HOLR is chatting with Indigenous actress Anna Lambe to learn all about her role in Season 4 of True Detective- and what’s next for the star!
Anna Lambe is an Inuk actress, writer, and director who continues to break barriers in the industry. In addition to working on some incredible projects throughout the course of her career, the actress is taking on a pivotal role in the fourth season of HBO’s “True Detective,” which was shot in Iceland alongside Jodie Foster.
Today, HOLR is sitting down to chat with Lambe about her experience in the entertainment industry, her latest role, and how she continuously strives to advocate for causes tied to her cultural heritage. Keep reading to learn all about Lambe, how she is on a mission to shed light on the realities of Indigenous experiences, and what’s next for the star.
Tell us all about how you got your start in the entertainment industry.
I was 15 years old, living in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada (I highly suggest pulling up a map for some context on the geographical location of Iqaluit), in my grade 10 drama class. My drama teacher had presented this opportunity to audition for a workshop, which would then lead to an audition for a film being shot in Iqaluit called “The Grizzlies”. She came up to me afterward and urged me to try it, saying she thought it was something I might enjoy. “Absolutely not” was my immediate thought. But with a bit of encouragement, I threw my name into the auditions for the workshop, very nearly backing out, sitting on the edge of my bed trying to find the words to tell my dad I wasn’t going to go anymore when he sent me a text that he was on his way. For fear of telling him to turn around as he was on the way to pick me up, I figured I would go give it a shot, because what’s the worst that could happen? I got accepted into the workshop where 60 Indigenous youth from all over the Arctic were brought in to learn about art and entertainment. It was 5 days, all day, not only learning various approaches to acting, but also skills such as how to operate behind the camera, dancing, and culturally relevant arts like Greenlandic face mask dancing, called “Uaajeerneq”.
By the end of the week, we had the option of whether or not we wanted to audition for this film, the main point of the workshop was just to provide youth access to knowledge on art and performing they may not have had otherwise, so they could go back to their community and share that with their peers, and the audition for the movie was just a bonus. At that point, I was invested. I had spent 5 days doing this workshop, making friends, and finding my footing in the world of acting and performing. I had lined up outside the room to audition for the character ‘Spring’, and a few months later, while on a school trip in France, I got a call from a random number in Toronto. Naturally, not wanting to rack up a phone bill I would be apologizing to my dad for later, I ignored it. A few hours later a Facebook message came through from Stacey Aglok MacDonald, one of the producers of the film, letting me know they wanted me for the role of Spring. Thank god for Facebook.
I accepted and the rest is a bit of a whirlwind. We filmed Grizzlies over 6 weeks and then heard nothing for about 2.5 years. I had done a day or two of ADR and reshoots in October of 2017 but knew nothing about what was to come. In the summer of 2018, before attending university at the University of Ottawa, I saw a news posting that Grizzlies had been accepted into TIFF, and would later attend the festival for the premiere of what we all poured our hearts into. It was emotional, beautiful, life-changing. At the time I had committed to studying International Development with no planned future for acting, but as Grizzlies started to grow, I saw a new world of opportunity. In the spring of the following year, myself, Paul Nutarariaq who played Zack in the film, and my brother who wrote a song for it were all nominated for Canadian Screen Awards, mine being for Best Supporting Actress. I look back on this moment as being pivotal for my career: the press and interest in the Grizzlies gave me a platform to speak about something I loved- my community and how beautiful it is, but also the hardship that comes with living in the North and the intergenerational impacts of colonialism. I was able to bridge the gap between performing and art and advocacy. Within the blink of an eye, acting as a career path appeared in front of me and I have been, at times cautiously and other times furiously, on this path ever since.
You are a rising voice in the space, in which you are breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes in the industry as an Inuk actress, writer, and director. Talk to us about your journey so far.
My journey has been one that has been incredibly lucky. As much as hard work and unrelenting dedication are driving forces behind a successful career in this industry, we often forget how much luck comes into play as well. Being the right person for the right role on the right project at the right time in your life is like a star-aligning moment. Some people don’t have this until years into their careers, and some have it right at the beginning.
I am fortunate to be part of the latter and in a position now where I can look back at my credits and be incredibly proud of how many incredible projects I have been a part of. Grizzlies was a powerful story on the strength of community and kinship and has been an important tool in educating Canadians on the issue of suicide in Indigenous communities and how so many of the social issues within our communities are a direct result of years of colonial violence. Trickster was a first-of-its-kind series in Indigenous film and TV that was dark and gritty, complicated and mystical, and despite all the controversies around it I will still speak on the project with so much love and pride for what we created. Three Pines and Alaska Daily raised awareness on the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, a reality very close to my heart, and I am grateful to have been part of platforming those issues. Now, with True Detective, I feel I could stop here as an actor and be incredibly proud of what I have done (but I don’t think I am ready for that just yet).
Though I love acting and playing in front of the camera, I have been exploring behind the camera as well. As much as I feel I still have so much to give as an actor, I feel a pull to storytell in new ways. Being raised in Iqaluit and my life experience as an Inuk woman from the north, I have been searching for new outlets to share stories close to my heart, bringing forward my perspective and life experiences to the page and screen. I wrote, directed, produced, and acted in my first short film this past summer, and though I don’t think I will ever do all 4 at the same time again, it was cathartic to spill a story from my mind onto a page and bring it to life. It is a film on grief, forgiveness, and letting go, rooted in a story that is too common in Nunavut. I hope to share it one day- I definitely will- but for now it sits in the download of my laptop until I am ready.
Your most recent project involves being part of the fourth season of HBO’s “True Detective.” What can you tell us about this exciting role?
True Detective was an unbelievable project to be a part of- I mean come onnnnn. Jodie Foster and Kali Reis, am I right? Having a role on this show was a dream. I play the role of Kayla Larsen, wife to Peter Prior (Finn Bennett), the rookie cop that Danvers (Foster) keeps on a tight leash, ready to send him wherever she needs him. Kayla is a take-no-shit Inupiaq woman who, like many of the other women in the show, knows what she wants and will fight to get it. In this case, it is a present husband to herself and their son who doesn’t run as soon as his boss calls. Throughout the episodes, we see the dynamic of Kayla and Prior’s relationship change, and Kayla comes toe to toe not only with her husband but Danvers as well to try and fight for her family.
You are passionate about advocating for causes tied to your cultural heritage- can you tell us more about this and how you hope to shed light on the realities of Indigenous experiences?
Indigenous representation throughout the history of moving pictures on a screen has been many things: inaccurate, vague, complicated, many times demeaning, and often plainly stereotypical. And this is from the screen time we do have. More often than not, we are not represented at all. Today, such as with Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon or Devery Jacobs of Rez Dogs, where Indigenous people are taking up space with meaningful representation, there is pressure to educate and reconstruct the idea of Indigenous people in mainstream media. I think both women are incredible and I learn through them whenever I hear them speak- how to talk about issues that impact our communities with sensitivity and care, and filling spaces that so often left us out of the conversation. Though I am not nearly of their positions in film, nor do I have the experience they have, I think we are all navigating this pressure not only to perform, and not only to take up space but to lay the groundwork for the next generations of Indigenous actors so they don’t have to feel this pressure. I feel that with a platform there is a responsibility to educate and uplift your community around you, and for me, that means speaking about my community every chance that I get to. I love Iqaluit, I love Nunavut, and I love being Inuk surrounded by an incredible community of Inuit. In the hardest of times, Inuit approach conflict and hardship with humor, and that has been an important part of shedding light on the realities of the North and Indigenous experiences in Canada. Even if we have nothing, we carry our love and humor with us, and that is powerful. I hope to continue speaking on issues that exist within my community and sharing the reality of what we go through not just through dark and heavy content, but in projects that show the love, humor, and light we have as well. Projects that find a balance between the two, the difficult reality and the love we find in it, to be a mark of hope and excitement for the future. Sovereignty of stories especially Indigenous stories has been something that has been on my mind for the last few months, and I am incredibly optimistic that the future of Indigenous stories and representation is changing. I hope to continue being a part of that.
What’s next for you?
I am fortunate to have a project lined up right after the run of True Detective season 4, jumping from one excitement to another, which can be rare for a working actor. I will be leading a 10-episode Canadian Netflix series filmed in my hometown of Iqaluit, Nunavut, which is the first original scripted Canadian commission from Netflix under Canadian directors of content Danielle Woodrow and Tara Woodbury since the streamer put out a pitch call to Canadian creators in Summer 2020. The producers, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Stacey Aglok MacDonald, and Miranda de Pencier are also the producers of the first film I had done, so it is a full circle moment to have my first capital lead in a series with them. I am thrilled beyond words and excited for what the future holds.
Published by HOLR Magazine.