerful storylines. Margaret’s response to Nomi and Thomas was perfect. —Mary

An episode worthy of the Murdoch Mysteries episodes that did not disappoint in the earlier seasons. I always hoped that Chief Constable Giles would return. Nigel Bennett is excellent in the role, even if, in this episode he is a bit worn out from years in prison. I hope William and Julia will be able to help him. An episode I truly enjoy! —Noele

Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? Email greg.david@tv-eh.com or via Twitter @tv_eh.

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