Lorne Cardinal says he got into acting “totally by accident.”
“I was just a shy kid growing up. So public speaking was never something I sought until I was in my early twenties when I took my first acting class.”
He took his first acting class at 22.
“I discovered that this is what I was meant to do, be on stage telling stories,” he says. So he asked his teacher how to make a living.
“And he gave me the best advice ever, which was to get the best training you can find.”
Cardinal then went to the University of Alberta and the Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program, where he was the first Indigenous student to graduate from the program.
The now 56-year old Cree actor is best known for his role in Corner Gas where he plays Sgt. Davis Quinton.
Season 3 of Corner Gas Animated kicked off Oct. 12, on CTV Comedy Channel. The series is an animated revival of the original Canadian sitcom that ran 6 seasons from 2004 to 2009.
IndigiNews spoke to Lorne Cardinal about the upcoming season, what got him here and what he is up to next. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Chehala Leonard: Tell us about the premiere for season 3 of Corner Gas Animated?
Lorne Cardinal: It’s coming out on Thanksgiving and it’ll be back to back episodes. So we’ll get to new episodes one after another. And it’s just more fun of the same characters.
We have the best comedy writers in Canada working on the show. I’m very lucky to be working with these same, same seven people over and over for the last while. We’re a close-knit unit and it was great when we were recording pre-COVID, we’d all be in the studio together with their headphones on and we’d always have laughed and have a good visit and stuff and visit with our compatriots over in Toronto who are meeting in the same, same studio and their headphones.
But now we have to do it just a little bit differently because we’re only allowed one person in the studio at a time. So we’re doing it in bits and pieces here and there to grab whoever we can grab at a time and put them in the studio. It’s different, I miss hearing people’s voices and stuff but we’re just, we’re still able to record so it’s all good.
CL: Can you tell me more about how production was impacted by the pandemic?
LC: Where we record in Vancouver, they have two studios, so we’re able to do two actors at a time and then they just schedule it. And then we have like 15 minutes for the studio staff to come in, clean up everything, you sanitize the mics and headphones and stuff, and then get it ready for the next actor who comes in and then they do their parts.
CL: Was the original production to record postponed at all?
LC: Everything was. Here we were in the midst of recording season three and then we waited for the curve to come down and the studios to figure out the protocols to make everyone safe. We were delayed by months recording it. That happened to the other show I was doing in New York, FBI’s Most Wanted. We finished the season early and they just pulled the plug on the rest of the day. So now they’re starting back up to do season two, and then we have all these protocols in place and, you know, trying to make it as safe as possible to do our work. That’s the new normal.
CL: What can we expect from your character Sgt. Davis Quinton this season?
LC: Just more of the same, he’s passionate and he loves whatever it is that he loves whether it’s wedding planning or beehive keeping. He just he’s in a hundred percent. So there’s more of that. And then we’re going to end the season with a nice Christmas episode. So that’ll be nice.
CL: What’s it like playing Sgt. Davis in the animated series versus the original Corner Gas?
LC: Yeah, that’s the thing I miss most is when we’re doing the live version of the show is getting into uniform. Because that was all part of Davis’s old cop uniform. And I miss the physicality of that. So now I just do it more in my mind and just focus on the vocals and just try to keep that same energy and newness. It’s a bit of a shift, but, you know, it’s still there, his heart is still there. And now the physicality is all in the voice.
CL: You mentioned FBI’s most wanted, can you tell me a little bit more about what you’re up to next?
LC: I’m going to try to do that for season two, but I’m keeping an eye on the situation down in the States and if it gets too hairy I won’t risk my health. But in the meantime, we’re starting to record season two of Molly of Denali, which is another animated series that I do. I play grandpa Nat and that show last year won the Peabody award down in the States. And also the television critics association award for youth programming.
There’s a lot of Indigenous languages that we use in Molly of Denali. She’s speaking her Koyukon language, and we hear Inupiaq and we hear all these different languages from Alaska on TV and kids are seeing that and hearing it and going, ‘they just said that word that’s us’, so it’s having an incredible effect, and also not on just the Indigenous community, but also non-Indigenous people are being affected by it.
We had one episode called Grandpa’s Drum where it explains a little bit about residential school and grandpa Nat goes to it. His drum was taken away from him when he was a kid. And then when he’s older, he is trying to remember songs and he can’t remember, and then Molly gets his drum back and helps his grandpa find his songs again. So from that episode, we had people down in Texas, these non-native people in Texas, tell us after that episode aired their young five-year-old came up to them and said, ‘Mom, that’s an ancestor? Do we have ancestors?’
I love hearing stories like that cause that’s my job as an actor to tell those stories and to affect people that way. That’s why I love doing what I’m doing and when I hear stories like that, I know I’m on the right path then.
CL: What advice would you give to aspiring Indigenous actors?
LC: Make sure it’s something that you’re passionate about it, and it’s something that you truly, truly love. And once you find whatever it is, get the best training you can find or go learn with a master in that particular area that you’re interested in.
Just watch, learn, ask questions and be respectful of the people that you work with. In the movies and TV business, we actors have this reputation of being spoiled, primadonnas kind of thing. But if you’re respectful to everyone that you work with, no matter who they are, where they are in the hierarchy, you treat them with respect as a human being, you will always be remembered and people will go, ‘let’s get that guy cause he was fun to work with and he was prepared and professional and he was respectful.’ Whatever field you’re in, listen, learn, watch, ask questions and be respectful.