Photo: Keesic Douglas
…emotionally, I was like a pressure cooker, just cooking and cooking until one night, boom, I exploded…
In Part One of MUSKRAT’S interview, award winning actor Glen Gould spoke about deeply personal and tragic events in his life, and how he self-medicated to avoid dealing with the pain. In Part Two, Glen shares how he found his path to healing. He talks about growing up within a family of prominent Mi’kmaq activists, and his newest project: Donna’s Boy.
MUSKRAT Magazine (MM): You talked about the emotional toll the role of Joseph from Rhymes for Young Ghouls took on you. How did you find your own healing?
Glen Gould (GG): I didn’t really do any self-care until I sobered up in February 2013. My self-care was [to go] into counseling and treatment for nine weeks. Since then it’s been learning how to take care of my emotions, and how to deal with those things. I know that drinking and getting high is not the way to do it. I have my medicines and I have my smudge, and if I can get to a ceremony I go. I plan on being sober for the rest of my life, so from here on in, I have to make sure that if it happens again, for any films that I do, I have to make sure that I have some kind of counseling afterwards. Especially if the roles are as heavy as Joseph was.
Joseph was probably the heaviest role that I’ve played that has stirred up so much real emotion for me: pain, anger, and guilt. I ended up having a break down and I lost my shit in January 2013. I became suicidal, I was ready to check out, I didn’t want to be around anymore and luckily I had the support of my wife Heather to push me and say, “you need to get help, drinking and getting high is not going to help anything”. I was messed up for a few months after, emotionally I was like a pressure cooker, just cooking and cooking until one night, boom, I exploded, I lost it, and scared a lot of people. So my self-care was [to go] into treatment, and counseling.
MM: How has the process of sobriety been for you?
GG: Acting in Blackstone [an APTN drama] was pretty heavy; some of the stuff that happened with my character in the show. But now, I always make sure I take my smudge bowl with me. That morning I was shooting in Edmonton [for Blackstone], my character was going through some heavy stuff and I knew I was going to feel it emotionally, on a personal level. So I smudged in the morning and just asked the Creator for the strength to do this, to get through this and to come out of this in a good way and to interpret it in a good way. I never pray for courage because I have the courage, I don’t need to pray for the courage. Everybody has the courage if you’re there in front of your smudge bowl you have the courage to get to that point. But it’s strength; strength is what I prayed for. At the end of the day I would smudge and just let it go, and ask the Creator to help me let this go in a good way.
I think we’ll have to wait and see (laughing) for the next really intense role, and know that as long as I take my bundle and my medicines with me, I’ll be ok.
MM: Can you talk about activism and how it plays into your life as an Indigenous actor?
GG: All of my actor friends that I know, we’re all radicals; we’re all activists in some form or another, especially when it comes to Aboriginal rights and protests.
My late grandfather, Donald Marshall Sr. was the Grand Chief of the Mi’kmaq Nation for 27 years. I can remember when we weren’t permitted to hunt moose. I was just a kid at the time when my grandfather went to Hunter’s Mountain in Cape Breton with a bunch of Mi’kmaq hunters for a demonstration. They said, “even though white society and bureaucratic governments say that we are not permitted to hunt—we don’t believe that.” When the RCMP came my grandfather was the first person to step forward. He said, “before you arrest any of these hunters, you arrest me first, as the spiritual leader of this Nation, you arrest me first.” I grew up watching my grandfather get arrested for fighting for our inherent rights as Aboriginal people. I think my grandfather got arrested in 1982, but he won in the Supreme Court of Canada and got the hunting season extended a little bit longer than non-Natives under that treaty.
And then of course my late uncle, Donald Marshall Jr. fighting for our fishing rights years later. He went to court for “illegally” fishing eel. He fought it in provincial court and was first found guilty—he lost. He appealed it to the Supreme Court of Canada and then won. Both cases were based on the Treaty of 1752 that affirms our rights to harvest from the land whether it be hunting or fishing.
When my uncle won, Aboriginal people were reassured that this was our right as Aboriginal people. Now our bands have commercial fishing boats and are making a living from commercial fishing. However, that wasn’t the purpose of my uncle’s fight. It wasn’t so that bands could have a right to a commercial fishery—he was fighting for the rights of the individual to go out and set a couple of lobster traps and be able to sell that to whoever. But it all got taken over because we live in a commercial time where economics is everything. We have money-hungry politicians in our societies just like non-Native politicians who also have a colonial mentality. Now we have these commercial fisheries, and the bands are making all of this money, the fishermen aren’t making that much money as individuals and that’s not what my Uncle’s purpose was for fighting the case.
MM: Let’s talk about your music. What is Donna’s Boy about? How did this project happen?
GG: I started playing music in my late teens. When I was 22, my buddy Eric Schweig—who is an actor from Blackstone and many other films—bought me a guitar and he said, “Here learn how to play this fucker, and next time I see you, you better know how to play it.” I learned how to play, sing, and [write songs] at the same time. I used to have a band in Vancouver called Donna’s Boy; Donna was my late mother. I also used the name Donna’s Boy because of the Canadian pianist: Glenn Gould.
The album is something that I’ve wanted to do for at least ten years. I got an Ontario Arts Council grant to finally do this project. I got the grant a while ago, but the way everything was going it never got done. So I figured now I am going to get it done. It’s going to be a really good album, there are a lot of great, cool, talented artists on it. I’ve got Marc Meriläinen also known as Nadjiwan producing it, and he’s playing guitar. I’ve got Dave DeLeary from Seventh Fire playing bass, Arthur Renwick playing some slide guitar on a couple of tracks. Nicholas Sawchuck from the Métis Fiddlers playing fiddle, Cheri Maracle and Jani Lauzon, Rosary Spence doing some backup vocals, DeLeary will be doing some backup vocals as well. I’ve got two Toronto cats on horns. So it’s almost finished, and it’s a big project—I’m Mr. Go Big or Go Home (laughing).