Fron­tier star Jes­sica Mat­ten

Toronto’s Jes­sica Mat­ten stars in Fron­tier, the Great White North spin on his­tor­i­cal drama

North York Post - - Contents - by Ron John­son

As Toronto res­i­dent Jes­sica Mat­ten watches the events un­fold at Stand­ing Rock in North Dakota, where in­dige­nous peo­ple are star­ing down con­struc­tion of an oil pipe­line near their only source of clean drink­ing wa­ter, she sees the same is­sues being ad­dressed in her dra­matic and ac­tion-packed new tele­vi­sion se­ries, Fron­tier.

Set more than 300 years in Canada’s past, it is the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel’s first scripted se­ries.

The six-part show, which pre­miered last Novem­ber, ar­rives on Net­flix this month. Fron­tier is a his­tor­i­cal drama chron­i­cling the rise of the fur trade in 1700s Canada. Fron­tier star Jason Mo­moa ( Game of Thrones) por­trays De­clan Harp. He leads the Black Wolf Com­pany of in­dige­nous war­riors in an of­ten-bloody at­tempt to break up the monopoly of the Hud­son’s Bay Com­pany as it pushes into na­tive land to se­cure re­sources. Sound fa­mil­iar?

The show has been well­re­ceived, and a sec­ond sea­son was al­ready an­nounced and film­ing un­der­way in New­found­land be­fore the first episode aired.

“Hand­somely made, pop­u­lated with great-look­ing, mostly young ac­tors and knee-deep in blood, thanks to near-con­stant hack­ing (knives, hatch­ets, etc.), it clearly as­pires to be a non-fiction Game of

Thrones (Game of Furs?),” wrote Toronto Star TV critic Jo­hanna Sch­neller.

Mat­ten co-stars as Sokanon, one of the out­laws, an Ojibwa who was adopted into the Métis Black Wolf Com­pany af­ter her par­ents were mur­dered.

“She’s been fol­low­ing Harp her en­tire life,” says Mat­ten, over the phone dur­ing a break from film­ing on the East Coast.

“And she’s grown up to be this very jaded but strong na­tive war­rior. She’s feel­ing, I would say, a lit­tle dis­placed in this new world, look­ing from within but also deal­ing with the colo­nial­ists and the land and fur trade takeover. Her peo­ple’s land

Mat­ten says the way the in­dige­nous peo­ple of Canada had to fight for land against the colo­nial­ists still res­onates to­day in the Stand­ing Rock pipe­line protest and in Canada.

“There are a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties, and that’s why I find it very, I would say, easy but very re­lat­able to me,” she says. “We are still deal­ing with these is­sues at the present mo­ment. The treaties were bro­ken back in the day, and they are still bro­ken to this very day. We are still fight­ing for our land.”

The show em­ploys cul­tural ad­vi­sors to en­sure au­then­tic­ity, and, in ad­di­tion, Mat­ten has con­sulted with na­tive el­ders to make sure her di­alect is spot on.

“It’s still a story, like a fan­tasy, and be­cause of that, be­cause Sokanon is so unique, born an Ojibwa and raised Métis, I wanted to make sure I spoke more than one lan­guage. So I spoke with el­ders about pro­nun­ci­a­tion to make sure the lan­guage makes sense. Even her ac­cent is some­what ac­cu­rate given the cir­cum­stances.”

Mat­ten was born and raised in Ed­mon­ton, Alta. She attended the Univer­sity of Al­berta and set about her plan to work in the fash­ion in­dus­try and even did a stint as a young fash­ion in­tern at Elle U.K. be­fore mov­ing back to Canada to fin­ish her de­gree and move to Van­cou­ver.

While she was pre­par­ing to head to New York City to pur­sue her fash­ion de­sign dreams, the re­ces­sion hit and left her stuck on the West Coast — not ex­actly a hot­bed of style. No of­fence to the Birken­stock set.

But what they lack in glam­our, they make up for in cre­ativ­ity. With a thriv­ing film in­dus­try at her doorstep, Mat­ten de­cided to give act­ing a try.

“Hon­estly, I never wanted to be an ac­tor,” says Mat­ten. “But I al­ways grew up with an ex­treme ap­pre­ci­a­tion for film.

At a very young age, my mother used to bring us to the movie store, and we’d never go to the kids’ sec­tion, al­ways the clas­sics. I was raised on Chap­lin, Buster Keaton, Sid­ney Poitier, Katharine Hep­burn.”

Well, all those fine films seemed to do the trick. Mat­ten’s break­through role came in the 2012 short film A Red Girl ’s

Rea­son­ing, a com­men­tary on vi­o­lence against in­dige­nous women, which won Best Cana­dian Ac­tion Short at the imag­i­Na­tive fes­ti­val in Toronto.

Mat­ten plays an aveng­ing young woman who was raped and as­saulted and turns into a mo­tor­cy­cle-rid­ing, ass-kick­ing vig­i­lante.

Ap­par­ently, Mat­ten works as an in­dige­nous war­rior, and she turned some very im­por­tant heads with her per­for­mance, in­clud­ing the cul­tural ad­vi­sor on that film, who ended up work­ing as one of the pro­duc­ers on Fron­tier.

“The pro­ducer saw that and she said, ‘Oh my God, that is the spirit of Sokanon,’” Mat­ten ex­plains. “They knew they wanted me on the show just from that.”

In ad­di­tion to act­ing, Mat­ten also runs abo­rig­i­nal fit­ness and well­ness com­pany Le­mon Tree, along­side her mother, as well as a health and well­ness mag­a­zine fo­cus­ing on 10 James Bay Cree com­mu­ni­ties in the north.

She moved to Toronto to pur­sue her act­ing ca­reer, and she has found our city to be wel­com­ing.

“I love it. It feels like home for the first time,” she says. “I love the cul­tural di­ver­sity, the arts scene, ev­ery­thing it has to of­fer. I just feel like my spirit be­longs there. I’m happy I made the move.”

Fron­tier is al­ready air­ing on Dis­cov­ery Canada and pre­mieres on Net­flix in Canada on Jan. 20.

Toronto’s Jes­sica Mat­ten co-stars in ‘Fron­tier,’ Dis­cov­ery’s first scripted se­ries

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.