It's fair to say that Adam Beach didn't have the easiest upbringing. He tragically lost both of his parents at the age of eight, later finding himself "drawn to acting to enable (his) emotions to go somewhere." By his early twenties, Adam had made a name for himself starring in the CBC show North of 60. A career in Hollywood followed, but Adam recently returned to his roots at CBC and in the North with Arctic Air. Season two of the hugely successful drama is currently shooting in and around Yellowknife and Adam took some time out to speak to CBC Live about some of his new endeavours, The Adam Beach Foundation and The Adam Beach Film Institute.
CBC Live: Tell us about the Adam Beach Foundation and what it does.
Adam Beach: The Adam Beach Foundation is something that I've put together to enhance the awareness of suicide, for the prevention of suicide and also to provide different opportunities to distract the younger generation from losing hope, from thinking that they have nowhere to go or have no ideas to put together.
Can you also tell us about the soon-to-launch Adam Beach Film Institute?
AB: What I've also done is create a film institute to bring in young filmmakers, to teach them and train them and then send them back to wherever they are to promote filmmaking in Northern communities.
Is there somebody that you had in your life growing up that helped you like you're helping now?
AB: All my aunts and uncles really supported me. Growing up, I lost my parents when I was eight years old and everybody kind of played their role in taking care of me and my brothers. I found myself drawn to acting to enable my emotions to go somewhere. Along the way I started this whole personal growth through learning the traditions and teachings of being Anishnaabe. I attend sweat lodges, I carry a traditional pipe and make sure that I'm on the right track.
What do you hope to get from the foundations yourself?
AB: Well, I believe that I've been fortunate enough to have my dreams come true in filmmaking but also in living a good life through my traditional teachings. And for me to be able to give that back... to say, "alright I'm going to create this foundation to help the one thing that's really affecting Northern communities," or all reservations in North America, which is suicide. This is a foundation that will say, "hey, I wanna help out!" The film institute is a way to say this is one avenue that really changed my life and helped me along the way with my personal growth. The best thing I can do is allow that door to be completely open and help you be a part of my journey.
Do you think celebrities like yourself have an obligation to give back?
AB: I think it's important to recognise your own success and have the responsibility to give back experience. I find a lot of people who reach a certain level of success close the doors behind them because they don't want to lose their job. They don't want to be replaced. I find that I need a replacement. I need to find someone who can carry the torch. I'm 39 years old, I can't play the twenty year old roles anymore. I'd like to find someone to take that place as a role model who will live up to the expectations of giving back to their communities or to people to help them out. To nurture that.
I also have a cable network online, called Open Vision Networks Television. It's a free application and it's the first cable network in cyber space. What I'm trying to do is take two kids out of each reservation in North America and send them home with the tools needed to create their own independent production hub. I give them a half hour time slot on my cable network channel so the world has direct access to the trials and tribulations of life on the reservation.
Before your foundations, how much was there to help young Native kids that wanted to get into film?
AB: Well, there are organisations out there that help everybody, whether it's the Boys and Girls Clubs, whether it's the Dreamcatcher Foundation, or the Achievement Awards. I found that I was in a place to be able to create the Adam Beach brand, to be able to attract these isolated communities, to encourage them and promote them to a better understanding of themselves and to encourage the motivation to get a higher education, to go ask for opportunities in a job placement within the economy that we live in. We are trying to create a studio system, a film institute system, a film financing system, a film distribution system within the reservation systems across North America to prove that reservations are unique enough to have Hollywood operating on them.
Are you going to be getting any of your celebrity friends involved to help out?
AB: All my friends? Yeah! It's all a collective where I can now reach out to have my friends come and help and use their own successes to advance the importance of creating awareness of how devastating suicide is in North America.
How can CBC help?
AB: Oh, wow! CBC is already helping with Arctic Air. Arctic Air is an example of promoting the wonderful environment of Northern communities. Presenting a character like Bobby Martin that is successful and pushes the envelope on helping friends and family and living a healthy lifestyle.
How's Arctic Air's second season going?
AB: Arctic Air is amazing! We have introduced bigger, better, episodes. Whether it's fighting a polar bear or rescuing a polar bear, forest fires, diamond mine heists... it's going pretty good!
Even though the foundations and Arctic Air take up a lot of your time, do you anything else in the pipeline?
AB: My girlfriend Leah Gibson and I are currently trying to get a TV show idea off the ground. Basically, cameras follow us into communities and we introduce how tough it is in some of these communities. We implement a strategy to get the community to work together to help better their environment. There are some reservations that have no running water, how do we help better that? How do we distribute it?
If there's any other example of your work... just one example that you'd love people to see that touches you, which would it be?
AB: Wow. There's a movie I did called Now and Forever. That movie dealt with unconditional love. That would be a movie I'd love people to see. It was a Canadian film, the director was Bob Clark who sadly passed away. He did A Christmas Story. For me, it just harnessed the spiritual connection that we all have in some sort of way. Whether it's traditional, whether it's the bible, whether it's Buddha. I think a lot of people will endure a love story that puts those together.
At the Calgary Stampede earlier this year, Adam and Leah Gibson talked to us about exploring Native culture all across Canada: