My chat with Carmen “Wonderfender” Moore! #Outlander AKA Wahkatiiosta

Carmen Moore is one of those actresses that you see a dozen times and think she is a dozen different people. She is like a chameleon, morphing for her roles, not only in appearance but her voice, those small mannerisms that most of us don’t even notice we have.  When I first saw her in Outlander’s Providence, giving Roger a hard time, I was drawn to her. I took note of her name and looked her up on IMDB.  My jaw hit my laptop. I have seen Carmen in many productions and not once did I put it together that she was the same person. (And it’s not just because I’m thick…it’s because she’s magical.)

Magical…talented…for those of you reading this who have only experienced Carmen’s work on Outlander – let me share something with you. She has been nominated and has won numerous awards in Canadian television and film. I’m not just blowing smoke. This isn’t small potato stuff – 9 Nominations and 6 Wins so far! You know, to be exact about it.

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It really is. Props. (source)

I would have been walking around the Outlander set saying “Hey everybody! I’ve won 4 Leo’s and I am a Woman OF Distinction, dontcha know?… Imma big damn deal in Canada eh?” but something I learned about Carmen is she is incredibly down to earth –  with a touch of sass. The girl loves herself some emoji’s and even her signature warns you that she might be up to something  – “sent with love and mischief”.  I’m excited to help you get to know her a little better, I think you are going to like her a lot.

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I know you will (source)

It is an interesting coincidence that Carmen Moore landed a role in this Ronald D. Moore production. She has starred in 2 other shows that Ron created. The Battlestar Galactic web series: The Resistance  and Battlestar Galactica Caprica. She also appeared in the Battlestar Galactica TV Movie: Blood and Chrome.    Worth noting, she has never met Ron Moore and nope, not related either. There, that was our fun fact.

Everyone asks that generic “How did you get started in acting” question, there is a reason for that, it usually is an interesting story.  I wanted to know Carmen’s.   I’ve been “performing” for most of my life, although not professionally. 😂  Mom says I used to stand on the living room footstool at two years old and pretend I was on stage. “Carmen-wonderfender!” was how I introduced myself…to no one in particular! I discovered drama in grade 9 and fell in love with it. I did local theatre in Vancouver for a few years before an agent sitting in the audience of one of my shows approached me and offered to represent me. She started sending me out for tv and film auditions, which hadn’t occurred to me because I was so in love with theatre. I started booking right away and was just in the right place at the right time. It was just after Dances with Wolves was released, and I was basically the only “Native” actress in the city at that time that looked like Disney’s Pocahontas (although, I’ve never considered myself a “Native” actor…I’m just an actor).

Carmen says “right place at the right time”. I think it has a helluva lot to do with talent, those nominations and awards do a lot to back me up.

I found it very interesting that you seemed to break out of that typecasting many Native actor/esses speak about being put into.  Was there something that you did or a conscious effort on your part to make that happen?  YES!! Like I said, I was booking mostly Native roles in the beginning, and I really didn’t want to get stuck in that box. It’s easy for casting directors, especially in Vancouver, to become limited in how they see you, so we need to be responsible to open their minds to us. At one point I thought I wasn’t going to get out of the “buckskin” period pieces so I did the dramatic thing and chopped off all my hair. I went with this cute little bob and started booking cop/detective, lawyer, professional roles. It was risky, but it worked. And, I think I had a bit of an advantage as well because I don’t just look “Native”…I can play just about anything, including Caucasian…just a little more tanned than some! 😁

Do you recall what your reaction was when you heard you landed the role and would be headed to Scotland?    Oh my gosh, I think my heart skipped a beat. 😁  I was sitting in a food court having a terrible meal when I got the call from my agent, so I couldn’t really let out the “whoop” that I was feeling. And I think it took a few days for it to sink in…and even then, it wasn’t really REAL until I landed in Glasgow! It was my first time working outside of Canada…I’ve worked on many American shows, but they were all shot within Canada, so this was a special experience. There is something magical about Scotland. It’s indescribable. It’s a very spiritual place. Best experience of my career thus far.

From the moment your character of Wahkatiiosta came on screen you gave her this essence that spoke ‘strong warrior’. Tell me about that. I fell in love with Wahkatiiosta right from the start…when I auditioned, they were looking for a woman in her 50’s that could tell the Otter Tooth story, and someone to lead the Warriors in to accost Jamie and Claire for the stone. When I booked it I thought, “well this is the oldest I’ve ever portrayed!” 😂

Then I got the scripts and she had been rewritten as “30’s”…and that helped a lot, especially once I saw what they were planning to dress me in….I embraced a more youthful energy and she just got more and more tomboy as I contemplated who this woman is…because she’s not in the books. She was created for the series, so I got to create her in my mind! She is two-spirited, she has very masculine tendencies, but she’s still a woman so much of her strength lies in her emotion. She loves deeply, LOVES her people and would do anything for them, but she wears this invisible armour. It’s all over her.

When I heard Carmen’s take on Wahkatiiosta, I watched both Providence and Man of Worth again, I urge you to do the same. Come back and let me know in the comments if it impacted how you saw her.  I ask you to do this because I am curious if your thoughts match mine. I appreciated Carmen’s portrayal the first few times I watched but after hearing her speak of her creation of the character – I ‘saw’ her and there was a depth I had missed.  It makes me wish we could have the artists who connect with their characters tell us what they feel is at the heart of their performances because I believe it brings us closer to them.

Can you tell me more about Wahkatiiosta? Your speaking voice for her was gravelly and set- it gave me chills- what was your influence for that? I had just spent a couple of days in Montreal before flying to Scotland meeting the director (Sonia Bonspille Boileau) and my co-stars for the Indy feature I shot last summer (Rustic Oracle). They are all Mohawk, and oddly enough I played a Mohawk woman in that film as well. I tried to listen to their accents out on Kanesatake and Kahnawake (First Nations reserves in Quebec) and mimic them as best I could, and Sonia explained how it’s similar to French in some aspects…the “ongh” sounds, like when you say no in French  “non”…it’s somewhat nasal and they speak from the back of the throat. That helped tremendously. My friend Kim from Tyendinaga had translated all my English dialogue for my audition into Mohawk for me. After spending weeks studying our Mohawk lines with our translators and cultural advisors, Wahkatiiosta’s voice just sort of came out that way. Sometimes the characters I portray surprise me as they emerge. It’s like they have a life of their own and Carmen is just the vessel.

And what a badass fighter!  The scenes where you were fighting your Mohawk family to get Roger and his family out of the village may have been visually dark but the fighting scenes were awesome. It really looked like it would be fun to do. Can you tell us about those sequences? I was super excited to do my own stunts for that! I did have a stunt double just in case (Cherie Shot Both Sides was on stand by), but we are quite different body types, so if I had felt uncomfortable doing stunts it would have been obvious it wasn’t me!  But, I was game! Our first take running from the “idiothut” as I’m leading the group was interesting. Our director Stephen (Woolfenden) said during rehearsal “make sure you’re looking back to make sure they’re behind you”…so, first take I did. I looked behind me as I was running, hit a tree stump, or root, or something and down I went! I bailed. I think Sam almost tripped over me! 😂🤣  I wish I had that moment actually…maybe they have it in a blooper reel somewhere…

Watch Carmen get some direction for her badassery with this exclusive BTS video.

The last we saw Wahkatiiosta, she was banished from the Mohawk. To me, this could be an open door for her return to the series.  Since she is a character created for the show with no storyline laid out for her that we are aware of. Would you be open to reprising the role at a later date? OF COURSE, I WOULD!!! I would absolutely LOVE to go back…yes, Scotland is amazing, and it’s always great to be working, blah, blah…but, I really miss everyone I worked with. And Wahkatiiosta is such a joy to portray…I’ve already mentioned she’s my favourite character I’ve ever taken on. So, yeah…I would jump at the chance…

Livin’ the dream. You were able to work with many of Outlanders main cast. Break it down in about a sentence for us what your thoughts were on them.call

I understand many of the actors/esses that joined you on set have worked together before or at least have knowledge of one another, what was it like to be all together across the ocean in this new place, doing what you love with people that you know? Yes…I had a number of friends there. Some I’d known for years, and some that I’d met briefly here and there. That was surreal. To be overseas on this incredible set with familiar faces. And, of course, we all became a little family…I still stay in touch on Facebook with a number of the background and stunt performers because we spent 4 weeks together…some of them had been there for much longer. Gregory Odjig  (who played Satehoronies) said at one point as we’re looking around our incredible Mohawk village, “We’re at work right now…in Scotland…that’s awesome!” 🤣

I have spoken to others that have said good things about Outlanders portrayal of the Native culture but I am interested in your take as you have appeared in many productions. How do you feel Outlander stacked up? I was uber impressed when I went for my wardrobe fitting and the costumers explained how long they had been researching the culture. Most everything was made by hand, and they showed me pictures of the stuff they tried to recreate. They went back as far as they could with what’s been documented, but of course, had to take some artistic liberties here and there for things that are too old to have any records of. They tried to be and were as respectful and accurate as they could be. Our translators/cultural advisors were from Akwesasne and were there to answer any questions we had. Of course, it IS television, it IS make-believe…it is a science-fiction show about TIME-TRAVEL! 😁 So, I had to let my guard down a little here and there and make some concessions. For example, I don’t believe a Mohawk woman would EVER abandon her child for a man 😉Also, Native people don’t speak that fast! I was constantly being told to speed up my dialogue (because they only have 42 minutes for each episode! 🤣) and I really struggled with that because Mohawk words (and, any Native language for that matter) take time to get out properly. So, I felt as though I was speaking in warp speed. I actually have a line that I speak to Tom and I feel like they sped up the tape! 🤣

All in all, they did a VERY good job 💖

Until I can create my own memories in Scotland *insert feel bad for Sherry here*, I live through other peoples adventures. What are some of your fondest memories from your time there? Hahaha…the fondest memory was throwing pillows out our hotel window to the boys below so we could have the most epic pillow fight in George Square! Running through the streets of Glasgow at night, pillows in hand, strange looks from everyone, cast versus background/stunts…there must have been about 40 of us. 🤣😂 It was beautiful. I did a live Facebook video of it all. That, and putting the cones on The Duke of Wellington statue.😉

OK, that looked like a crazy amount of fun. Those are some 3rd level pillow fights!  Click on those links so you can see for yourselves.  If you ask me…when Carmen is left to entertain herself, it seems she gathers up the boys and tells them what’s happening and how they are getting there. I need to mention, I really like her! You can also watch a lovely video she took while on an excursion to Loch Lomond with her friend and co-star Sera-Lys McArthur (Johiehon) by clicking HERE!

Carmen has an upcoming project, Rustic Oracle. MMIWG (Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls) has been a plague in our country that has largely gone ignored because of the systematic racism our First Nation population faces. I asked Carmen to share a little about her involvement in this movie.  Rustic Oracle was filmed last summer in Oka and Kanesatake. It’s finished and is being submitted to film festivals at the moment, with a theatrical release scheduled for later this year. I haven’t seen it yet but spoke to Sonia recently and she’s very excited to share it. 💕

It’s set in the mid-‘90’s, 6 years after the Oka crisis so there’s still a LOT of tension between Mohawk and non-native. Written and directed by Sonia Bonspille Boileau, it’s the story of a single mother (me)  searching for her missing teenage daughter, but told through the eyes of the 8-year-old sister (the amazing Lake Delisle). I jumped at the chance to shed a little more light on this epidemic in Canada and the US, that not enough has been done about. It’s not going to be an easy one to watch, that’s for sure…but, so SO important.

I think saying I am looking forward to seeing it would sound flippant. I certainly am intrigued.  Facing these truths is uncomfortable, especially for us not living in the communities affected. We stand on the outside, looking in. Very often, judging something or someone we know very little about. What do you feel, we as a society can do to improve our relationship with our first nations cousins? We assign ourselves proud when they perform in productions we love, yet we pay little attention to the troubles here on our doorstep. I believe listening to those who know is the first step. What can we do? That is a BIG, BIG question…that I don’t think anyone has an easy answer to. There is so much to be done in regards to reconciliation with the First Peoples of Turtle Island. It doesn’t help that this country’s racism is still so hidden and dismissed as non-existent…and further to that, we have a Prime Minister who used the mask of solidarity with First Nations to get elected but its now spitting in our faces. 

They love the celebrities, but shoot the troubled  Native youths in the head and call it “defending my property”, they claim that the culture is so beautiful, but let our dead sisters murderer go free…they steal our babies because Native children are worth more in the foster care system…they talk about sustainable energy, and let’s get rid of plastic straws because that will make such a difference, but they judge our people for blocking the pipelines trying to go through Native land, because…you know…economy…why is it always NATIVE land the pipelines are crossing? Because they wouldn’t DARE put non-natives at risk like that…

Wow…I just went on a rant…what’s the answer to all of this? Maybe acknowledgment is the first step.

When we read a message like the one Carmen shared with us here and feel shame, sadness, anger or yes, maybe even offence, that should be a sign to us. A sign that says we need to get on the right side of this.  I am grateful that she spoke the hard truth. This isn’t a simple political issue, it is a human one.

That is why I will continue to listen as long as those like Carmen, continue to talk. We need to learn because it is the only way we will grow. Be an ally.

That got pretty deep so – from one extreme to another. I end my interviews with pure silliness. Why? Because I’m a bit of a goober and after heavy stuff, I think levity is a good thing.

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It’s called balance (source)

Carmen, as a Canadian you get the upper hand because you probably know what these Alberta goodies are but here we go anyway.

We, the ABOotlanders, have invited you to dinner and being the guest of honour, you get to choose the main course, tell us which one catches your fancy?

A) Moose Droppings B) Beaver Tails C) Prairie Oysters D) Taber Corn

What the heck???! 🤣😂  I’m going to McDonald’s… I LOVE THIS, the first time anyone has ever demanded an early checkout. This woman is my kinda people.  Definitely not prairie oysters…I’m not a big beaver tail fan…moose droppings I could probably indulge in…I’ve never had Taber corn, and I love corn…so, I’d probably go with that 😉

It was so great getting to know Carmen. She is one of those people you want to sit down, have a great meal with but know your food is going to get cold because you are too busy talking and laughing.

I am very much looking forward to seeing her upcoming projects and am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that we see her again on Outlander. #BringBackWahkatiiosta, that could be a thing right?

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More Carmen? Yes, Please. (source)

Until next time,

Sherry (ABOotlander founder)

 

It’s Not About You. My take away from the #OutlanderFinale #ManofWorth.

Funny, the way things happen.  All season I have been happily live-tweeting our #OutlanderCAN hashtag each episode as they air on W Network, here in Canada. I then ponder over each episode to try and pull something not so obvious from it.  I have gotten decent feedback most of the time and am pretty proud of what I have done in both departments.

It so happens that during the airing of season 4’s finale, I ended up in the emergency department of my local health center and then whisked to the hospital for testing. What was I thinking about? Well…my imminent death or loss of a limb was first in my mind but I was also thinking about not being there to live tweet.  I’m not even shitting you. I was thinking about that. So I tweeted to apologize and explain why I wouldn’t be there. Like people cared like I did. I mean, come on.

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Really, not. (source)

There is where the “not so obvious” for the season finale popped up for me.  It’s not about you. The season finale wasn’t about me being there to live tweet or not, how important do I think I am anyway? 🙄 There were many instances  I could easily say that to a character during the episode.  I also find it amazing how often this happens in our every day.  We tend to personalize other peoples behaviour, internalize it and make it about ourselves.  We will get it in our heads that other people get up in the morning just to make ‘our‘ day more difficult.  A little FYI, that usually isn’t a thing. Most peoples objective is to do things “for” themselves, not “against” someone else.  This is not to say there is not collateral damage, there always is. That usually isn’t their intent.

The opening title card scene we see two young boys running around playing what they are taught to believe is an innocent child’s game of “Cowboys and Indians.” Watching is a proud Native American man that we later realize is Otter-Tooth because of the gemstone around his neck.  This is not about the children, this is not about the ignorance of the systematic racism that caused us to believe this game wasn’t hurting anyone. This is about the man on the bench, the history of his people being changed and being replaced by society.

Claire, Ian and Jamie make their way into the Mohawk village looking for Roger. They know he is there. All three are trying to wheel and deal to get him back.  Claire ends up with her scarf off and Otter-tooths gemstone exposed.  This causes many in the tribe to gasp in fright and move away. Claire and Jamie’s first reaction is to calm them down, say they mean no harm, they want to help, to trade.  Their immediate first thoughts are about what they can do for them. This isn’t about you Claire. This isn’t even about the tribe. This is about the gemstone. It is about the fear the tribe has for what that gemstone represents.

Murtagh has more than a few “this ain’t about you” buddy moments.  What I found very interesting was it was Ulysses that silently gave him a lesson. Murtagh and Jocasta are discussing Brianna’s impending marriage to LJG. Which, Murtagh is taking very personally.  There was one point when the discussion between Jocasta and Murtagh went from curt to argumentative. We could only see Ulysses’s hands- he went from gently holding them in front of him to loose fists at his side. Signalling protection. When Jocasta decides to leave Murtagh to his food, Ulysses takes her arm and offers Murtagh his assistance but with a very curt manner, the extra eyebrow added all we needed to know in this scene.  Jocasta and Ulysses were letting Murtagh know Brianna’s future…not about you dude.  Little did they know…it wasn’t about them either.

Going back to Otter-tooth for a little bit.  I know people get upset about the story here, about his message of killing all the white people, of the war he wanted to lead in order to save his people. It upsets me too but maybe for different reasons. It upsets me because it would seem like the logical thing to do if I were in his place.  If I were to be 100% honest with myself, which is not an easy task in any event, what he was saying would be the most effective way to save his people.  It’s brutal and it is ugly, so is what the Native Americans and First Nations people of North America went through because of colonization. So, for this one. It’s not about you. Or me. Or any of the people Otter-tooth wanted to save his people and his history from. It was about the Mohawk and what they ultimately went through.

We finally get to Roger. Finally. Naturally, there is this crazy “no take-backsies” going on but since trading seems to be the currency in all things, even peopley things, Jamie offers himself up.  Young Ian goes to work something out, in this, he thinks he is a better deal than the old gingersnap.  Jamie is caught off guard, assumes he will rescue Ian away or Young Ian will escape when Ian shuts him down.  This isn’t about you Uncle Jamie.  Young Ian swore to the Mohawk, he gave them his word.  He would stay with them, in return, Roger could go with Jamie and Claire, back to Brianna. Sweet Young Ian was taking responsibility for his actions as well as making a choice for his future. One that didn’t have anything to do with anyone else.  Sometimes the choices others make can hurt us but they aren’t making them ‘to‘ hurt us.  We have to be aware of that.

So, off goes Roger with Claire and Jamie.  The first opportunity he gets to put a beating on Jamie, he takes it.  I don’t blame him in the least. Apparently, neither does Jamie.  Claire tries to stop him but Jamie knows, this is what Roger needs right now.  I believe Jamie also wants Roger to let loose on him.  His form of penance so to speak.  In a way, Jamie is making Roger’s rage about him in order to rid himself of some of the guilt he feels over what he has done. Error in judgement or not, he owns it, as he should.

When Roger doesn’t go back with them to River Run right away, I don’t think it about the news that Brianna’s baby is possibly Bonnet’s.  I think it is more about staying in the past. This has never been the plan.  This is a new thing.  It not just about Roger and Bree and their future anymore. It is about being a family in a completely different time. It is about living in a family with a man that damn near beat you to death and sold you to the Mohawk.  It’s about living in a time when your wife was raped.  This is a dangerous world and making the choice to live there.  Making a choice like that without taking a moment to think would be doing a disservice to yourself and to the one you love. Not to mention all the people that will end up in your life as you move forward. This is a case of it’s not just about you.

Brianna was the one that was the victim of so much “It’s not about you” that it was painful to watch.  Only because she did personalize so much of it.  I was thankful that the birthing scene was Bree focused. It showed her strength, tenacity, ability and her dedication to doing this thing on her own when everything came down to it.  Yes, she had her aunt there, her friends but ultimately, giving birth is about a mother and her child. There is no need a secondary narrative to focus on there. When Bree held her son for the first time, this story became about him now. That was her choice. Her love for him shone through.

When Claire and Jamie arrived back at River Run without Roger, the look that came over Bree’s face when she realized he wasn’t with them was pure heartache. It wasn’t about her but we all do what Bree did. She was personalizing Roger not coming back. Very likely creating a story in her head to match the pain she was feeling. It is such a common mechanism for us humans and so often our imaginations don’t match the reality. We replay other peoples choices like we have control over them. It is this weird dance we do. If I had done a, b or c.  Only, it doesn’t work like that because they will always make the choices they want to no matter what we do. Roger does return to her though, as I knew he would. He returns to claim her as his wife and the baby as his son.  It isn’t about any one person, it becomes about them as a family.

As Red Coats come riding up to River Run everyone assumes they are after Murtagh because he is, after all, the local fugitive in hiding. Jocasta and Murtagh share a little tête-à-tête that both Claire and Jamie witness and share their WTF faces. It’s ok guys, THIS little love affair…isn’t about you, so step off.  Aunty Jo is getting herself some Silver Foxtail on the side and won’t be listening to any of your nonsense about it.

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Daactualfuq?

Last and certainly not least is the not so love letter from Governor Tryon. Jamie is expected to follow his beck and call.  In this case, that means whippin’ up a militia and hunting down and killing Murtagh.

Well, Tryon, I know he likes to think everyone is just clamouring to serve him and his brilliant red coat wearing English army but here is the thing, they aren’t. No matter what Jamie’s obligation is to him we know that Jamie’s first obligation is to his family. It always has been and will be. Gov. Tryon happens to think this whole Regulator thing is me against them. That is where he is wrong. The Regulators have said from the start, they are more than willing to pay taxes, they are not willing to pay for the elites shitty castles and corruption. Plain as day, Gov. Tryon. Not. About. You. It’s about the people he is supposed to be helping.  If he were to take the same amount of time he takes to fight them and listen to them instead, he might learn from them.  Even this shows us we often make up our minds because we feel attacked when someone disagrees with us.  Instead of listening we react. So much can be lost when all of that noise is happening.

Imagine. 13 weeks of Outlander is already gone. POOF!  I absolutely loved this season.  Every episode I enjoyed for different reasons and I was able to learn a little something in the hidden corners that helped me realize the writers, directors, cast and crew give so much to it.  Still, Outlander isn’t about me.

It’s about so many people.  Too many people to ever keep track of or make happy and that’s o.k. too. Want to know why? That is what makes life interesting. We can have animated conversations. We can discuss what we love, what we don’t and the things we missed and maybe why we think things were done the way they were.  What I think the secret might be is respecting one another’s views and opinions as just that. Personal opinions based on personal experiences. They don’t have to assume someone else’s intent or be presented as facts. We can have fun with it because when it comes down to it, this thing called Outlander is a TV show that is created for our entertainment. It is supposed to bring up emotions. All of them. That is what makes great TV.

I’m not going to stop blogging over #Droughtlander, granted, I probably won’t do one once a week. I hope that we can keep each other company, stay engaged and not lose focus of what brought us together in the first place. A great story.

Sher (Founder of the #ABOotlanders)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking to Sera-Lys McArthur about Johiehon, Outlander and MUCH more…

Providence, episode 12 of #Outlander is receiving praise across the fandom. Sera-Lys is the extraordinarily talented and beautiful First Nations actress who played Johiehon, the Mohawk woman who fell in love with and had a child with the priest, Father Alexandre Ferigault.  I spoke to many people about Sera-Lys‘s performance and each one was impacted in some way by her portrayal.  It made me want to know more.

 

We all know I’m a Canadian, I talk about that on the regular. The actor’s Outlander auditioned for the Mohawk and Cherokee this season were chosen from First Nation actors in Canada. I found many have familiar faces from our television landscape.  When Sera-Lys popped up on the screen I had a “Hey! I know her moment!”  Only because I had watched her on a show called Arctic Air. Not because I actually ‘know’ her. Since we are both Canadian, I felt confident enough to reach out to her.

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It probably shouldn’t, but this is me. (source)

It is with no surprise that I can share with you, she is 100% delightful, 110% smarter than I am and yes, I think we are best friends (don’t tell her, she may not answer any more of my DM’s)

So without further Sherry babbling, please enjoy my “Interview with Sera-Lys”

I understand you grew up in Saskatchewan and were fairly young when you started acting. Now, many reading this might not understand my asking but how did that happen for you? (Saskatchewan isn’t really known as Canada’s Hollywood)  Haha, oh thank-you! Arctic Air was a big breakout role for me in terms of my Canadian career, it’s nice that people still remember that show. And you’re right, getting a start in acting from Saskatchewan is uncommon. I didn’t ever think that a person could even pursue acting as a career. My neighbour signed up for modelling classes when we were 11, and I wanted to join her. I really enjoyed it, so my mom supported me in signing up with a local agency in Regina. A couple of years later, when I was 13, there was a CBC miniseries coming to town called “Revenge of the Land,” directed by John N. Smith (Dangerous Minds, The Boys of St. Vincent). They were casting the role of a young Metis girl (a word that describes a mixed-blood Indigenous person) and had already cast actress Carmen Moore (She is in Outlander also, her role was introduced this week and continues in next week’s finale) to play the character’s mom. I went to the audition and the director and casting director were instantly impressed at our resemblance. Then they said, “But wait, can she act?” and I did my audition. It was my second audition in my life. I guess I didn’t suck, and they asked me if I had ever acted before. I said I was signed up for a workshop ‘next week.’ They smiled and told me to take the workshop. When I was at the workshop, they called my acting teacher and I was informed that I had got the role. It was very surreal! Needless to say, I loved the experience and was “bitten,” as they say. I continued to study Musical Theatre and Acting and audition throughout high school and later, in post-secondary education.

Where is home for you now? As a First Nations person and actor, I have the ability to “live, work and cross the border freely as [I] choose” thanks to the “J Treaty.” I really see Acting as my home, and wherever it leads me. I will always have roots in Saskatchewan and that is still where my family lives. Lately, I split my time between New York City and Toronto.

As a young Canadian woman, what would you say has been the biggest challenge in your career thus far? Historically, there are not a lot of substantial roles for women in general, less for women of Colour, even less for Indigenous women, and even then, we often lose these roles to non-Indigenous actors. This is because it’s a catch 22 in the industry: An actor has to have proven their ability to green light an X-million dollar production, but no Indigenous actors have ever done this, so investors find us to be too risky to cast. Sometimes they rewrite Indigenous roles and change their ethnicity to suit an A-lister that will attract more investors. It can be very frustrating. But I am happy to confirm reports that this is finally changing in our industry. The amount of opportunities for everyone seems to be growing, and so those of us who have been waiting and working on our skills all these years are finally getting a chance to show what we can do. Outlander 412 “Providence” was definitely one of those opportunities!

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Sera-Lys on the Outlander set with her costars

I see you have worked on a few projects with women at the helm, as we are in a (much needed) time of change in the industry, how do you find this is impacting you? For one thing, it has been the status quo for so long, that it was an important dynamic for me to learn how to negotiate. I get along with most men, I have many platonic male friends. I choose to connect with human beings, not genders. Now, of course, I have noticed an inequity and it does bother me. But it is important to create allies, not otherness. I have had excellent experiences working with male directors, and equally as wonderful experiences with female directors. I feel blessed to be able to collaborate with all of them and I am hopeful that more and more women and minorities will be given a chance to helm large-scale projects. 

Did you audition for the role of Johiehon specifically and what was the process like for you?  Yes, I did audition for her specifically. I knew the character was supposed to speak Mohawk and French, but the sides were given in English. Like most Canadians, I studied French in school growing up, so that was the easier part. Mohawk is another story! There’s no google translate option for Mohawk! While the casting director said that it wasn’t necessary to translate for the audition, I know from experience that producers almost never cast Indigenous actors for period-dramas from a tape where they speak English. They want to cast someone they know can handle the language challenges that the role demands. So I reached out to my friend Devery Jacobs (Sam in STARZ’s American Gods) who is Mohawk and also was auditioning for the role. She passed along recordings, translations & phonetic transcriptions of the Mohawk lines. I went in for my audition a few days later, and I guess I kinda “nailed it:” one take and done. Then I was “On hold” for over a month. During this time I auditioned for another role on Outlander, the Cherokee translator played by Crystle Lightning. When I got the call from my agent that I had booked Outlander, I had to ask, “which one?” 

I am very grateful to belong to a community of supportive First Nations actors. It’s a rarity in this industry and even this day and age that someone would aid their “competitor.” But I would have done the same. We really want each other to succeed, and we know the best way for us all to experience success is to support one another. 

I know I shouldn’t feel personal pride in the fact the First Nations actors from my home country behave in this manner as the only real thing we have in common is we are from the same country, but damn, this makes me proud.  To know there is such a cohesive unit of actors, working with one another to assure each other’s success knowing it will make the whole stronger in the end.  That’s probably the most empowering thing I have heard in a long time. It makes this screenshot mean a lot more to me.screenshot (2083) (1)

How did you find out you earned the role of Johiehon? My agent Rich Caplan called me while I was on a lunch break from a theatre workshop I was doing with Oregon Shakespeare Festival (in Manhattan). He had called me earlier that day to say that I had booked a role in a Canadian independent feature called Robbery, which is currently doing the festival circuit. It was a pretty awesome day!!

When you read the script for Johiehon’s introduction and demise, what were your thoughts? The introduction I knew from the audition, but the demise was a big surprise! They kept it under wraps from even me until about 2 weeks before my contract in Scotland began. She had a different name than in the books. It definitely explained why it was only a one-episode contract! I was shocked and excited. The second-to-last episode is often the climax of the season in today’s television market. A big fiery, epic ending in this episode was very exciting! I actually portrayed a young Nakota woman who died by fire in another CBC miniseries called The Englishman’s Boy about 11 years ago. So I knew I could perform it well. Still, I had never seen anything quite like the fire and stunt work that I witnessed on Outlander. It was truly amazing!

Truthfully, you had such a little amount of time to endear yourself to the audience, allowing us to feel you had this deep love with Father Alexandre and that Kaheroton was deeply in love with you, and…you did it. More than did it. I was sobbing when you (well, your stunt double) walked into the flames.  What was your reaction when you saw it all put together for the first time? Honestly, I cried too! It was so beautiful. It was so sad and visually stunning. Mairzee Almas, the director, did an amazing job with this scene and episode. It was her idea to put the Adagio For Strings music over the silent slow-motion sequence. In my mind, I compared the epic, emotional moment to The Last of the Mohicans, and it definitely delivered. In today’s industry, an actor rarely gets the opportunity to act in something this grandiose! I feel truly blessed to have been a part of it. I am proud of my work and of the entire team. It’s tremendous.

I have to admit, Providence stands in my top 3 episodes of the whole Series thus far. From start to finish, every extra and every effect, every performance held my attention. 

Richard Rankin is the regular cast member you had scenes with.  He is known as being a very light-hearted guy. How was working with him? It was great! He is very friendly and easy to be around and work with. Poor guy had to be in constant “pain” during our scenes. It also was a very demanding season for him, so I am very impressed with his stamina and commitment. His scenes with Father Alexandre in the “Idiot hut” are truly remarkable and were rewritten right up until filming. He brings an amazing sense of humour to his portrayal. A true professional and a warm-hearted person. I feel lucky to have worked with him. 

I often worry about the portrayal of first nations and indigenous peoples in television and movies. We want the portrayal to be true, respectful and not a caricature. I understand you are a modern woman, not a historian but am interested in knowing, how do you feel Outlander did, as a whole, in regards to portraying the Mohawk/Native culture? They really did a very good job. They went all out in their research. The costumes, hair, make-up and wardrobe were all very specific. And that set! It really transported us there in our minds. They worked with two Mohawk elders from Akwesasne and had them answer questions and do translations and coachings with us. They also gave us a document about Mohawk customs and culture, especially pertaining to what was happening in the scene. For me, the biggest departure from reality is that a Mohawk woman would ever abandon her child and commit suicide to be with her loved one. But it is a fantasy after all. It’s a beautiful story.

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Sera-Lys McArthur with director Mairzee Almas and costars BTS

 It was most certainly a part of the story I always struggled with, but yes, fantasy, love stories, tragedy. They tend to go hand in hand. Speaking of fantasy – I am envious you travelled to Scotland. How long were you there? Tell us a bit about your experiences if you could. I was there for 3 weeks. I was happily able to explore quite a bit. I went to Edinburgh, stayed in Glasgow and near Pitlochry. I went with fellow actress and friend Carmen Moore to Loch Lomond. That was a special experience. After my role was completed, I went on a horse ride in the countryside or a “hack,” as they say in Scotland, with Tannoch Stables. We stayed in a beautiful castle hotel during filming. It was breathtaking. Scottish people, on the whole, are lovely, friendly and have a great sense of humour. I highly recommend going and I hope to return someday soon!

You were surrounded by many other Canadian actors/esses while on set, which must have been interesting. Being in another country but still with people from home. What was that like? It was a surreal and pride-filled experience. There were other people from the Prairies and even an elder who spoke Nakota (my Native ancestral dialect). There were multiple other actors that I had worked with before who reunited there for this production. One of them, Gregory Odjig, looked at me at one moment and said, “We’re at work right now. Halfway around the world, in Scotland. That’s friggin awesome!” And I couldn’t have agreed with the sentiment more. Very special and unique.

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Sera-Lys  with costars and friends Carmen Moore and Tom Jackson Fonab Castle Hotel

What was your biggest take away from your time with the Outlander production?That all the years of struggling and career ups-and-downs were worth it so that I could experience something this amazing. 

I see you have some projects that include writing and producing. Besides acting, what field do you see yourself pursuing more in the future? Acting is my true love. But acting leads me to producing and writing. I want to do them all, but most of the behind-the-scenes work I do is so that I can act in the production myself. I am sure this will continue to evolve. Acting and storytelling are my “Buffalo,” they provide my soul with sustenance, similar to the traditional life of my ancestors when they followed the herds of bison. I will follow them wherever they lead me. 

That is so beautiful. Our First Nation culture carries with it such a powerful spirit. We have so much we can learn.

The issue of MMIWG (Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls) in our country is one that was long ignored. The more the loudest voices speak, the more the silenced can be heard.  Can you please tell me more about the project ‘In Spirit’?In Spirit is a very special project. It was written and directed by Tara Beagan and designed by Andy Moro. While we changed the character to a fictitious girl, the original play was based on the murder of Monica Jack. You can look up all of the details available on CBC’s website. 40 years later, they have finally arrested, tried and found a man guilty of kidnapping, assaulting and violently killing this young girl who was days away from celebrating her 13th birthday. It is very emotional and speaks to the core of our community. It illuminates the bigger problem with our society today. I hope we remount it and many more will get to see it. It’s truly riveting. I hope that the conversation continues and we work together to stop this senseless violence. Native women have been too easy to prey upon. Native people are victim to systemic violence, racism and erasure by historical and modern society. This has to change. We have to talk about it more and more. And if we could please stop objectifying our women in so-called “sexy Indian” costumes, that would be a great place to start.

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If there was a mic- I’d get her to drop it (source)

Do you have any other upcoming projects that you are excited about that we can watch for?  You can currently catch me in Season 2 episode 3 of Friends From College, I have a really fun soccer scene about 8 minutes in. I will be doing a play at Portland Center Stage in Oregon called Crossing Mnisose by Cherokee playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle. That opens in April. Other than that, stay tuned to my social media @seralysmcarthur for announcements.

Once again, your performance in Providence was captivating.  You managed to create a heartbreaking love story within an episode of television that left a fandom bereft. If there is anything else about your experience with this role you would like to share, we would love to hear it. Well, while Yan Tual and I were busy working and dying on pyres and crying for literally days, the other actors and supporting artists were often on break, if it was only filming our close-ups. As I mentioned, the set was impeccable and while much of it was natural, we would randomly find “set dec” hidden amongst the natural world: fake rocks, sticks, mounds, grass, etc.

Richard Rankin, Carmen Moore, Greg Odjig and some of the Mohawk warriors/ stunt actors made hilarious behind-the-scenes videos of knocking Greg over the head and body with these set pieces. The resulting videos were HILARIOUS!! What a fun group of people to work with!

Outlander BTS video Credit goes to Gregory Odjig

Thank you so much for sharing that hilarity with us. It is the perfect way to lead into my the typical ABOotlander closing question for our guests – since you are Canadian, you have an advantage.  The ABOotlanders have invited you to dinner and being the guest of honour, you get to choose the main course, tell us which one catches your fancy?
A)Moose Droppings B) Beaver Tails C) Prairie Oysters D) Taber Corn

Prairie Oysters. I def gotta try one someday to be truly Canadian! (I do know what they are, lol!)

It truly was a pleasure to have Sera-Lys take the time to invite us into a few corners of her world.  I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed putting it together for you because I enjoyed it A LOT!

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Sera-Lys ROCKS (source)

Sher (Founder of the ABOotlanders) 

Be sure to live tweet the Finale of Outlander with us while watching on W Network on Jan 27th.