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Indigenous Actress  Anna Lambe speak about her project

Indigenous Actress Anna Lambe speak about her project

Photographer  Zach Hood

Anna Lambe is an Inuk actress, writer, and director with a fresh and powerful voice, breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes at every turn. She has taken on some incredible roles many of which confront the harsh realities of Indigenous experiences. 

Can you tell us about your journey into acting and how you discovered your passion for the craft?

I was 15 years old, living in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada. My drama teacher had presented this opportunity to audition for a workshop, which would then lead to an audition for a film being shot in Iqaluit called “The Grizzlies”. She came up to me afterward and urged me to try it, saying she thought it was something I might enjoy. I threw my name into the auditions for the workshop, very nearly backing out. I had spent 5 days doing this workshop with other Inuit youth, making friends, and finding my footing in the world of acting and performing. I had lined up outside the room to audition for the character ‘Spring’, and a few months later, while on a school trip in France, I got a call from a random number in Toronto. I ignored it. A few hours later a Facebook message came through from Stacey Aglok MacDonald, one of the producers of the film, letting me know they wanted me for the role of Spring. Thank god for Facebook. I accepted and the rest is a bit of a whirlwind. We filmed Grizzlies over 6 weeks and then heard nothing for about 2.5 years. In the summer of 2018, I saw a news posting that Grizzlies had been accepted into TIFF, and would later attend the festival for the premiere of what we all poured our hearts into. It was emotional, beautiful, life-changing. At the time I had committed to studying International Development with no planned future for acting, but as Grizzlies started to grow, I saw a new world of opportunity. In the spring of the following year, myself, Paul Nutarariaq who played Zack in the film, and my brother who wrote a song for it were all nominated for Canadian Screen Awards, mine being for Best Supporting Actress. I look back on this moment as being pivotal for my career: the press and interest in the Grizzlies gave me a platform to speak about something I loved- my community and how beautiful it is, but also the hardship that comes with living in the North and the intergenerational impacts of colonialism. I was able to bridge the gap between performing and art and advocacy. Within the blink of an eye, acting as a career path appeared in front of me and I have been, at times cautiously and other times furiously, on this path ever since.


What drew you to audition for a role in the upcoming season of True Detective?

If I am being completely honest I just wanted to work and was in the mix for a few other projects, but you can never leave your eggs in one basket in this industry. I was sent the audition for True Detective which had major red tape all over it: there was no plot description provided, and bare-bones character descriptions. I had originally auditioned for Annie Kowtok and then was sent a request to read for Kayla. The rest is history. 


True Detective is known for its complex and intricate storytelling. How do you approach preparing for a role in a series with such depth?

My role on the show was not nearly as complex as characters like Danvers or Navarro- the layers of those characters, how messy they are, and how much they carry within them and are constantly trying to keep from letting out is incredible. I applaud Jodie and Kali for their work as Danvers and Navarro, for portraying that complexity to the point they make it look easy (when it definitely is not). Even with limited screen time, especially with limited screen time, it’s important to try and take advantage of every single moment on screen. Especially in a series like True Detective where every actor is going in at 110%. I read my scenes and went into rehearsals with strong choices but also receptive to Issa Lopez and Finn Bennett to see where we would end up. Peeling back the layers together was incredibly helpful for a young actor to be able to approach the scenes with the depth they required. 


The show often delves into dark and intense subject matter. How do you mentally prepare yourself to portray challenging scenes?

Much of the heaviness of this scene of True Detective is something that is very personal to me. The plotline of Annie K’s death and the resounding lack of action from various levels of the police and members of the community is very much a reality for so many of us Indigenous folks who know and have loved someone that has been murdered or gone missing. It is so much more than a story arc or plot, but a representation of a horror many of us live in or in fear of. More so than preparing for challenging scenes, I felt I needed to prepare to watch the show when it came out. I put off watching episodes because I knew I needed to be in a headspace where I could face and listen to the story. 


As an Indigenous actress, how do you feel about the representation of Indigenous characters in the entertainment industry, and what do you hope to bring to your portrayal in True Detective?

Even within my short time pursuing acting as a career, about 5 years now, I have seen so much change in the representation of Indigenous characters. Where early on many of the roles for Indigenous women would be of Indigenous women who are victims of their circumstances, disposable characters that further plot rather than contribute anything meaningful to the story. Now I see so many more complex roles for Indigenous women who are layered, interesting, and whose storylines serve a purpose in the greater plot. For my portrayal of Kayla in True Detective, I just hope people get to see Indigenous women who are motivated, know what they want and will stand their ground when faced with pushback when they know they’re fighting for the best for themselves and their family. Kayla’s cool as f- she just wants respect and to be treated as an equal in her relationship. 



What was the most rewarding aspect of working on True Detective Season 4, and how did it compare to other projects you've worked on?

The response to True Detective: Night Country from Inuit Nunangat (Inuit lands) has been incredible. To see so many people, including my own family and community, resonate with this story and cheer it on has been invaluable. Waking up to my aunties tagging me in the comments on Facebook about how much they liked the previous night’s episode has been such a highlight of my year so far. Working with the True Detective team has also been incredible- the characters may be full of conflict on screen, but we love each other so much in real life and continue to text beyond wrapping the show. I also have a deep love for Iceland and the crew that made this show happen - they’re truly the unsung heroes of this show and without them, we wouldn’t have Night Country. 


True Detective has a dedicated fan base. How do you think your character will resonate with viewers, and what do you hope they take away from your performance?

Well… I know Kayla hasn’t been a fan favourite. I knew this would happen from the beginning, though. I love Kayla because she reminds me of my family members and people in my community who I admire that take no BS, but I know that can translate as a nagging wife who lacks empathy. I hope that people are able to look at Kayla not just at face value and listen to the conversations she’s having with Prior and that she loves him deeply, but not at the expense of pulling his weight in the relationship. She also has no idea what’s going on with the case and all she knows is her husband is prioritizing work over family (again). I know a lot of people love Prior and dislike Kayla because she always seems to be upset with him, but know she loves him too and you’ll see that if you just listen. 



The series is known for its ensemble cast. Can you share any memorable experiences or moments on set with your fellow cast members?

One of my favourite days in Iceland was out planting trees! Jodie had invited us all out to go plant some trees as a way of giving back to Iceland and ensuring we start our journey with Night Country in a good way. There were some prayers said, lots of Icelandic pancakes eaten, and many laughs on the bus to and from the planting spot. It was a beautiful bonding experience and a memory I hold close to my heart. 

How do you navigate the balance between staying true to the script and bringing your own interpretation and authenticity to your character?

I think, when possible, it is so valuable to have conversations with directors and writers to hear their visions for characters and approach wanting to collaborate. This isn’t always possible- directors and writers are busy but when it is, it colors so much of a character to hear the creator's thoughts, and then to share how yours may be similar or different, and build layers with that insight. As much as it’s important to go in with strong choices and a vision for your character, it is just as important to be receptive and collaborative with direction and insight. Processing before disagreeing sounds easy but can be a real challenge, especially if you have spent so much time building a character in your mind. Like, I have imagined this character as raised by a single mother who was emotionally absent that I don’t see anymore, and you’re telling me she was raised lovingly with both parents and still goes to visit them a few times a year? At the same time, when you strongly believe in something of and still goes to visit them a few times a year? At the same time, when you strongly believe in something of your character or of their story, being strong in your perspective is important as well. Good directors and writers can acknowledge that more than anyone, actors sit the most with their character to understand them. So, in short, make strong choices, be solid in your perspective, but be open to changing and collaborating. That will bring dynamism and authenticity to your character when you truly believe and understand who they are. 


Looking ahead, what are your aspirations as an actress, and what kind of roles are you interested in exploring in the future?

I’m currently set to lead a comedy for a Netflix series in the Spring, and I still can’t find the words to capture how excited I am about it. It’s the first big budget comedy being filmed in the Arctic, produced by the team from the first film I worked on, with a story I can’t get enough of. I have been wanting to branch into comedy for a while now- I love drama, it’s my bread and butter, but I would love to do some less heavy stories, or heavy stories told in a lighter way. My next goal is a Western, preferably a film. I have a vision of riding a horse through tall grass at dusk, wind in my hair, with great determination. That’s the next big dream.