CBC’s television series Trickster, launched in 2020 and adapted from Eden Robinson’s young adult novel series, has been cancelled. A representative for the show announced Friday that it would not go forward with a second season after consultation with producers, writers and actors.
“Fully respecting everyone’s perspective, Season 2 will not move forward as planned, unfortunately,” said Chuck Thompson, CBC’s head of public affairs, in an emailed statement.
“CBC is extremely proud we were able to bring this compelling story to the screen and are grateful to the many talented individuals who made it possible.”
The new season was still being scripted and was set to premiere in the latter half of 2021, Thompson said.
Indigenous identity under scrutiny last year
The future of Trickster first came into question in December 2020, when the Indigenous identity of the show’s co-creator and showrunner Michelle Latimer came under scrutiny.
Latimer declined an interview request from CBC following news of the show’s cancellation Friday. In an emailed statement, she wrote she was not involved in the decision but was “sad to hear that Season 2 has been cancelled.”
“I am incredibly proud of the entire team that worked so hard to bring Trickster to life, and I will forever be grateful to the cast and crew that poured their hearts and souls into its creation,” she said.
In an Aug.14, 2020, National Film Board (NFB) news release, Latimer was described to be of “Algonquin, Métis and French heritage, from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg (Maniwaki), Quebec.”
Kitigan Zibi members began questioning her connection to the community after the statement’s release. In an emailed statement to CBC along with a Facebook post, Latimer apologized for naming a connection with the community “before I had done all of the necessary work to understand the connection.” In emails with CBC, she said she traced her identity from “oral histories” from her maternal grandfather.
In a public statement, Latimer said she was able to trace her Indigenous ancestry back to the 1700s through documentation.
Genealogist and researcher Dominique Ritchot independently reconstructed Latimer’s genealogy and said she found two Indigenous ancestors dating back to the mid-1600s but that most of Latimer’s ancestors were “easily identifiable” as French-Canadian, Irish and Scottish.
Latimer also said she had since hired a genealogist and was consulting with elders and community leaders in Kitigan Zibi for guidance.
Producers, showrunner resign
Two producers with the show announced their resignations soon after the questions were publically raised. Consulting producer Danis Goulet left that position, and co-creator, co-showrunner and executive producer Tony Elliot said he withdrew from his role as co-showrunner but would stay on as an executive producer.
Latimer also announced her resignation from Season 2 of the show soon after. In a Facebook post announcing her resignation, she wrote, “I stand by who I am and by my family’s history, but I also understand what is being asked of me. I recognize my responsibility to be accountable to the community and my fellow artists, and that is why I have made this decision.”
Soon after CBC announced it was cancelling the show, criticism poured in online.
“This was the wrong move,” tweeted Devery Jacobs, a Mohawk actor from Kahnawake, Que. “So many genuine Indigenous artists will suffer from this.”
“I know dozens of real Indigenous writers and directors who could’ve taken over as show runner and benefited from this opportunity.”
This could have been an opportunity to do it right the second season around. To set the precedent on what it means to hire and cast authentically.
I know dozens of real Indigenous writers and directors who could’ve taken over as show runner and benefitted from this opportunity.
Blood Quantum director Jeff Barnaby echoed that sentiment. In an interview with CBC, he called the show’s cancellation a “baby and the bathwater scenario.” Instead of looking for another director to take over the show, he said, cancellation puts Indigenous people working on Trickster out of a job.
He also said it sends a message to the industry at large, that “they think there’s nobody that could pick up that mantle.”
“The bottom line is it’s just really one great big tragedy,” he said.
Actor Jennifer Podemski said the controversy around the show would likely make it more difficult for Indigenous creators to pitch shows and get content made.
On top of that, she said,Trickster was such a seminal work in the entertainment industry, that losing it is deeply emotional.
“I’m sure that the news of this show being cancelled probably doesn’t even register for a lot of Canadians,” she said. “But for the Indigenous community, it’s like — this was what we had. This was the show we had.”
CBC doesn’t elaborate on decision
Thompson declined to comment on what decision-making process went into cancelling the show and whether it had to do with the questions around Latimer’s Indigenous identity. He said Latimer was not one of the individuals the broadcaster spoke with when deciding the show’s fate.
In a December email to CBC News, Thompson said CBC hoped “Michelle Latimer and all the partners on Trickster will find their way through this to complete Season 2.”
Later on Friday, representatives for Latimer confirmed that the filmmaker’s lawyers had served CBC with a notice of libel. Thompson confirmed the public broadcaster had received the notice and was reviewing it.
In a statement, Latimer said she and her lawyers “have grave concerns about the fairness and accuracy” of the CBC reporting on her ancestry.
“The CBC was aware of the questions and concerns I raised about the integrity of the research they used to inform their reporting, as well as the manner in which they approached the story, and yet, they reported inaccurately about my ancestry and created a false narrative about my character and my lineage,” she said.
Trickster was produced by Latimer’s Streel Films alongside production company Sienna Films. It is based on Eden Robinson’s 2017 novel Son of a Trickster and made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2020.
The show follows Jared Martin, an Indigenous teenager from Kitimat, B.C., played by actor Joel Oulette, struggling to support his family as supernatural activities take place around him. It was originally renewed for a second season before its premiere while the third installment in the book series, Return of the Trickster, is slated for release in March 2021.
“One of the best parts of 2020 was watching the young, Indigenous cast soar,” Robinson was quoted as saying in the release announcing the show’s cancellation. “The outpouring of support for the first season was magical. I’m deeply grateful that CBC and Sienna respect this situation. It gives me hope that future collaborations with Indigenous creatives can be done with care and integrity.”