Trickster mythology is something Joel Oulette had heard of but never experienced.
The actor’s interest was piqued when the script for “Trickster” crossed his path about a year ago.
“I remember other Indigenous people telling me about it, but I never understood it completely,” Oulette says. “It captivated me from the start. It’s so mysterious and so thrilling. It does take you on a roller coaster. It changes your perspective on Indigenous people and their beliefs.”
The TV series “Trickster” is based on the bestselling novel “Son of a Trickster” by Eden Robinson and created by award-winning filmmaker Michelle Latimer and Tony Elliott.
The series provided opportunities for Indigenous people not only in front of the camera but in every aspect behind the camera as well, and it was important to all that the location of the novels be represented as much as possible on screen, and that the filming of the television series provide a benefit to the community that inspired it.
Oulette stars as Jared, an Indigenous teen struggling to keep his dysfunctional family above water, but when he starts seeing strange things – talking ravens, doppelgängers, skin monsters – his already chaotic life is turned upside down.
The six-episode series airs at 8 p.m. Tuesdays on The CW.
The cast also includes Crystle Lightning, Kalani Queypo, Anna Lambe, Joel Thomas Hynes, Craig Lauzon and Gail Maurice.
The series originally aired in Canada and has been picked up for a second season.
Oulette is proud to be a part of a project that is telling Indigenous stories, which is also written by Robinson, who is Indigenous.
“Indigenous people have been silenced for years,” Oulette says. “When the Europeans came here, their first job was to take the Native out of them. It’s crazy to think. It’s so amazing to see Indigenous people reclaim the storytelling. They’ve been through a lot in Canada and America. The series is putting these stories on the forefront, and that is really special in itself.”
Oulette describes Jared as brave and courageous.
“Though he wants to ‘just be a normal kid,’ he’s not,” Oulette says. “He takes this level of power for his famil,y and he provides for them. You don’t see that a lot in families. He’s paying the bills and feeding his family. He would do anything for them.”
Oulette found the role of Jared easy to step into because he has many similarities to the character.
“When I got the role, I was fresh out of high school and struggling,” he says. “I can relate to that. It was meant to be for me to bring him to life on TV.”
Lightning plays Jared’s mom, Maggie.
The First Nations Hobbema/Enoch Cree artist wasn’t familiar with Robinson’s book series until she got the role.
“From the breakdown of the character Maggie, I felt like I had been preparing for it my whole life,” she says. “I was actually three months pregnant when I auditioned for the role, and I didn’t think it was going to happen. But it did.”
Lightning bonded with Maggie and felt a responsibility to portray her with respect.
“Maggie is a product of transgenerational trauma without healing,” she says. “She loves Jared and would do anything for her son and shows him a lot of tough love. In between, she’s supplementing men and substance abuse as a distraction. She’s a protective mama bear.”
Lightning wanted to show the many dimensions of Maggie as well.
“She’s compassionate but makes really bad decisions,” Lightning says. “It was important to
hit each one of those moments with passion and force.”
Lighting has been in the entertainment industry for a long time.
Yet this was the first time she felt at home with her Indigenous cast mates and crew.
“When I look at the series, I see people just like me,” Lightning says. “I have never worked on a show where there’s so many Indigenous faces around. It gives me a sense of pride. ‘Trickster’ is a game changer, and it hits me once in a while how much of an honor it’s been to be part of it.”
Lightning says adapting the series from Robinson’s trilogy of novels is also a win for Indigenous people in film.
“There’s something for everybody in there,” Lightning says. “We’re not on the back of the horse in this series. It’s our chance to decolonize and break those stereotypes.”
“Trickster” began airing in the United States on Jan. 12.
Lighthing and Oulette are looking forward to seeing the response.
“Millions of people tuned in to the series in Canada, which is why a second season is in the works,” Lightning says.
Outlette enjoyed the feedback from the Canadian audience as well.
“The show has gotten a lot of praise for having Indigenous people in front of and behind the camera,” Oulette says. “The series grabs you by the first episode. It’s not just one shock an episode. You’re watching so many things happen. Diving into the Indigenous folklore is what makes it unique.”