By Kelly Many Guns
Since winning the 2011 Gemini Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Continuing Leading Dramatic Role, Michelle Trush’s life hasn’t been the same. The First Nation actress, who was raised and lives in Calgary, says she is touched by the overwhelming response received from fans that watch the series Blackstone on APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network). Thrush plays Gail Stoney, a woman suffering from alcoholism, and uses humor to numb the pain she feels, including the loss of her daughter who committed suicide. “I was really super surprised that I won. I was not expecting to win,” says Thrush. “This award has changed my whole life.”
Thrush says the award was a great surprise after taking a break from filming Blackstone’s second season to fly to Toronto for the awards telecast. “I meet so many people that say ‘I have a Gail Stoney in my family’ and that the series has affected their lives,” says Thrush. “I know that in the Aboriginal community, humor is something that we all relate to, and I wanted that trait to be a part of Gail.”
Thrush has been acting professionally since 1984 when she was still in high School attending the Plains Indian Cultural Survival School in Calgary. In her acceptance speech, she acknowledged her mentor Gordon Tootoosis, the respected elder and actor who passed away earlier this year on the Poundmaker First Nation. Tootoosis was a father figure for Thrush, and she says he was a great role model not only for her but also for so many actors. “He began my career and took me under his wing. Gordon also encouraged me to pursue my acting career when there weren’t many Aboriginal actors; he was a true inspiration.”
Prior to the Gemini Awards, Blackstone won three awards at the Rosies in Alberta and two awards at the Leos in BC. “It’s an absolute honour for Blackstone to be recognized at this year’s Gemini Awards,” says Ron E. Scott, the Blackstone executive producer, writer, and director. “We’re very proud of Carmen and Michelle, who were both up for Best Actress, and who each bring so much to their respective roles. They’re part of an amazing cast who work so hard to bring Blackstone to life, and we’re extremely grateful for their talent and generosity.”
The second season of Blackstone is currently being shot in Edmonton, with production underway until mid-September. Returning for season two is the talented ensemble cast of Carmen Moore, Eric Schweig, Michelle Thrush, Nathaniel Arcand, Roseanne Supernault, Steven Cree Molison, Andrea Menard, Justin Rain, and Ashley Callingbull. New cast members include acclaimed First Nation’s actors Gary Farmer, Tantoo Cardinal, and Georgina Lightning, as well as Cameron Bancroft, Frank Cassini, Vincent Gale, and Lori Triolo.
PPI Releasing in Venice, California, has signed Blackstone to a distribution deal in the US, and will soon be introducing the first season to television viewers south of the border. The first season has also been showing in New Zealand on Maori Television, giving Blackstone its first international audience.