Interview: Roseanne Supernault Talks Northlander and Diversity in Media
We spoke to actress, Roseanne Supernault, about her upcoming movie, The Northlander which explores Indigenous culture in a dystopian and science fiction world. She is a strong voice for representation in media and also works with youth as a facilitator for suicide prevention. After reading this interview, I think you’ll agree with us that Roseanne is a real life Wonder Woman!
I watched the trailer for The Northlander and I am pretty excited about this film! I’ve watched fantasy and science fiction shows for years and I always think it’s worth discussing that a lot of them are still lacking representation. I think it’s great that The Northlander explores a different perspective through Aboriginal characters. Please tell our readers about it and about the character that you play.
The Northlander is a Dystopic Adventure Sci-Fi that takes the main character on a mission for his people and along the way he meets my character Mari, a Huntress. Both of us are searching for identity and belonging, and in the midst of it all become entangled with the nefarious and nomadic Heratics who seem to want something from both of us…
Did you have fun getting to be in a fantasy world for The Northlander? What attracted you to the project?
I had a lot of fun! Dressing up in Mari’s costume and make-up every day felt pretty epic. I had an amazing duo in hair/make-up artists Melissa Meretsky and Jennifer Walton. Every day those gals would blast amazing music that got us in the zone for the day. Their eclectic vibe, fashion, and interesting mix of being laid back AND super hard working was amazing to be around.
I think what most attracted me was the prospect of Indigenous Sci-Fi. It’s unprecedented to see a Sci-Fi that so strongly focuses on its Indigenous players without getting all Dances with Wolves on us (with all due respect to Dances With Wolves).
I saw Director Benjamin Ross Hayden’s Cannes Short Film “Agophobia,” and the aesthetic and tone in that film alone won me over.
How do you decide on the kind of characters you want to play?
In a strange sense, I feel like my characters attract me to them. Bahaha. Not to get all hokey pokey on you, but I feel like there’s a reason that certain actors get chosen for certain roles.
Once I heard that Will Smith was being considered for Neo in The Matrix – and don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Will Smith fan – but even Will Smith himself said it wouldn’t have been the right choice. Keanu Reeves IS Neo. Some actors wind up getting cast in what become epic roles, when they weren’t even the first choice.
The nice thing about this philosophy I’ve developed is that it brings me great peace when I see other actresses playing roles I also auditioned for – it was just meant to be!
What is your background and where did you first get your start in acting?
I’m Metis/Cree (it’s possible to be both Metis descended from the Cree Tribe and also Cree – Metis doesn’t mean you are half White, half Native; it’s entirely its own specific grouping of Indigenous People within Canada – you’d be surprised how many people don’t understand this).
I grew up in Edmonton, Alberta. I originate from the Woodlands in Northern, Alberta – so I had a particular love for the tone and landscape of the film we got to play in. The badlands aren’t the same as the Woodlands, but I’m definitely a lover of the outdoors.
I first started in acting from a young age. I did my first big play as part of a choir when I was 10 years old, but for as long as I can remember I’ve been singing, dancing, performing and doing martial arts & athletics. I officially got an acting agent at 13 after a casting director saw me at an open casting call. I went to Art School right after that and it’s been a love of the craft that’s kept me going ever since.
How do you feel about the presence of Aboriginal people and Native Americans in current media?
We are seriously misrepresented and underrepresented in the Film & TV/Entertainment Industry. Right now there are hundreds of Indigenous Peoples working their way into the Film & TV industry – especially as directors and producers and it’s very exciting.
I will breathe a sigh of relief when I know that more Indigenous people are telling our stories than there are non-Indigenous people telling our stories.
As hard as actors may work to get in front of the camera, the real battle starts behind the camera with a major need for Indigenous Filmmakers and Funders. We need to have leverage through capital. Bottom line.
What do you hope for in terms of representation in film and other media?
Once we have Indigenous people writing the scripts and the checks, then we have to create a demand behind the scenes for authentic Indigenous talent in front of the camera.
It sounds simple, but it’s not. It’s going to take a lot of team work from a lot of different people. I hold my hands up in support of all of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Film & TV fighting for authentic Indigenous representation.
I know they’re out there – I see you! — and I thank you!
Tell us about your award winning story, They Called her Laura Bannock. What is it about?
It’s about the disparity that occurs within families. Through the narrative of a female ranging from age 5 to 20-something, she describes watching her cousin go from her babysitter to a prostitute in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver.
When we walk down the street and see drug dealers and gangsters and prostitutes, many of us judge and point fingers – but the slip from a “conventional life” to the street life doesn’t take much push under specific circumstances.
Those people have families. They come from somewhere. They are loved by someone.
We often forget that the disparity that exists within society is a reflection of the disparity that exists within family and community – because at the end of the day, the human race is one big family.
I know that you work with youth as a facilitator for suicide prevention as well as acting and filmmaking workshops. How do you hope to inspire young creatives?
I found so much resolve and sanctity through my artistry while growing up. I think I would have wound up in very dangerous places in my youth had I not channeled my trauma and angst into art or athletics.
I talk about these stories and I talk about my journey through depression with them. I want to take away the stigma from the things that push us toward suicide as human beings. I want to relate to them on a very fundamental level – human to human.
This work is very important to me because of the outrageous rate of suicide with Indigenous Peoples not only in Canada but around the world.
I think the fact that it transcends borders speaks to the fact that it’s coming from colonization – because that experience is universal to Indigenous Peoples.
Lastly, if you had a super power what would it be and why?
Be Iron Man (but Woman) then find a way to turn back time and protect and support Tesla at all costs.