Trickster is your next must watch series and here's why
A show, unlike any you’ve ever seen on TV, is coming to CBC Gem.
Trickster, a series that straddles the line between reality and fantasy, intertwining family dynamics, love, darkness and mystery, is set to premiere October 7th at 9 p.m. (9:30NT), on CBC Gem.
On the surface, it's an irreverent coming-of-age story, dealing with teenage angst, family drama and social complications. But on a deeper level, it addresses the core issues of identity, personal agency, cultural heritage and family legacy — through an Indigenous perspective.
This supernatural thriller, which features spirits, ancient magic and deadly rights of passage, follows a young teen, Jared (Joel Oulette of Tribal), who struggles to keep his dysfunctional family off the streets: a partying mom, Maggie (Crystle Lightning of Outlander), who self-medicates an undiagnosed mental illness with alcohol and drugs, and a deadbeat dad, Phil (Craig Lauzon of Royal Canadian Air Farce), who is addicted to painkillers and shamelessly mooches off him.
Trying to pay the bills, this smart yet trapped teen has to resort to selling things he is not proud of. To make things even more chaotic, a mysterious stranger, Wade, blows into town with an agenda.
If that doesn't have you intrigued already, here are a few more reasons to get you excited for Trickster on CBC Gem.
A cautionary tale through folklore
The show is based on Eden Robinson's 2018 Copper Cylinder Award-winning book Son of a Trickster — as adapted by Algonquin-Métis award-winning filmmaker Michelle Latimer (RISE, Nuuca) and Tony Elliott (writer of Orphan Black). It delves into a mythology, rarely, if ever, seen on television and introduces an old Indigenous tale of a mythical creature, the Trickster.
While the story has different expressions across cultures, Robinson's book, and subsequently the series, examine it as a Raven (Wee'git), as featured in the Haisla culture of the Pacific Northwest.
"He's a transforming raven and he has a very specific role in our culture. We tell our children Wee'git stories to teach them about protocol, or nuyum. But he teaches people this protocol by breaking all the rules. He is a bad example, the example of what not to do," Robinson, explained in a recent interview with CBC Books.
The author adds that when she was growing up, her family would sit around the kitchen table after supper and tell stories, many of which were Wee'git stories.
"Our sovereignty as a people is tied to story, because through our stories we can write our future," says Latimer, who also directed the series.
So if you're into learning through folklore and like things like doppelgängers, talking ravens and skin monsters, then you'll love a show where these things come to life.
Tearing down the wall of censorship
The Trickster tackles important Indigenous issues through meaningful dialogue and pivotal scenes that will continue to exist as pieces of media that can empower voices. In particular, the protest scene — which was shot at the same time the Wet'suwet'en protests were happening, according to Anna Lambe (Sarah, Jared's love interest) — felt very important for the cast.
Lambe cogently explains: "Indigenous peoples, they want to decide what they want to do with their land. They want to decide how to manage their resources and not have outside sources coerce them into making decisions or force them into doing things that they don't want to do. So to have this protesting scene, felt really important — especially on mainstream media. … That means our voices are being heard, that means we're breaking through this wall of censorship. That means we're breaking through silencing."
A close knit family dynamic off screen that translates on screen
Family connections are also an enriching factor to the series, which adds to the overall strength of the show.
Maggie (played by Crystle Lightning) and her mother Sophia (played by Georgina Lightning of The West Wing, Blackstone), are also mother and daughter in real life. And the baby who plays Lightning's newborn son, Jared, in the series is played by her real son.
"I get to work with my daughter and my grandson, so there's three generations of Lightnings that are working on this. That's monumental," says Georgina Lightning.
For many showrunners, having family members act in the same scenes is a dream scenario that can make their jobs much easier.
"Acting is all about trust and so when you have that established already, then a bunch of the work is already done and you can just go that much deeper," explains Latimer.
"I felt like I had my best friend coming with me to this adventure," says Oulette, whose brother was also his double in the show.
"It was like having my own twin because he had this wig on and he had the same clothes on and it would just be, like, so weird but it was fun."
Oulette explains that he also really "vibed" with other cast members, mentioning how close they've all gotten.
Kalani Queypo (Fear the Walking Dead, Mad Men), who plays Wade, agrees: "We literally fell in love with each other. We hung out with each other all the time. And there was such an admiration for each other and this need to match the energy and integrity that everyone was bringing."
"[And] I feel like there was this tremendous sense of pride walking around the set," adds Crystle Lightning, just because Michelle made sure that there were at least two Indigenous people in every single department."
Multidimensional Indigenous characters that break stereotypes
In this noir and whimsical series, we see characters who are smart, witty, kind and complicated.
"What's magnificent and unique about the Trickster is that our characters defy the stereotypes of Indigenous people so often seen in the media — the romanticized, safe abstractions of 'dead Indians' invented by settlers," says Latimer.
"We are striving to reimagine these images by creating a more nuanced and authentic portrait of Indigeneity."
From legendary Buffy Sainte-Marie's classics to the audacious beats of Haisla Nation's Snotty Nose Rez Kids, the Trickster soundtrack boasts some of the best tunes you've heard in a while.
Here are a few songs featured in episode one of the series.
"Indigenous Resistance," Snotty Nose Rez Kids Ft. Drezus
"Northern Cree - Red Skin Girl," A Tribe Called Red Remix
"Take me," Once a Tree