“If you let fear run your life, you can live a very small world. You’re not going to experience the greatness that’s out there that’s available to everybody”

Lorne Cardinal is best known to Canadians for his TV role as cop Davis Quinton on the hit comedy Corner Gas. The live action version of the show wrapped up after six seasons, but an animated version debuted in April 2018 to strong ratings and fan raves. This spring, it was renewed for a second season by Comedy Network. 

When he’s not playing for laughs, the 54-year-old of Cree descent spends his time not only acting, but directing, producing, writing and talking to Indigenous youth across Canada. Cardinal has never shied away from a challenge – whether it’s becoming the first Indigenous person to earn an acting degree from University of Alberta or chronicling an all-Aboriginal production of King Lear as a documentary filmmaker. The resident of Squamish, BC continues to inspire, push boundaries and live life to the fullest. How does he do it all? YouAreUNLTD caught up to him recently to find out.

On breaking down barriers 

I see them as opportunities and I’m smart enough to realize them for what they are and I just step into it. There’s a lot of things I’ve done I’ve never done before, but because the opportunity presented itself, I say ‘yes’ before I think about it too much because that’s when you start doubting yourself. 

On when the going gets tough 

When you get overwhelmed, that sense of being overwhelmed is not to let the panic totally  close your brain down. You just have to relax and breathe and just focus on one thing at a time that you can change. So you assess the whole situation and go, what can I change, what can I do? You start at the beginning.

On being a role model for Indigenous youth

I have a responsibility in a high-profile position that my work has given me and that’s to open the door to the younger generation, to help them overcome barriers, to address issues pertaining to race and intellectual appropriations.

On facing racism in the entertainment business

We’re still fighting Hollywood and the entertainment system that has stereotypical views of native people and that’s how they want to keep portraying us – the noble savage, the stoic elder, the mean savage… 

I try to challenge these notions and bring an interpretation of the character and the work that people may have not thought of before. We’re human. We have emotions. We have the same problems as everyone else. 

On the impact of fear

If you let fear run your life, you can live a very small world. You’re not going to experience the greatness that’s out there that’s available to everybody – the vastness, different cultures and languages, the food, the histories and stories.

On what brings him joy

I just like working and trying to get new projects off the ground. It’s exciting. I also love walking my dog Jake by the river with my gal [producer and writer Monique Hurteau] at my side. That’s always good. 

On his philosophy about life and getting older

I’m just trying to be grateful every day, to treat people with respect, to live in the moment and to not get too worried. It’s also important to me to give thanks to our ancestors and to those who have gone before me and made what I’m doing now possible. 

Originally published in Issue 02 of YouAreUNLTD Magazine. PG. 66