Blackstone is a portrayal of struggle -- the struggle between life and the reality of circumstance. The drama, set upon the fictional Blackstone Nation, is particularly relevant in a time when images of the Attawapiskat and Hobbema reserves are difficult to escape.
Broaching issues of addiction, crime, politics, and health, Blackstone is an original take on the obstacles facing many First Nations communities. What makes this program remarkable however, is the inherent desire of its characters to overcome and transcend their situation.
Currently in its second season on APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network), Gemini-winner Michelle Thrush continues to shine as recovering alcoholic Gail Stoney, a character haunted by the death of her daughter. Eric Schweig is equally as brilliant in his portrayal of the morally reprehensible reservation chief Andy Fraser, who often resorts to dirty and questionable tactics to cover his tracks.
At its heart, however, Blackstone is about family and connection. This ranges from the complex relationship between Andy Fraser and his brother, Daryl Fraser, to the problematic attachment the reserve maintains to the non-native world.
While the dialogue does have its weak moments, it is for the most part natural and imaginative. The show does not hide behind any creation but leaves everything out in the open, which allows the audience the ability to connect more deeply with the characters.
When asked if her Gemini makes her more a role model for young First Nations actors, Michelle Thrush stated that her desire to be an example to others was what inspired her to start acting in the first place. Women such as Thrush (along with others like Tantoo Cardinal) have made it possible for many Aboriginal youth to pursue their dreams. She makes it a point to talk about the influence of the late Gordon Tootoosis, one of the first successful native actors, (the first episode of season one is dedicated to the memory of Tootoosis), and hopes that many more young First Nations people will follow in her own footsteps.
Blackstone airs on APTN Wednesdays at 9 p.m. and stars Michelle Thrush, Eric Schwieg, Carmen Moore, Nathaniel Arcand, Steven Cree Mollison, and Gary Farmer.