In True Detective: Night Country, The rift is growing between boss Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and her stepdaughter Leah (Isabella Star LaBlanc). In episode 1, the couple argued over a video that the teenager made with her girlfriend. Then, episode 2 brought an explosive argument over a traditional chin tattoo, which brought Kayla Prior (Anna Lambe) and her grandmother (Doreen Nutaaq Simmonds) into the fray. In the third episode, Danvers takes this fight further, forcing Leah to clean the temporary tattoo off her chin. More than a battle between mother and son or different generations, it is about an authoritative white woman literally erasing the culture of the Iñupiaq people, of which Leah and Kayla are a part. Where can these women go from here?
Mashable sat down with Indigenous actresses Isabella Star LaBlanc and Anna Lambe to talk about this conflict in True Detective: Night Country. The conversation expanded to what it was like to work with Jodie Foster and how the writer/director Issa Lopez relied on the guidance of producers Princess Daazhraii Johnson and Cathy Tagnak Rexford, who convened a council of Iñupiaq women to offer guidance as the series took shape.
What is the chin tattooed on? True Detective: Night Country mean?
As Leah, Isabella Star LaBlanc looks at her temporary chin tattoo in “True Detective: Night Country.”
Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO
For LaBlanc, the vertical lines drawn on Leah’s chin “mean a lot personally about how she sees herself and what matters to her.” The actress added: “But I think it’s also an incredible way for her to feel connected to these people, to Kayla, to her grandmother, and to feel like she has a place and a purpose and people who care about her. It’s a very strong symbol of connection with her.”
Leah’s father died years earlier, leaving her in Danvers’ care. “They’re the only family they have,” LaBlanc said of the strained bond between mother and daughter. “I see their relationship as two people who always miss each other. They’re just on totally different pages all the time. And they love each other so much, but they can’t seem to say that or see it in each other.”
However, at Kayla’s home, which she shares with her husband Peter (Finn Bennett) and son Darwin (Xavier Osmanson), Leah is embraced with affection and instruction about her Iñupiaq heritage, including the temporary tattoo on her chin. Speaking about the discussion about ink in episode 2, Lambe noted that Kayla was raised close to the Iñupiaq culture thanks to the care of her grandmother. So for Danvers to walk into her home, “a safe space for a young person to reconnect and grow,” and aggressively reject this cultural tradition is unacceptable. “Danvers is not only disrespectful to her family and Kayla in general, but also to the Iñupiaq as a whole,” Lambe said. “He is very offensive and definitely increases the gap between them even more.”
There is a sense in the series that Danvers is trying to use her white privilege to protect her stepdaughter from Annie K’s fate, as in episode three it cuts to Leah cleaning the tattoo and Danvers looking at post-mortem photos of Annie K, who has a chin tattoo. However, this fearful and short-sighted approach to protection could risk losing Leah in another way. “Leah is learning a lot about her community and about being Iñupiaq,” LaBlanc explained. “She’s also struggling a lot with this white stepmom who just doesn’t get it like she does.”
As True Detective: Night Country worked towards authenticity in Inuit representation
Anna Lambe as Kayla Prior in “True Detective: Night Country.”
Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO
Showrunner Issa López, who is Mexican, worked in collaboration with Inuit artists, consultants and advisors on season 4. Iñupiaq artist Sarah Whalen-Lunn was hired to create tattoos, signs and graffiti around the fictional town of Ennis, Alaska. Producers Cathy Tagnak Rexford and Princess Daazhraii Johnson assembled an advisory board made up of Iñupiaq women who advised on the production. López also invited his cast to incorporate their experiences and themselves into their characters.
LaBlanc said of Lopez: “Issa created a lot of space. She’s so fabulous…She took some time before we started filming to sit down with me, to really talk through Leah. And she said, ‘I don’t want Leah ever It’s something you don’t think is true. So let me know.’ And I have to put my fingerprints on the character.” Some of those traces include a passion for activism.
“I come from a family of activists,” LaBlanc said. “I’m from Minneapolis, which is where American Indian Movement It started back in the ’60s. That’s why I was excited to honor this legacy of indigenous people being activists and being heard. I felt like Issa was really excited about it and really interested in collaborating and talking about my personal relationship with activism.”
LaBlanc valued consultants as resources when it came to the specific details of portraying an Iñupiaq character. “It’s always very important to me to never assume that I know how to tell a story, even if it’s an Indigenous character,” he said. “It’s like, as a Dakota person, I always wanted to be respectful. So I really tried to defer to our Alaska Native Advisory Council, to Princess and Tagnak, and really make room for them to guide the way I tell the story. “
Lambe, an Inuit actress from Canada, enjoyed the sense of community that emerged from the cast, consultants and producers. “It was really great to work together and be able to talk and relate and connect,” she said. “There is a level of understanding and indigeneity and empathy and compassion. And that’s something really beautiful in indigenous cinema. Being Inuk myself, it wasn’t too difficult a bridge for me.” However, she noted, “Being Inuk and Iñupiaq are not necessarily the same thing at all. “Having Princess, Tagnak and Nutaaq (Doreen Nutaaq Simmonds), who played my grandmother, on set to be able to talk and be able to find common ground was really beautiful.”
LaBlanc also felt welcomed by this community on set, adding, “I felt very grateful to have Anna with me. She’s like my arctic relative. I felt like I gained a new family through (the show) and a new appreciation for those relatives from the north.” “.
Isabella Star LaBlanc and Anna Lambe talk about working with Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster as Liz Danvers in “True Detective: Night Country.”
Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO
When asked about the challenges of filming a new season for this acclaimed star-studded series, in cold Iceland no less, LaBlanc responded: “I was terrified. I was on that plane to Iceland like, ‘I’m going to get there and I’ll be restructured right away.” That was my internal monologue. So, all of that was terrifying.” However, his fears were allayed when he finally came face to face with his on-screen family.
“As soon as I met Anna and everyone, you could relax,” LaBlanc recalled. “I was terrified of acting opposite Jodie Foster. That wasn’t something I thought was in the cards. And then we start doing scenes with Jodie and you’re like, ‘Oh, she’s amazing and calm.'” , and it’s a lot of fun to do.’ A lot of (the challenges in making the show) seemed larger than life, and then you do them and say, ‘Well, I did it. It’s possible'”.
Lambe confessed that she was also nervous about acting alongside the iconic American actress. An outing Jodie suggested helped her calm down. “Jodie organized us by planting some trees,” Lambe explained. “And it was like, ‘Okay, this is really calm and everyone is very forgiving and kind.'”
From the experience, Lambe was able to see how the cast and crew could “lean on each other,” adding, “The whole thing was such a beautiful experience. And I wish I could do it, you know, over and over and over again.” “. Because as much as it was intimidating in the first, you know, 10 minutes, the rest was smooth sailing.”