Nova Scotia doesn’t have any Indigenous teenage actors in ACTRA (the professional actors union). The filmmakers set out on a grassroots journey to find the two leads. Over 2 weeks they traveled to various reserves and communities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and auditioned over 50 Mi’kmaq teenagers. It would become the largest casting search ever for Indigenous talent on the east coast on Canada.
Knowing that this would be the first time most of the teens ever auditioned, the casting process had to be changed and adapted. At no point were there any sides, and the teens didn’t “perform” in any traditional sense. Working with the Mi’kmaq schools on reserve, they distributed the character descriptions to students who were interested. For the initial meeting with each student they were invited to share how they personally related to either character and why. This process ended up being one of the most memorable parts of making the film.
With the help of Maritime Bus, and the incredible parents of the kids, a second round of “chemistry test” auditions were held over two days, pairing every combination of the two leads from a narrowed down list. In this audition, they still didn’t memorize a single work of dialogue or perform any scenes. Each pair was filmed walking and talking, to gauge who was most comfortable with who. Only at the end of this process and after they were cast, did the leads get the full script.
The character of Travis was also found in a non-traditional way—at a Muay Thai class in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. Before the class began the instructor mentioned that he knew a young boy interested in acting and an impromptu audition was held. He was called back a second time to read some specific lines and after that he landed the role of Travis.
The lack of outreach and infrastructure for Indigenous actors in Nova Scotia has gone un-addressed for decades. It’s critical for Indigenous youth, especially two-spirit and LGBTQ+, to see themselves on screen and in the stories of the world. This casting process only brings to light the amount of time and resources that need to be used to involve the community and make opportunities available to Indigenous people.
LINK: Sulian “Guillermo” Knockwood
GUILLERMO KNOCKWOOD was born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia where he currently lives with his father. Guillermo is a competitive soccer player, playing for
his high school team. He was recently scouted by a modelling agency in Halifax, Nova Scotia – a career he intends to pursue.
“I joined the film to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. I relate to Link a lot. We both experienced hardships growing up and we’re both looking to connect with our mums. I learned a lot from the experience, like how to tap into my emotions by drawing from my real-life relationships and memories. It was hard, but now I want to be an actor.”
PASMAY: Bobby Pierro
BOBBY PIERRO was born in Ottawa, Ontario. At a young age, he travelled throughout Canada with his father, a powwow dancer. His family then went on to settle in We’koqma’q, NS, where he currently lives. His interest in acting began after taking drama classes in school.
Bobby is an avid traveler and powwow dancer. He commits his summers to the powwow trail, performing in various communities across the east coast every weekend. He’s also passionate about surfing, fashion and music.
"My experience on set was a dream come true. Being from a small town with little opportunity, I personally never thought that I would be on a film set. I can relate to Pasmay in many ways, like how I use humor to cope with serious situations. It's just how I was brought up. I learned a lot on set, but the biggest takeaway…I guess dreams can come true for kids on the rez.”
TRAVIS: Avery Winters-Anthony
AVERY WINTERS-ANTHONY lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Wildfire was Avery’s first acting role. Serendipitously, two weeks before he was cast he mentioned to his parents that he wanted to become an actor. Avery has been playing guitar for two years and practices Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu.
From Stefanie Winters, Avery’s Mother - “Avery connected with everyone on set. It was such a beautiful experience for him. Going into the first day he said, “I hope I can make friends with the other guys acting, because it wouldn’t be very fun doing a movie with your enemies.” Then as he was leaving on the last day he said, “I loved it, but I’m just so sad I won’t see anyone again.””
ARVIN: Brodie Peterson
Brodie Peterson is originally from Charlottetown, P.E.I, but currently lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He’s played music for over 19 years, and regularly is the bassist for Mo Kenney and Matt Mays.
His background in music lead to a small part in the Hallmark Christmas MOW, “Christmas with Holly”, where he played a band member performing on stage. The movie was released in 2012.
“It was really fun being on set. Conjuring my character to scream at children was a trip.”