It’s official: Gerald Auger is back! Starting this fall, one of Canada’s most sought-after First Nations actors and motivational speakers can be seen as Chogan in Strange Empire, a brand new 1800s-set Western featuring a female-driven cast. Part of CBC’s 2014-15 lineup, the TV drama focuses on its characters’ struggle to survive and care for their community in a lawless society, and is set to air on Monday, October 6th at 9pm.
“In the 16 years I’ve been acting, I have never experienced cast and crew coming up to me as a fellow actor on set and apologizing for what they are about to say or do to my character,” says the actor. “I found both the cast and crew to be truly remorseful about the plight of the indigenous people from the past.”
Like some of the show’s characters, Auger has been helping his community for many years. He’s a recipient of the Native Role Model Award from the Governor General of Canada for overcoming obstacles and challenges in his life as an Indigenous youth.
After filming a recurring role, Pawnee Killer, in AMC’s Emmy-nominated Hell on Wheels, the Canadian star took a hiatus from acting and returned to the northern Alberta community where he grew up. Upon his arrival, Auger was shocked to learn there had been at least seven deaths of young members of the community.
“I realized then that I needed to give back to my community, specifically in regards to the young people,” he shares. “As I have lived the struggles that they were experiencing, alcohol and drug abuse, violence, suicide, low self esteem, and homelessness.”
Auger is the founder of Black Eagle Entertainment; a production company geared towards increasing the awareness of First Nations people and dispelling stereotypes associated with the culturally rich community.
Never one to shy away from personal stories, his 2009 short film Honour Thy Father – created in collaboration with the APTN, CBC and the National Film Board of Canada – focuses on his struggle with the Anglican Church to lay his father to rest in the traditional Cree way.
Auger spent part of his acting sabbatical writing and directing The Forgotten Truth of the Wilderness, the sequel to his critically acclaimed 2009 documentary. The film explores his personal quest to understand the impact of Christianity on First Nations communities. The film is based on his personal search in understanding the man they called Jesus through Indigenous ceremonies and land based teachings.
“For me, I will always hold my head up high, stand proud and stay strong even when my own indigenous people come at me for my Indigenous cultural and spiritual beliefs,” he says.
As an actor with Native roots, Auger is very selective about his on-screen roles. He tries to take on parts that portray First Nations people in a positive light, with the hopes that other young actors will follow suit. The roles that he chooses must have a spiritual component to the story and characters. Auger believes “Today’s film and television industry has become disconnected to creation and Creator like most of society. It is refreshing to be a part of a TV Series like Strange Empire and Hell On Wheels that are at least attempting to capture the the plight of the Indigenous people of the past”
Discovered in the opening ceremonies of the 1995 Canada Winter Games, Gerald Auger has become one of the busiest First Nations actors in Canada. Some of his many high-profile credits include: a supporting role in the Steven Spielberg-produced Into the West, the ABC miniseries DreamKeaper, and a starring role alongside Adam Beach and Jason Priestley in CTV’s Luna Spirit of the Whale.
Photography Credit: Malcom Carter – whatischronos.com
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