Calgary

Puppeteer born in Tsuut'ina Nation says work on Fraggle Rock reboot a dream come true

When DerRic Starlight learned the reboot of one of his favourite childhood shows, Fraggle Rock, was starting production in Calgary in January 2021, you could say it was his destiny to work on it.

DerRic Starlight worked as puppeteer on 13 new episodes of Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock

Growing up on Tsuut’ina Nation, one of DerRic Starlight's favourite television shows was Fraggle Rock. Today, he's an accomplished puppeteer, having recently worked on the revival series based on the Jim Henson original. (Submitted by DerRic Starlight)

When DerRic Starlight learned the reboot of one of his favourite childhood shows, Fraggle Rock, was starting production in Calgary in January 2021, you could say it was his destiny to work on it.

But you wouldn't know it given his first crack at a position.

"They got back to me and said, you know, the auditions for Fraggle Rock passed two weeks ago," Starlight said.

To really understand Starlight's connection to the series, you have to start from the beginning. 

Starlight was a small child at his grandmother's house on Tsuut'ina Nation, overlooking the city of Calgary. He was convinced Sesame Street was in downtown Calgary.

"I used to ask my mother, 'Can we go downtown? Cookie Monster is down there, Big Bird and Bert and Ernie are down there!'" he recalled.

Starlight asked for puppets for Christmas when he was only three or four years old.

When he received the cast of The Muppet Show in puppet form, his grandmother would tell him to perform in front of their large family at special occasions.

"'Get up there and do your Muppet Show,' and I would do my own Muppet Show. That's how it all started," Starlight said.

Growing up on the reserve in the 1980s, Starlight said his television schedule revolved around their three channels and the CBC on Sunday evenings in particular.

"I think every Canadian will probably remember on the CBC, The Wonderful World of Disney would come on television, then The Muppet Show would air after that, then Fraggle Rock," Starlight said.

His passion for puppetry continued through school and his teachers would ask him to do his shows for the class.

"I learned how to do, like, all the voices, down to a 'T' — every single one of them," Starlight said.

DerRic Starlight worked as a puppeteer on 13 new episodes of Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock, the revival series to the Jim Henson original. (Submitted by DerRic Starlight)

After attending Vancouver Film School, he made his own puppets and assigned unique characters to them.

Starlight said he made a name for himself as a comedian and puppeteer with Indigenous audiences.

"Jim Henson called his 'The Muppets' because they're half marionettes and half puppets. Mine are 'nuppets' — half native and half puppet," Starlight said.

So, to get back to that "destiny" part — the individuals hiring for Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock researched Starlight's work and offered him a live audition — and yes. He got the job.

He worked as a puppeteer on 13 new episodes of Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock, all of which were produced at the Calgary Film Centre between January and June 2021.

"I poked a hole through a door for other Indigenous puppeteers saying, 'Hey, I did this, now it's your turn,'" Starlight said. 

As for Starlight's full circle moment?

"I can now tell my mother — see? I told you The Muppets were in downtown Calgary."

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