Viewers of True Detective: Night Country may find the forbidding darkness and snow-caked backdrop of the Arctic-set Max crime drama jarring, especially as Jodie Foster and Kali Reis in fur-hooded parkas breathe out cold wisps of air while investigating evil all around them.
But co-star Anna Lambe found the frigidly cold, dark filming set for the latest True Detective season more like home sweet home. “I was snug as a bug in a rug,” says the Inuk actor from Grise Fiord, Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost community, who tells The Hollywood Reporter she embraced the permanent darkness and freezing cold of a winter in Iceland, which doubled as remote Alaska during production.
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Lambe plays Kayla Prior, the wife of young cop Peter Prior (Finn Bennett), who defends her family amid the primal beauty and ferocity of a snowbound Alaskan winter while Foster and Reis investigate a cold-case murder and the mysterious disappearance of eight secretive research lab scientists.
Having acted in a host of dramas set in the Arctic — including her debut role at age 15 as Spring in the Nunavut set-and-shot indie film The Grizzlies — Lambe argued that working as the cameras roll in the shivering cold can lend tension and visceral agony to onscreen performances.
“The first scene I ever shot for The Grizzlies had me running to my teacher’s house, screaming and banging on his door that my boyfriend was going to kill me. And it was April and very cold — minus-20-degrees cold — and I was just in my jacket and sneakers and a pair of jeans, and the cold just added to the desperation that I need to get out of here, I need help,” Lambe recounted.
While insisting she was well taken care along with all the talent on the True Detective set, Lambe said she is used to the dangers of bleak and remote polar extremes. “When I’m out boating with my family or I go for a walk in the winter, you become very aware, very quickly, of just how fast things can go wrong and how, without the right resources, a little bit of cold is the difference between life and death,” she explained.
Lambe co-starred in CBC Indigenous drama Trickster and the Prime Video drama Three Pines, which also featured Alfred Molina, and guest-starred on other series like Alaska Daily. Now, as her acting career includes Hollywood, Lambe does dream about shedding her puffy parkas.
“I always say I spent three-quarters of my life being cold. I’m done being cold. I love the beach. I would love to do a rom-com on a beach,” she insisted. But Lambe is not out of the Arctic cold just yet.
She recently nabbed the lead role in an untitled Netflix/CBC Arctic-set comedy, where she will play a young Inuk mother, Siaja, wanting to build a new future for herself, which is not easily done in her small polar circle town where everyone knows your business.
As with the fourth season in the True Detective franchise, the upcoming Arctic-set comedy is driven mostly by creative women, with Anya Adams (Yellowjackets) tapped as the producing director for the series created and written by Stacey Aglok MacDonald and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, and with Miranda de Pencier executive producing.
“Most of my career, I have been surrounded by all of these powerful and incredible women who have inspired me,” Lambe explained. That includes her role in the women-versus-wild thriller True Detective: Night County, where Foster as Liz Danvers and Reis as Evangeline Navarro look to solve the mystery of missing men with little love lost between them. Lambe welcomed series writer and director Issa Lopez bringing so many female characters into the latest round of the Max drama.
“Women are the force behind the story, and to write such complicated, complex, difficult women characters was really incredible to see and read [in the script],” Lambe insisted. She recalled initially seeing her character on the page as soft-hearted, only for showrunner Lopez to insist on Kayla Prior becoming a fierce warrior.
“Issa said, ‘No, no, no. Kayla is strong. Kayla knows what she wants. And she’s standing in her power and letting her husband know how it is,’” Lambe said as she embraced the new direction. And she looked up to Reis as Detective Evangeline Navarro being in real life every bit the Indigenous rights advocate the Canadian actor and advocate aspires to be in her own evolving career.
“It’s really a powerful piece of television, watching it from the perspective of an Indigenous woman, and I’m really proud to be part of it,” Lambe told THR. And she’s written, produced and directed her first short film, Qauppat (Tomorrow), in her native Nunavut, which has among the highest suicide rates in North America.
“I call it an ode to grief, because it really was about honoring the feelings of myself and loved ones as we navigate an all too common reality of suicide and the suicide epidemic that we’re experiencing in the north,” Lambe said of her first directorial effort.
She adds that tackling Indigenous representation in the entertainment industry calls for more than putting actors like Oscar-nominated Lily Gladstone on the big stage, and instead supporting the First Nations peoples whose stories are increasingly being told with movies like Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon and TV series like Reservation Dogs.
“Take the topic of missing and murdered Indigenous women. We can represent that onscreen. But if we’re not giving back to our communities, if we’re not actually supporting women who are vulnerable to these situations, then is that representation and that storytelling meaningful?” Lambe questioned.
The Canadian actress also says she owes much to Grace Main, her grade 10 drama school teacher at Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit, who pushed her to audition for the role in The Grizzlies. “She said there was a workshop and this was something I’d enjoy. And I didn’t believe her. I was [saying], ‘No way. I’m shy. I’m anxious. It’s not going to work out for me.’ And ultimately, it did,” Lambe recalled.
“I owe my career to her [Main], I owe my career to Stacey Aglok MacDonald, to Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, to Miranda de Pencier. All of these women have endlessly believed in me and supported me and protected me in an industry that is at times very cruel and can be very exploitative. They’ve always made sure that I was seen and that I was heard, and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to give back,” Lambe said.
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