Talent on Tap – Keilani Rose Shoots From the Hip and Scores With Shoresy

When you surf through channels for something to watch and you’re frustrated because there’s nothing that represents you as a Canadian, as Indigenous, as Black, French or Newfie… then I have some great news. The latest and greatest truly Canadian show is Shoresy! We love our hockey; we enjoy expressing ourselves with the odd F bomb and the Indigenous culture is deeply rooted in our country and in this series. Finally, somebody got it right! There is honest representation in this series and it smashes the ceiling in terms of diversity. The characters are rich, the writing is top shelf and the sense of community reminds us all that we’re all in this together. 


Without a great cast, this series wouldn’t shine like it does. It stars Jared Keeso (Letter Kenny, 19-2) who also wrote all 6 episodes. Tasya Teles (The 100, Prison Break), Harlan Blayne Kytwayhat (Prey, Tribal), Blair Lamora (Outlander, Paranormal Nightshift), Keilani Rose who plays Miigwan (The Sinners, Breathe) and many others. There are no bad performances on this show, just heart and soul. There is so much representation of the people in our country, that any other country tuning in will have a taste of Canadianism at its best! This series definitely gets my stamp on authenticity and in true representation, including strong female roles. The boxes keep getting checked off in terms of quality TV, especially since the story revolves around hockey. Shoresy is on Crave and launched on Hulu,  May 27th.


I had the incredible opportunity to speak with multi-talented, multi-layered and multi-cultural actor, dancer, writer and DJ – Keilani Rose about her role on Shoresy, her upcoming series Skymed and her other film Breathe. She is Lheidli T’enneh (The People Where the Two Rivers Flow Together), and Kānaka Mamao (Native Hawai’ian diaspora), with Chinese immigrant and Irish settler ancestry. She is her Grandmother’s Granddaughter, a descendent of Great Grandmother Seymour, The Matriarch of the North, and finds her way through story-telling and the sacred arts as personal and inter-generational healing. She is the founder and executive director of Two Rivers & a Rose Filmworks, her production company dedicated to amplifying messages of equity, diversity and reconciliation. It was an incredibly eye-opening and inspiring interview. Roll the tape!           

HNMAG “Congratulations on the new series, Shoresy! I love your character and how Canadian it is. Where is it filmed and do you live in LA now?”

KEILANI “I do, I’m setting up some new roots. I got the keys in Nov. and signed a lease just before I got the Shoresy contract to film out in Sudbury. I’ve just started setting up shop and making it feel like home since January.”


HNMAG “You must’ve gotten pretty familiar with Sudbury, while filming the 6 episodes.”

KEILANI “In a sense, it seemed familiar to me because it reminded me of my home town, which is in central BC. It had that small town cozy feeling with warmth and love. I’d never spent any time out there, so it was nice to see the other side of Turtle Island (pre- Colonized North America).”


HNMAG “You said some very good things about this show. I get the impression that your involvement in the series has left an impact?”

KEILANI “It really has… it’s the biggest gift that I’ve ever been part of.in this industry. Seeing the way that the show has been perceived on Crave and so-called Canada, it’s really unbelievable. There’s a one liner in a scene where Miigwan says ‘kids in sports stay off the street’s’. It has a running theme about sports bringing people together, having a sense of community that keeps people strong, healthy and connected. For me, it couldn’t be more true when I was growing up and became involved in my dance community. It saved me and it had a big part in shaping me and keeping me out of trouble. Dancing kept me in line with the values that have helped me to survive and grow into the person I am today. I feel grateful to be part of Shoresy. They did a really good job with representation in all departments, including wardrobe. There’s an episode that some of the natives may pick up on, where I/Miigwan (Keilani) wore a ring with a turtle beaded onto it. It represents Turtle Island. Even though there’s so much joking and horsing around, at the end of the day – there’s a group of people fighting to keep the game alive and to keep the community strong.”


HNMAG “I’m absolutely loving all the diversity that this show offers, all the great lessons, the comedy and especially the music! I’m loving the music.”

KEILANA “Want to hear a fun fact? One of our actors, Jonathan Diaby, who plays Dolo – is a music artist that goes by Jo Dolo. Aside from acting, he’s also an incredible Hip Hop artist. On the soundtrack, some of the intro songs are his original tracks. The creators, Jared (Keeso) and Jacob (Tierney) did a great job of incorporating that and they always have our backs, in terms of lifting us up as artists.”


HNMAG “I find it very refreshing to see a true representation of Indigenous People, as well as strong female roles.”

KEILANA “Thank you, I agree and I think the creators did an excellent job but as an overall industry, I believe we’re just beginning to scratch the surface. It’s so heartwarming and so inspiring to see people making real efforts in their commitment to that. From the inside out, they’ve done an incredible job, especially with Indigenous representation. There were a lot of local folks working in our hair and make-up team, wardrobe team that would help to guide us through the do’s and don’ts in some scenes. We also had our consulting producer, Kaniehtiio Horn (Letterkenny, Reservation Dogs ) who became our designated aunty onset – taking care of the content, as well as our Indigenous voices. Seeing the producers taking that initiative was really important. Across the board, you have French Canadians represented, you have Anglo-Sax represented. It’s so funny to watch, every time Dolo goes off in French. There’s also Terry from Newfoundland, it’s great, especially coming out of a pandemic. There’s still a lot of divisiveness within so-called Canada. If you look at what’s happening in Quebec with Bill-96, as well as other things that we’re still fighting for, such as – clean drinking water and the missing and murdered Indigenous women. There’s been such a feeling of unity and levity on this show, despite the heaviness going on.”


HNMAG “Did you have to audition for this role or were you a shoe-in?”

KEILANI “I auditioned and the first taste of the script I had was the opening scene, where you meet Miigwan and Ziigwan in the GM’s office. Shoresy and Sanguinet come in asking about the team folding and they tell them to go see the GM.” 

HNMAG “What were your first impressions of the script, once you read it?”

KEILANI “I have to be honest – when I read it, I didn’t know what was going on (laughing). They’re talking about aqua-dumps… and I’m sitting there (laughing), did they make this term up? By the time I finished taping it, I thought it was pure genius. Before this I didn’t get to dabble in much comedy, so to have this arrive on my plate was such a hoot! I had so much fun shooting the audition with my friend Drew. We did a few takes, I had fun with it and it felt supernatural. I didn’t want to overthink it, so I sent it in. It was a couple weeks later that I got the call, mid summer in June. They told me they loved it, I’m booked, I killed the audition. I had received a DM from Kaniehtiio on Instagram and I’m such a fan of hers after watching Reservation Dogs. I thought she was so amazing and I was fangirling out when she messaged me on Instagram. She was like, ‘I can’t wait to see you on set, if you need anything – let me know’. I was so excited it was happening.”


HNMAG “When did you go to camera?”

KEILANI “It was a bit of a waiting game because we didn’t go to camera until November. Within that time, I was also working on another project called Skymed. It’s going to be coming out this summer on CBC and Paramount +. It’s also a very strong Indigenous role and I was able to work with a Cree language teacher. We were filming in Winnipeg, so I did a couple back and forth trips. It kept me busy until we were able to jump into Shoresy.”


HNMAG “Did they shoot all episodes back-to-back and how long were you out there?”          

KEILANI “They did and they did it in record time. I was incredibly impressed by their well-oiled machine. They were banging out 26 pages per day, which is unheard of. We shot for 5-6 weeks and got home right before Christmas.”


HNMAG “What would a regular day look like?”

KEILANI “We would have 12 hr. days most times. We started shooting in the hockey arena, so the first week was all about banging out the hockey scenes first. I think that was harder on the boys because of the fight scenes and all the action on the ice. The last scenes we shot were in Nat’s office, which was in a studio and at a different location. There was a lot of rehearsal because the dialogue is so fast. When we weren’t on camera, we were on cast chairs in the green room going over the scene we had to do that day because it had to be so crisp and fast.”     


HNMAG “What would you say is your biggest takeaway from being in this series?”

KEILANI “It comes back to what you had talked about – strong female roles, strong Indigenous roles and I’m grateful for the opportunity to take up that space because it’s an opportunity that I didn’t know existed for me before. When I grew up, there wasn’t anyone that looked like me in those types of roles or stories; I didn’t know it could be a reality for me to play in that arena. Having realized it and having lived it, I feel that it’s what I’m most grateful for – having young brown girls seeing others that look like them as tough, as funny and here. I’m also grateful for the gift of working beside Jared Keeso as a friend, mentor, and leader. On my own journey in creating and writing my first films with my own production company, Two Rivers & A Rose Filmworks Inc. It’s really been such a wonderful influence and inspiration having Jared in my corner.”


HNMAG “They say, if you love what you do you never work a day in your life. Do you feel like that sometimes?”

KEILANI “One hundred percent! There are times where I’ve worked days in a row and realize I haven’t taken a day off but it didn’t feel like I needed to (laughing). It’s also a lesson in balance – keeping an eye on those off days and learning to regenerate, recuperate, reinvigorate. I feel, if you’re lucky enough to be on a project that you really enjoy and believe in, it’s so fulfilling even on the long days because you’re feeding off each others energy and exchanging it, at the end of the day.”


HNMAG “Before we go, can you tell me about the other role that you had in the film, Skymed?”

KEILANI “It’s described as a drama. The storyline is created by Julie Puckrin. It’s about first responders (medical) in rural communities. They also do a great job with Indigenous representation and addressing racism in health care. Things that so-called Canada need to take a better look at. It’s about a group of first/medical responders and the situations they deal with when working in the north.”


HNMAG “It sounds like you were able to get up inside the helicopter a couple of times?”

KEILANI “I wish. We meet my character in the hospital. She gets to go on a journey with some of the lead characters and I come in as an old friend of one of the leads on the show. There’s an exchange between them, where they speak together in Cree – they share some inside jokes and I embarrass her in front of her colleagues. She’s a prodigy at the hospital and I’m always talking about our wild dates – and she’s telling me to stop, we’re at work. The friendship goes through a journey of jokes and fun, which then leads to them reuniting and finding out some heavy stuff with my character, that I won’t give away. I get to play Trainwreck Tyra.”


HNMAG “Are there any other projects coming out that you’ve been in?”

KEILANI “There’s one more project that I was able to finish, that had a similar theme, meant to create conversation and compassion, called Breathe, which is a short film that my friend, Cody Kearsley wrote and directed. I play the lead in that one, her name is Grace… and she’s an addict.  It’s a story about battling addiction, the journey to sobriety and the cost. He did a beautiful job of telling this story that’s going to bring awareness and compassion. Most of us have been affected by someone that we love directly or indirectly that are dealing with addictions. We just finished filming in March and it will be hitting the festivals next year. We’re composing some original music pieces and I’m excited to share it with the world.”


HNMAG “You’re an actor, a dancer, a writer. Are you also a musician?”

KEILANI “I am actually. I DJ – I started learning the craft of the turntables about 4 years ago. Before the pandemic, I was DJing some of the Canucks’ games at Rogers Arena. One of my big brothers/mentors for a long time was J-Swing. He’s been the Canucks resident DJ for a long time. I felt like it was a good introduction into the DJ world, playing in the private lounges. It was a really cool way to get to know hockey too.”

My incredible guest, Keilani Rose, had a few words in parting.

“Our work for SHORESY took place on the traditional territory of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek Nation (colonially known as Sudbury). With deep gratitude and respect, I would like to acknowledge the stewardship this Nation has held for this land since time immemorial. I hope the story work that we created here can honor the relationships with this Land and Host Nation and contribute to ongoing healing and Reconciliation.  Aloha :)” – Keilani Rose.

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