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Drama series featuring Squamish Nation actor breaks representation boundaries

This unlikely rom-com isn’t your average boy meets girl story
Jason, a six-part series available on streaming service APTN lumi, follows Jason's (Peter Robinson) navigation of life and love as he embarks on a romantic relationship with his sister's best friend (Tanis Parenteau). | Jason

Stefany Mathias, North Vancouver born and raised actor and daughter of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) hereditary Chief Joe Mathias, has been in the film industry for a long time. She has witnessed much change in those decades, but in terms of accurate Indigenous representation on the screen, she says there is still much to be desired.

Mathias hopes her latest project, web TV series Jason, will lead the charge for change.

The six-part series, available on streaming service APTN lumi, is a quirky rom-com set in Vancouver that puts Indigenous talent in the spotlight. Written by Andrew Genaille (Rehab), it follows 20-something First Nations writer Jason (Hey, Viktor!’s Peter Robinson), as he moves out of his family home on the reservation to attend university in the big city.

Embracing his newfound freedom, he makes choices that challenge the expectations of his family and friends – including kicking off a romantic relationship with his sister’s best friend, a woman twice his age.

“The thing about Andrew’s writing is that it is both comedic and dramatic which, to me, is a lot like life,” said Mathias, who plays Jason’s sister, Amanda. “The characters have a depth to them and the relationships are so beautifully complex, and all are strong, Indigenous leads that show Indigenous perspective.”

Mathias is quick to point out that, while the show is Indigenous led, it is not an Indigenous specific story. Characters stumble through a modern maze of experiences, relationship problems, and life adjustments that are relatable to all cultures and communities.

“It has been a slow turning wheel to get to this point where we have Indigenous people in lead roles and stories that are modern stories, as opposed to historical period pieces,” said Mathias.

The storylines that focus on the dark elements of Indigenous history and the modern stories on trauma and addiction that have evolved as a result are “real and important,” but they do little in the way of accurately representing the Indigenous community’s majority – those who are living their lives in the modern world, “the same as everyone else,” she said.

With shows like Jason becoming more prevalent on the screen, she hopes audiences become more comfortable with seeing Indigenous people in TV and film, accurately represented as regular people with regular lives, not as a novelty or token character.

“Mainly, I hope that they begin to really view Indigenous people as just normal folk who live lives and go to university, and have roommates, and have interracial marriages and relationships, and are really just walking through life in the same way that every every other colour of the human race does."

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.