• Feature

The Grizzlies’ Anna Lambe Up Close

Jul 20, 2020
by Emily Henderson

Following her breakout role in Miranda de Pencier’s The Grizzlies (2019)—which earned her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Canadian Screen Awards—Anna Lambe’s acting career has taken off. 

Originally from Iqaluit, NU, Lambe studies International Development and Globalization in Ottawa. Unlike most students, however, her extracurriculars include a career on screen. Lambe will appear this fall in the highly anticipated CBC show The Trickster, adapted from Eden Robinson’s Son of a Trickster trilogy. Profiles Editor Emily Henderson connected with Lambe to find out what it was like to shoot a film in her hometown and where her career is taking her now.

EH: Your first major role was as Spring in the feature film The Grizzlies. Can you tell me more about how you got started acting?

AL: I actually never intended to act. It was never something I had taken seriously or something I'd put genuine consideration into. I liked to joke, ‘oh, maybe I'll be an actress someday’ to my friends, but I didn’t really expect it to happen. 

There was a casting call for The Grizzlies that my high school drama teacher said I might be interested in and enjoy doing because I was always such an animated person in class. Everything just kind of fell into place by chance. I wanted to do it, but I wasn't expecting anything to come from it. 

I've only ever had two major roles, the first being Spring in The Grizzlies and more recently I’ll be playing Sarah in the CBC series The Trickster.

EH: What was it like for you to be involved in The Grizzlies as a first-time film actress? 

AL: Being involved in The Grizzlies was kind of like being thrown into another world. You have all these crew members that have been flown up from the South that have been doing film and TV production for most of their careers, so the process is normal to them. And then you have emerging actors such as myself and Emerald MacDonald and Paul Nutarariaq where we get onto the set and movie production is all new to us and we’re not sure how to prepare or what's happening behind the camera. 

You kind of just show up in front of the camera and do your thing, and we found that by portraying these emotions we lived through a lot of our own experiences so it was such an absurd experience. It's half real, it's half fictional. 

EH: What was it like to work on a film shot entirely in your hometown?

AL: Because we live in the North and this movie was shot in Iqaluit, the landscape, the cold and the weather was normal to us, but it was almost this distant reality for the people that were coming up from the South. I always found that quite funny—we were always confused as new actors about the film process, and the people that have done movie production for years were confused about what it means to live and grow up in the North. 

Being able to learn from one another was one of my favourite aspects of shooting The Grizzlies. We got to teach non-Inuit, non-northerners, about our culture, about what we experience and what we're overcoming. They got to teach us about the movie industry, how to get involved, how to work behind the camera, how to work in front of camera and how you can actually make a career out of it. 

EH: It must have been difficult initially to bond the two groups together into one community. How did you get to this place of knowledge sharing, and why was it so important in this context? 

AL: Being able to create a community was important because The Grizzlies deals with so many difficult topics that are very real for us and hit close to home, such as suicide, mental illness and food insecurity. In a place where counsellors and mental health services are hard to come by in a timely manner, you have to come together as a community and support one another. When we were filming these really difficult scenes there was that option of going to see a counsellor but you also had your friends with you, you had the people that understand what you're going through and understand what you've been through as well and are there to support you. That community has also lived on far past the filming of The Grizzlies.

EH: How does that experience of working on set compare to filming The Trickster series?

AL: It has definitely been different. The Grizzlies was shot in Iqaluit, where we don't really have film studios or as many of the resources as they do in the South. You don't have all the things you would necessarily expect on a regular movie set up in the North. Just seeing how much bigger things get when you do something in the South and you do a CBC series was kind of surprising, because I had no idea what to expect. 

The Trickster is an Indigenous-led TV show, and while it was different from being surrounded by all-Inuit we were still all Indigenous. It was a comfortable experience where everybody understood each other because we've all had similar lived experiences. So as much as they were different, they still had very much the same feeling. 

EH: Are there any major influences that have played a major role in your development as an artist?

AL: As an artist, I feel like one of the most important supporting factors of getting me off the ground was my acting coach from The Grizzlies, Melee Hutton. Right from the beginning, she believed in me, supported me and was always doing her best to coax out the emotions to make sure that I can portray vulnerability and sensitivity authentically, but also safely. 

I'm so extremely grateful for her support and the support of my director Miranda de Pencier for encouraging me to be a powerful force in the acting industry for Indigenous women and Indigenous youth. They never cast any doubt on me and really made me feel like there was nothing I couldn't do. Those two women really were monumental and made me feel like I could go further than just one film. They made sure that I knew that I was capable, so in the beginning those were really huge forces in my life. 

The director of The Trickster, Michelle Latimer—who was an actress herself at one point—really understands the difficulty of being a young Indigenous woman and being vulnerable in the film industry. She understands the importance of protecting yourself, speaking your mind, making sure that you're heard and making sure that you're safe. 

All these women have taught me such different things, but they've made me feel like I have so much more to give. Doing The Trickster series has made me feel like I can continue to go further.