Leo Awards Nominee
for Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series
for his role as Andy Fraser in Blackstone (season 5).
Good luck Eric on June 5th!
Blackstone is one of those series you may have missed or dismissed. It faces challenges getting audience attention: Canadian, airs on APTN, and set on a First Nations reserve. Blackstone turns its camera on a community and shows it, warts and all. There are no “noble but tragic Indians” here — just the tragedy.
Blackstone could be any rural town in Canada, laden down with high-employment and its associated poverty problems. If you grew up, or even just spent time, in outport Newfoundland, a mining town after the company left, or any other similar location, Blackstone is going to have a familiar feel. As will the characters, from the down-and-outs to the where’re-they-getting-all-that-money? Nearly every aspect of Blackstone is familiar like that. Because Blackstone is not about Aboriginal people. It’s about people. Human beings in desperate, often tragic, but real, life.
Blackstone is unabashedly First Nations, don’t misunderstand me. And you will learn about the issues, same as with those other shows, because Blackstone doesn’t shy away from them either. It tears off the bandages, picks off the scab, and shows you the wound. You see the despair behind the substance abuse, and the results of it. You learn enough about residential schools to see how their impact is still being felt, how the program destroyed lives and communities. You get some history of land claims and how the government treats First Nations. There’s water problems, housing issues, government audits, conniving oil companies. You’ll learn some Cree, even. Blackstone doesn’t lecture though. It neither excuses nor condemns, it simply presents. It gives you just enough of a look at the reality of reserve-life to send you googling for more détails.
Above all, Blackstone is simply fantastic television: top notch ensemble acting, excellent direction, and riveting storylines. It’s gritty and gripping. Blackstone deserves a place alongside all those specialty channel dramas: The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, and The Killing. It is not just good Canadian television — it is excellent TV period. Unfortunately, it was announced on Monday that this will be the fifth and final season for Blackstone although the door is still open for perhaps a movie, or maybe something else. The new season starts on Nov. 3, which means you have plenty of time to watch the first four seasons. And the great news? You can see them all free online at APTN.
Excerpts from the article by Jeff Rose-Martland | HUFFINGTON POST
I do not like violence, or corruption, or abuse of power, or sexual exploitation of women. Unfortunately, the excellent TV series Blackstone is filled by them wall to wall, showing with lots of drama the darker side of a First Nations reserve. For that reason, I was unable to remain faithful to the show until the end of the second season. Blackstone season 3, which is going to be the most provocative yet, will be released in Fall 2013 on the Canadian television network APTN.
Intense, compelling and confrontational, Blackstone is an unmuted exploration of power, politics and relationships on the fictional Blackstone First Nation. This original TV series is unlike any other show on the air today. Entertaining and informative, Blackstone is a story of hope and reconciliation in its portrayal of Native people fighting for better lives – on and off the reserve. To date, Blackstone has won 20 awards and received 49 award nominations, including three nominations at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards.
Blackstone tackles very crudely current problems experienced on a reserve, with a cast of native actors perfectly talented and effective: Carmen Moore, Eric Schweig, Michelle Thrush, Nathaniel Arcand, Steven Cree Molison, Andrea Menard, Ray G. Thunderchild, Justin Rain, Ashley Callingbull, Tantoo Cardinal, Roseanne Supernault, Bernard Starlight, Georgina Lightning, Michelle Latimer, Garry Farmer. Eric Schweig plays the role of a villain, Andy Fraser, Chief of Blackstone. The Fraser family has controlled Blackstone for decades and Andy is the latest Chief in this legacy of nepotism and corruption. Savvy and manipulative, he extorts the members of the Nation and funnels reserve money into his own projects. When Chief Fraser isn’t able to charm a situation in his favor, he quickly turns to intimidation and threats.
The first Season of Blackstone won two Gemini Awards, and garnered two wins at the 2011 Leo Awards and three wins at the 2011 Alberta Film and Television Awards. Unfolding over nine one-hour episodes, the first Season presents Blackstone First Nation suffering disintegration by its own hand – the result of the corruption of its Chief and Council. From within the community, a new generation of leaders, with Leona Stoney (Carmen Moore) and Victor Merasty (Nathaniel Arcand), rise up and fight hard to create lasting and substantial change. If Andy Fraser loses for the first time his election in favor of Leona Stoney, he does not hesitate to use all villainous means at his disposal to regain power. Meanwhile, Leona’s sister, Gail (Michelle Thrush, who delivers a great performance in this role) fights against alcoholism and the mourning of his daughter Natalie (Roseanne Supernault. also excellent) who committed suicide.
If the second season of Blackstone were to be summarized in one sentence, it would be this: The stories could have been ripped right from real-life news headlines. Story lines in Season 2 include mismanagement of band funding, missing Aboriginal women, foster care, and toxic water on the reserve – all of which parallel real-life social issues facing many First Nations today. The second season of Blackstone has made a tremendous impact among television audiences with its intense, compelling and confrontational content. It has also generated significant acclaim among media from coast to coast.
The character played by Eric Schweig in Blackstone, Andy Fraser, shows a selfish, contradictory and dangerous mind. He cheats on his wife (Andrea Menard), he murders his mistress (Lee Tomaschefski), he corrupts democracy, he takes care of his father (Ray G. Thunderchild), which has diabetes, but at the same time he hates him, because he is constantly critical about his decisions and actions. This dysfunctional father-son relationship is at the heart of Andy’s behavior, which degenerates slowly into a kind of psychopath, haunted by the ghost of his deceased father. In fact, the spirits of the deads occur regularly in Blackstone, to confront the protagonists to their worst inner demons.
Eric Schweig gives a perfectly convincing interpretation of Andy Fraser, a negative leader that we love to hate. For this role, he was nominated for Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series at the Leo Awards in 2011.
Much of the action of Blackstone is shot on hand-held cameras. Although this choice helps accentuate the nervous style of acting, it is unfortunately the main fault of the show. In fact, ALL scenes are filmed in hand-held camera with continuous zoom-in zoom-out, mostly unjustified. These random maneuvers come to dilute sometimes the intensity of the interpretation of the actors rather than magnify them. Despite this problem, since Blackstone series first hit the airwaves in January 2011, it has consistently ranked as one of APTN’s top-rated and most popular programs. Here is what some of them have to say about Blackstone:
“Addiction, foster care, missing women – dire subjects all, and all equally ignored in Canadian drama programming. Thankfully there is at least one homemade drama that’s willing to tackle the issues facing aboriginal Canadians, as Blackstone returns for its second season.” – National Post.
“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.” – Vancouver Observer
“Blackstone is an important and timely series that tackles real-life issues relevant to First Nations today – topics like water problems, foster care, missing women, and addiction.” – Channel Canada
“With a raw, unflinching look at life on a Native Canadian reserve, Blackstone boasts performances and characters usually reserved for networks like FX and HBO and series like Rescue Me and The Shield.” – TVguide.ca
“It’s pretty raw at times… It’s like the Canadian and the First Nations version of The Wire in a sense that it’s painting a really raw image of what life could be like.” – George Stroumbouloulos Tonight
Blackstone in Black and White
Blackstone behind the scene
Director: Ron E. Scott
Writer: Ron E. Scott
Stars: Carmen Moore, Eric Schweig, Michelle Thrush, Nathaniel Arcand, Steven Cree Molison, Andrea Menard, Ray G. Thunderchild.
WINNER – GEMINI AWARDS
Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role
Best Achievement in Main Title Design
WINNER – LEO AWARDS
Best Lead Performance by a Female in a Dramatic Series
Best Screenwriting in a Drama
WINNER – AFTA
Best Screenwriter Drama Over 30
Best Production Reflecting Cultural Diversity
WINNER – AFTA
Best Dramatic Production Under 60
Best Screenwriter Drama Over 30
Best Production Reflecting Cultural Diversity
WINNER – American Indian Film Festival (San Francisco)
Best Supporting Actress