Nova Scotia

Mi'kmaw couple bring their language to hit TV show Vikings

A Cape Breton couple translated their Mi’kmaw language skills into being hired by the popular television show Vikings.

Tom and Carol Johnson helped actors capture exchanges between Vikings and Indigenous people

Tom and Carol Anne Johnson dubbed Chicken Run into Mi'kmaq before tackling Vikings. (Tom and Carol Anne Johnson)

A Cape Breton, N.S., couple have translated their Mi'kmaw language skills into being hired by the popular television show Vikings.

Tom and Carol Ann Johnson of Eskasoni gained fame for dubbing the popular British clay-mation movie Chicken Run into the Mi'kmaw language.

Now they've brought those language skills to season six of the History Channel's Vikings, where they were hired to provide Mi'kmaw dialogue for the show, and to help the actors pronounce it. 

Carol Ann Johnson said the show was looking for someone with strong Mi'kmaw language skills and their names were brought up. The show featured the Vikings encountering the Beothuk in what today is called Newfoundland.

The last known member of the Beothuk people died in 1829. The Beothuk have long been described as extinct, but some say a more accurate phrasing is culturally extinct. For years, Indigenous people in Newfoundland — including the Mi'kmaq — have maintained they are related to the Beothuk

"The producer, Michael Hirst, was looking for the closest authentic Mi'kmaw language to Beothuk, because that is now an extinct language," said Johnson.

Vikings follows the saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, a legendary Norse hero, and the adventures of the Norse throughout Europe and even their trips to Newfoundland.

The Vikings show follows the warriors as they venture west into today's Canada. (Vikings/Twitter)

Season six has been separated into two parts. The second part features the adventures in Newfoundland and interactions with the Indigenous people.

Most of the actors playing the Indigenous people were from other provinces like Alberta and British Columbia, so the Johnsons assisted them with learning the language and the pronunciation.

"There was one scene where one individual had a hard time in pronunciation and I would go in there and I started being the vocal coach," said Tom Johnson.

Mi'kmaq being spoken

Originally the couple would do a conceptual translation of what the producers wanted them to say in Mi'kmaq, record it in their garage or at a studio, send it to the Canadian producers, and finally have it shipped off to Ireland, where the show is being shot.

But they were eventually flown to Ireland to help the actors on set. 

"I never imagined when you look at these scenes, when you're watching a movie, that there's like 300 people behind the scenes running around," said Tom Johnson. "There's a job for everybody."

They had to sign a contract to not spoil anything about the show until it was released.

They said the community in Eskasoni was pretty shocked when they watched the show and heard Mi'kmaq being spoken.

Carol Ann Johnson said it was quite the experience to work on the show. "It was just wonderful to make sure that our language was heard all over the world," said Johnson.

The second half of season six began airing in Canada on Jan. 1.


With Files from Information Morning Cape Breton


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