Devery Jacobs for writing an episode of Reservation Dogs.

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Devery Jacobs for writing an episode of Reservation Dogs.
Devery Jacobs for writing an episode of Reservation Dogs.


Photo: Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

If you haven’t heard of Devery Jacobs yet, it’s only a matter of time before you start seeing her everywhere. Born and raised in Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory in Quebec, the 29-year-old actress has landed recurring roles on shows like American Gods, The orderand Rutherford Falls, and has worked both in front of and behind the camera in the Canadian independent film scene for the past decade. But with her lead role on the groundbreaking FX show Reserved dogsone of the first television series to feature an entirely local cast and crew, we are witnessing a star’s breakthrough moment.

In the series, which is currently airing its second season on Hulu, Jacobs plays Elora Danan, the unofficial leader of a quartet of Native American teenagers growing up in rural Oklahoma while engaging in petty crime to save enough money to escape to California . As the second season shifts its focus to exploring the identity of the main four individually, we get to know Elora on a much deeper level. Not only does Jacobs provide some of her most compelling work in this season’s fourth episode, but she also served as co-writer alongside series creator Sterlin Harjo, telling the story of her community’s farewell to a dying elder. She tells me that her biggest takeaway from the experience was learning to “trust my own voice and that there’s a place for us out there.”

Elora Danan, your character in Reserved dogs, is a pretty tough girl, and you’ve played characters that are similar to her in that way before. What draws you to playing fierce women?

I think – and I’m by no means upset about it – it really started when I played my first lead role in a feature film called Rhymes for young spirits. It was the first time I played a local character directed and written by a local director, so it was the first experience where I really recognized the character and recognized my mother, my community and family members in the film. It was a career-defining moment.

Since then I guess people see me in very difficult characters. Although I’m so happy to play these types of characters – I think they’re so rich and there’s so much to draw from – with Elora Dannan, I really wanted to make sure she was specific and different, and she is. I started playing the character , it seemed to be closed when we went into the first season; I knew we would really become close and familiar with Elora.

Do you contact her at all?

I treat her mostly as someone who is a big sister. I feel the same energy with my colleagues, but also like Elora with the other Rez Dogs. She has a leadership quality that comes from such a place of love for everyone around her. Almost every other component was radically different from me.

You joined the writers’ room this season and also co-wrote the fourth episode, in which the community prepares to send a dying elder to the afterlife. How did you make this happen?

In the first season, I was annoying enough and asking questions about the character, sharing my thoughts about Elora’s journey that I hoped would resonate with Sterlin, and it seems they did. I was ready to gather all my writing samples together; I was ready to plead my case. When I reached out to Sterlin, he basically just invited me into the writers’ room, and I realized I shouldn’t fight myself to the death about it.

I know or have known all the screenwriters in the room for years because the native film industry is so small but full of people who are determined to create our stories. The people in this writers room have been working for decades to break down those doors. Tazba Chavez took me and Erica Tremblay under her wing as writers on Reserved dogs. She told us what the writers’ room is like, how it differs from Sterlin’s, and set us up for success with projects that will go beyond this series.

How did it feel to have more of an influence on Elora’s story this season?

I had more ideas and was more passionate about all the other characters other than Elora’s journey this season. When Sterlin was handing out episodes to writers, I was particularly passionate about the beauty of our communities around death. I feel like in western culture death is so taboo, hands off, bleak, isolating and cold; I never understood that growing up in my community. There are exceptions when the death is unexpected or tragic, or in the case of Reserved dogs hero Daniel, he left before he should have. But when one has lived life to the fullest and has been surrounded by community, it ends up being a celebration; some of the funniest moments are during funerals and wakes. I was really passionate about this look at our communities that I don’t think enough people got to witness.

You’ve been acting for a while, but as you mentioned, you had your first lead role in Jeff Barnaby’s 2013 film. Rhymes for young spirits — how has the industry fared in the nearly decade since?

The industry is definitely different now than it was back then. I think there was Rhymes for young spirits came out in 2022, it would have been a very different story and had a much wider impact. After that film, I moved to New York and naively thought that after working with Jeff Barnaby, the rest of the industry would be such that there would be other local filmmakers getting funding and we could collaborate more on different projects. . I was quickly taught that if and when there were a few native roles out there, they were all pocahontas-type, buck-skinned, stereotypical roles for native women.

During that time, I started writing out of necessity because I was really frustrated and I thought, why am I waiting for the stories of my community, about the experiences I witnessed growing up? Why am I waiting for a non-Indigenous writer-director to create them when I have a perfectly capable voice of my own? I found such a love for storytelling in front of and behind the camera. It was really invigorating.

Was there a moment in your career where you were a star?

When I first met Taika Waititi in 2018, I kind of made a complete fool of myself. TIFF’s Rising Stars Program set the agenda and I was totally blown away. He came to the lunch we had and we took some pictures together. He’s such a goofy, warm guy that we were doing funny poses so everyone thought we were closer than we were. I almost cried. Then when the Reserved dogs came the audition and we were doing the network testing and callback with Taika in the room, I was glad to have that awkward geek out of my system now and can focus on work. I’m not someone who gets impressed by a lot of people; his work had such an impact on me.

You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you love Harriet the Spy. Could you explain why it resonated with you, whether it was the book or the movie—or both?

They were both. I initially watched the movie and loved this brave, rebellious young girl who was insatiably curious and wanted to be a writer. I really connected with her. In the movie, I loved the jazz score, and in the book—because I had read it a little later, maybe around fourth grade—I connected with a quote from Ole Golly that says something about living the way that’s best for you otherwise you will live like your family. Not that there’s anything wrong with living like your family, but it’s about finding what’s true for you. This is still something that rings true to me as an adult.

I re-read the book a few years ago and started doing some research on the author, Louise Fitzhugh. I learned that she was a gay woman in the 1960s. Everything is connected. I was like, “Oh my God, Harriet was a weird baby who was questioning and finding what worked for her.” It was such an empowering moment and I felt so seen, even though I didn’t come into my weirdness until I moved to the city and when I grew closer to myself as an adult. I was always this baby weirdo who ran around spying on my cousins ​​and neighbors in my Rez and writing down everything I saw, accidentally revealing some secrets when people dived into my journal.

You’ve shot Marvel’s Echo series in atlanta – what can we expect from this show?

I can’t say much, but I can say that I’m really excited to work with my colleagues. To work with such legends as Tantoo Cardinal and Graham Greene is simply an honor. One of the familiar faces I work with is Sidney Freeland. I worked with her Rutherford Falls and Reserved dogs. This is our third project together in a row, which was unexpected but I’m so happy about because Sydney is so great.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.


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