Rebecca McGregor of Wahnapitae First Nation, at the Hard Rock Medical season three launch party with her mother Sandra McGregor at the Capitol Centre in North Bay.

By Kelly Anne Smith

NORTH BAY—A call for celebration was answered with the Capitol Centre full of stars from the successful television series Hard Rock Medical during the season three launch party.

Hard Rock Medical is loosely based on the Northern Ontario Medical School. The production offered awesome opportunities in the film industry for 43 local actors with locations in North Bay and Nipissing First Nation.

The Executive Producer/Director wanted the launch party of the new season to showcase local Indigenous performers.

Derek Diorio of Distinct Features is thankful for the collaboration with Aanmitaagzi.

“Penny, Sid Bobb, and Carol Guppy were our Aboriginal consultants this season,” stated Diorio. “We first went to Nipissing First Nation and worked with Genevieve Couchie. She took us to Big Medicine Studio. I got to meet Penny and see what they were doing there. And we basically constructed quite a few of our story lines around activities that are being done at Big Medicine Studio. I thought it would be awesome for the people of North Bay to see what they do.”

Launch night had musical performances featuring Aanmitaagzi Indigenous artists including Darren Nakogee and Blair Beaucage. Many Aanmitaagzi company members also acted in season three as did Nipissing First Nation community members and North Bay Indigenous actors.

Penny Couchie acted as Bea in two episodes. Aanmitaagzi’s other co-director Sid Bobb said Penny helped direct some of the scenes that had to do with the ceremonies.

“We did the script consultation and they shot here at the studio,” recalled Couchie. “We provided sight support and also cultural consultation for the script and wrote some of the script.”

Bobb participated on stage during the launch party.

“We celebrate a production with Aboriginal artists so they have recurring significant roles for them,” stated Bobb.

Bobb said Distinct Features engaged meaningfully with content from this area.

“Derek came to the table and said we have a placeholder for the storyline but we want to open the door to see what would work from this area and what would resonate within the scenes and that season,” stated Bobb. “When we pitched the full moon cloth ceremony as the context for that story they were receptive.”

During the event, Bobb was reminded of the cultural gap between the Indigenous and the non-Indigenous community and that education needs to take place.

“I heard someone saying, “Oh, nice costumes!” recalled Bobb. Regalia is the appropriate term.

23 year-old actress Rebecca McGregor from Wahnapitae First Nation was with her mother Sandra McGregor at season three’s launch. Rebecca thoroughly enjoyed playing Rayna in three episodes. She was positively influenced by Australian Indigenous actor Marc Coles Smith being in the film as a main actor.

“It was very inspiring to see him,” stated McGregor. “So it made me really comfortable to be myself.”

Cecile Hookimaw from Attawapiskat, Nipissing First Nation’s Tasheena and Thaila Sarazin, and Josh Bainbridge of North Bay, acted in The Dark Side of the Moon.

Capturing images of the night’s event for Aanmitaagzi, cinematographer/still photographer Lindsay Sarazin praised Hard Rock Medical for being filmed in North Bay.

“It has been a wonderful opportunity,” noted Sarazin. “It is not often you get to work in your industry out of college at home.”

Growing up in North Bay and a member of Golden Lake First Nation, Sarazin worked on the show as a camera assistant and stills photographer. He also acted in the first episode of season one.

Sarazin has hope that Indigenous youth will follow in his tracks into the industry.

“I hope they get inspired,” stated Sarazin. “Hard Rock has a lot of First Nation content. Seeing First Nation content in the mainstream media is important.”

Carol Guppy was very impressed with the finished product of Hard Rock Medical.

“I was involved in the consultations in regards to ceremony,” stated Guppy. “I have to be honest that during the process I was skeptical. Every indication from their end was that they wanted it to be accurate on what the ceremonies involved and I think that they achieved that.”

Guppy was dubious about filming the sacredness of ceremonies which she says are very private and personal.

“I would object to televising or recording an actual, real ceremony for numerous reasons,” stated Guppy. “However, it was debated that our participation in the process was to avoid misrepresentation.”

Carol Guppy encourages youth to tell their stories.

“It is important that we tell our stories, Aboriginal stories—current and old.”

Hard Rock Medical season three is now showing on TVO and APTN.