facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1

Following a successful first season, Joel Montgrand’s podcast “Actors & Ancestors” is set to launch its second season airing during National Indigenous History Month on June 21, 2024. 

Montgrand, a member of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, designed the podcast to celebrate Indigenous actors, uplift their communities, and challenge Hollywood stereotypes. He has been pursuing his acting career in Vancouver, BC, since 2011. 

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 

Earlier this year, Montgrand reached more than 12 million TV screens in HBO’s “True Detective: Night Country,” where he played the lovable bartender Eddie Qavvik. His performance earned praise from The Hollywood Reporter’s Chief TV Critic, calling it "the best male performance of the season." Montgrand followed this success with a role in Netflix’s highly anticipated live-action “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” featuring alongside many other Indigenous stars.

Montgrand’s growing influence and infectious energy fuel this laughter-filled podcast, inviting listeners along on his career journey.

The second season of “Actors & Ancestors” will continue in the playful and subversive vein of Season 1, sharing stories of success and setbacks from various Indigenous actors. Aspiring actors will benefit from guests’ wisdom, while industry decision-makers will hear about needed changes. 

This season plans to feature stars like Dallas Goldtooth (Reservation Dogs) and Zahn McClarnon (Dark Winds); working actors and performing artists like Rainbow Dickerson (Beans) and Paul Rabliauskas (Acting Good), as well as emerging young actors like Kiawentiio (Avatar: The Last Airbender).

Native News Online spoke with Montgrand about his journey as an actor, highlighting the impact the podcast has had on listeners and the growth of Indigenous representation in film and TV. Mongrand reflects on personal interviews that opened season two, discusses the challenges and misconceptions within the industry, and touches on recent film projects that are in the works. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Joel, congratulations on the success of season one of "Actors & Ancestors.” What has been the most rewarding feedback you've received from listeners or guests so far?
I'm really, really touched. People have reached out to me, and some have said it's their favorite podcast now. That's mind-blowing for me because I just wanted to create something I would like, and hopefully others would too. 

One of the most touching responses came from another Indigenous actor I know. Her father, who is white, told her that he listened to the whole series, and it really helped him understand her much better. That personal connection was beautiful to me. I was like, "Oh good, people are learning." That was the main hope.

With season two kicking off, what new themes or topics are you most excited to explore with your guests?
Because of the momentum we've gained, we're now able to reach more and more people. With the ever-evolving landscape of Indigenous film and TV, it's a natural evolution for us to continue discussing our growth and direction. 

For the first time, we have an Indigenous actor, like Gladstone, whom non-Indigenous people can recognize by name and face. We're starting to be known outside of our own communities and even outside the industry. It's a really exciting time to talk with people about all of this.

What’s been the most surprising or memorable interaction you’ve had with a listener or guest of the podcast?
I think the most recent interview we did to open season two was especially impactful. Spoiler alert: we interviewed Dallas Goldtooth. His beautiful openness and honesty really stood out. He talked about failures, things he can't accomplish at the moment, and feeling stretched too thin. I really appreciated his willingness to share that with all of us.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for Indigenous actors today, and how do you think platforms like your podcast can help address these issues?
It's a very exciting time with so many opportunities right now. However, there's a common misconception that entering this industry guarantees success. In reality, it's one of the most competitive industries in the world. 

A major challenge is how to foster community and stay connected with the people you care about. There's a lot of ego involved, but as Indigenous people, we're taught to be humble and uplift everyone. Thankfully, the people I've interacted with so far have been wonderful, supportive, and eager to be around each other.

That's a beautiful aspect of Indigenous work. However, even though everyone knows and loves each other, there's still not enough work to go around. Even if you've had some success, like myself, you're not busy all the time. 

Unless you're a Lily Gladstone, it can feel like there's only room for one Lily, which can be disheartening. It's important to dispel the illusions of instant success and fame. This is a challenging job, and it's crucial for those wanting to jump into it to keep that in mind.

Where do you see "Actors & Ancestors" going in the next few years? What are your long-term goals for the podcast?
I'm just an average guy. I didn't expect it to go this far. I was very grateful we managed to get a grant to produce the first two seasons. As for what happens after season two, I'd like to keep it going, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. 

Right now, I just want to put out a really good season two. There's no shortage of talent, with many people, including non-actors, reaching out. However, I'm trying to stay focused on having actors tell their stories.

It's a bit heartbreaking because I don't have the capacity to include all these wonderful authors, directors, and behind-the-scenes folks. Maybe there should be another show for that. 

My dream, which I've mentioned before, is that 50 episodes from now, if we get that lucky, I could interview someone who was inspired by our show. Someone who listened to "Actors' Ancestors" and thought, "Hey, if that person can do it, maybe I can too." Then, I get to interview them.

You were recently awarded a competitive podcasting grant from the Indigenous Screen Office. How has this support impacted your work on the podcast?
It's been wonderful because we're now able to take the time to prepare in advance. Initially, it was expensive, and we had no idea how we were going to make any money. We're still not getting any ad revenue yet, so having some support coming in is huge. 

Producing the show costs a lot of money and time. Having this support means we don't feel drained in other ways, which is important for maintaining stability and mental clarity. This allows us to focus on making the best show possible, making it easier to be joyful.

Besides the podcast, are there any other projects or roles you're currently working on or excited about?
There's a movie I did last summer called Sweet Summer Powwow, and they're currently looking for a distributor. It's funny because you don't realize how long it takes for things to come out in this industry. 

When my life took a turn, True Detective and Avatar: The Last Airbender came out within a month of each other. True Detective was the number one show on HBO and Netflix worldwide, which was crazy. I filmed those a year apart—True Detective the year before and Avatar two years prior. 

Now, they're starting to get the ball rolling and talking about filming season two, possibly this fall, according to rumors. I haven't heard anything yet myself, but it takes a while. 

More Stories Like This

Here's What's Going On in Indian Country July 19 - July 21
Festival Celebrates Mvskoke Culture and People
McSwain Theatre Celebrates 15 Years Under Chickasaw Nation Leadership
CRYP's RedCan Painting & Activities Move to Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park
Here's What's Going On in Indian Country July 12-July 18

Join us in observing 100 years of Native American citizenship. On June 2, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act, granting Native Americans US citizenship, a pivotal moment in their quest for equality. This year marks its centennial, inspiring our special project, "Heritage Unbound: Native American Citizenship at 100," observing their journey with stories of resilience, struggle, and triumph. Your donations fuel initiatives like these, ensuring our coverage and projects honoring Native American heritage thrive. Your donations fuel initiatives like these, ensuring our coverage and projects honoring Native American heritage thrive.

About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.