‘Dark Winds’ Jessica Matten Talks About Leading a Superhero Movie, Indigenous Communities and George RR Martin

As Jessica Matten sat down at a bustling Mediterranean cafe in Midtown, she handed me a bouquet of sage to greet me. “I know,” she said, not hiding her grimace or smile. “I’m very traditional.”

She is here with a game plan, an ulterior motive, one that is neither malicious nor well-hidden. If Dark winds The star is to complete even half of the long list of goals she’s set for her career, she’ll need to reach a lot of people, fast. In theory, tell Press should be a good way to do it. And she’s genuinely happy to answer intimate questions about her childhood, her parents, the 26 different homes she lived in when she turned 21. She’s only left precious for his age; she wanted to record that detail. She will not allow anyone to set a watch for her.

“I’m really motivated,” she revealed midway through our conversation. “I do. That’s — I want to be the first native superhero. I do. Upright.”

Currently, Matten, a Red River Metis-Cree native and Chinese-born actress, is definitely playing one of the best characters in the brilliant new AMC series. Dark winds, newly renewed for a second season. Set in the 1970s Navajo Nation and adapted from a novel by Tony Hillerman, the show follows tribal cops Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon) and Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon), as well as Matten’s Bernadette Manuelito , is charged with investigating a double murder and the strange events surrounding it. Show creator Graham Roland and executive producers Robert Redford and George RR Martin infuse the film with soul tension and a real sense of place, but it’s the actors who create it. Dark winds feels grounded beyond its pitfalls. Matten, with his hair swept back in Bernadette’s signature bun, is both tough and lovable, a workhorse without frills yet respecting his own spirituality when his co-workers don’t. On her, Matten’s edges are smoother, her hair gently framing her face as she holds a bottle of green juice, but Bernadette’s sense of purpose is all that what is behind the eyes of the actress.

jessica matten as sgt bernadette manuelito in dark wind

Michael Moriatis / Stalwart Productions / AMC

It’s not hard to understand why Martin quickly fell in love with Matten on set Dark winds. After a bad first impression — Matten let it slip that she wouldn’t read it Dark winds The book is not Martin’s own Game of Thrones series — both discovered a public appreciation for ferocious female characters. Before long, she was sharing margarine with the author on his yard, decrying him for drinking too much sugar. “Everybody knows we come together and I go, ‘George…’ and he goes—” Matten raised his eyebrows. “And then we started swearing like pirate hookers. “

Born in Canada, Matten has traveled around the country for most of his young life, spending years in various Indigenous reserves but also living abroad, including in Hong Kong and South Korea. Matten said: “I never thought I would be an actress, but my mother, you know, is a welfare mom and she wants to educate her children through cinema. “So we are not allowed to watch cartoons. There is no such thing. Instead, she and her brother tapered off to a steady diet of movie and TV classics by the likes of Sidney Poitier, Katherine Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. (She watched the whole thing Roots When she was about seven years old.) By the time she was a teenager, Matten understood the entertainment of power based on the public’s perception of another culture, and she also understood how easily prejudices could be. that has caused trauma to generations of her own people.

Follow “Hollywood Diversity Report” Released by the University of California Los Angeles in 2020, Indigenous males accounted for 0.5% of all “top movie roles” in 2019; no indigenous women have landed any of these roles, nor have any native directors direct these projects. Outside of Hollywood, this lack of representation exacerbates an already dire situation: For centuries in North America, indigenous communities were frequently marginalized, resulting in very high rates poor, diseases, Suicideand domestic violence when compared with non-Hispanic white communities.

Matten realized, if she wanted to make a difference in the lives of indigenous people, she needed to change perceptions nationally, if not globally. Working with her mother, she will do some modeling and one day, become the CEO of an advertising agency. Or, perhaps, she will work for a magazine. (While in London at the age of 21, she sent letters to many editors at the address ELLE UK a postcard with an example of her modeling work, which she dressed the staff until they finally put her in the wardrobe.) As the late recession turned around. around, she Googled the biggest industries in Vancouver and discovered a movie that featured the business. Then she Googled, “how to be an actress.”

Although she graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in human ecology, Matten’s work never falls into a neat, meager category. As a young adult, she supported her divorced parents, modeled with her mother and ran a business with her father while also working in at-risk homestays. high risk. Today, in addition to acting, she also runs a fitness and wellness company for locals, a production company, and a local film academy. She just took a flight to New York City for our interview and she revealed it was her 25th flight of the year since January. Matten is kinetic, a gathering storm cloud constrained only by a seemingly bottomless determination.

“I didn’t realize, all my life, I was in business,” she said. “Because, as an actor, it’s like the circus, isn’t it? We live out of suitcases for your next job, no matter what country or city you have to go to. So it’s weird that’s my life. ‘ She added that her childhood not only took her from town to town, but also through different tax brackets. Matten went from “digging things in the trash at the age of 11. ” at age 17, starting a construction company with her father, “and he did it very well, very, very quickly,” she said, “Suddenly, “it was like the whole other way of life.”

jessica matten as sgt bernadette manuelito in dark wind

Michael Moriatis / Stalwart Productions / AMC

After starring in a series of short films and guest appearances, including the lead role in Elle-Máijá’s short film Tailfeathers, The reasoning of a red girlMatten has achieved success in the Apple TV+ series led by Jason Momoa Borderas star and associate producer for the Canadian television series Tribe. But Dark winds is her most prominent and well-received role to date, and there’s no doubt it can serve as the catalyst for her superhero campaign.

Right, that: game plan. As Matten said, “Dr. Evil plot. She swore that her goal of leading a Marvel or DC movie — and you remember, she wanted it to be Marvel or DC — wasn’t for vanity, though her case would be. no less justifiable. She believes her demand this role, only for flooding it will open. It’s not about personal preference; it’s just smart politics.

“The reason I say Marvel and the superheroes…” Matten began. “You know how the media has changed. It looks like, [the comic-book genre] is one of the most influential genres today. In my opinion, Marvel and DC [are] satellites for the whole world. For whatever reason, that became a thing. And, you know, do I prefer indie movies and all that? YES. But I really admire and respect how those two studios were able to really launch the careers of so many people.”

But Matten doesn’t want to just play any native superhero that shoots pixie dust out of the palm of her hand. She wants to star in a latest movie Batman— something hard and grounded, “something true and real to the local culture, being an indigenous woman,” she said. “Because of the fact that, as indigenous women, the situation we go through is often very difficult. It’s 5 times more difficult, 10 times more difficult than what an average person has to go through.”

“The reality is, as Indigenous women, the circumstances we go through are often very difficult.”

And she’s not afraid to take this wish out into the universe, both from a spiritual and a practical perspective. She believes in the expression of the old school. She also believes in the power of the celebrity media world, the power of delivering compelling information to a group of money-hungry Hollywood filmmakers. She will use the system if she needs to, as long as it brings her closer to helping her people.

“I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m okay just saying it out loud, because you can say these things with humility, compassion, and humility,” says Matten. “But I also feel that, as women, we don’t have time to be kind, appease… Let’s be quiet about it.” She added, “You need to be okay with saying what you want. And I want [to lead a superhero film] because, again, the ripple effect – it has a profound impact on my community. And it also gives me the platform to get the right partners to work with me and helps me get the resources that our people really, really need.”

She was trained; Matten does most of his own stunts and fights. Now she just needs Hollywood to understand she. She had contacts at Marvel, ropes that she wove between her fingers. But Dark winds is the first movie she’ll pull for now, a well-built series with a second season on the frame and a largely Native team coordinating its magic both on camera and in post. school. She has also been contacted here, including Roland and Redford and Martin and director Chris Eyre, all of whom consider Matten’s work as Bernadette and expand the role to match her pomp.

And in painful moments, when the great weight of thread how much change She wants to overwhelm her, she turns to her lingerie woman. “I have a very dear, close to me medical woman who has supported me,” she said. “But I don’t know either. Sometimes I feel like I’m connecting to a switchboard, if that makes sense. It’s like – I find energy, through moments of total exhaustion. “Matten is only on step 2 of a 10-step plan. But no one needs to worry. She still believes.

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