The Breakouts are presented in partnership with Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
Jillian Dion was at work at the now-defunct Callister Brewing on Franklin Street when she got the call from her agent that would change everything.
“I was a little scared to answer it. Things had not been going my way,” she recalls. “I was heartbroken at this point.”
But she went outside to answer the call. Her agent chatted nonchalantly before delivering the news: she got the part.
The part was a supporting role in Martin Scorcese’s Killers of the Flower Moon alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro, and based on the true series of murders of Osage Nation members back in the 1920s.
Dion—who’s of Plains Cree, Metis, and French Canadian descent, and was raised in a Dene/Metis household—would play Minnie, one of four Osage sisters that the movie’s centred on. A film with this pedigree was destined to be massive, and since its release it’s been nominated for a heap of prestigious awards, including Best Picture at the Oscars.
“It was an eye-opener just to see how these professionals work and how uber-talented they are,” Dion says about the process of making the film. “It was very well done on Marty’s part for cultural sensitivity and accurate storytelling. That was really important to me.”
The film catapulted her from a relatively obscure and workaday life in Vancouver to the realm of Hollywood megacelebrity. When we talk, it’s been only a few days since she returned home from attending the Golden Globes with her Flower Moon castmates.
“It’s still very strange to me having photographers call my name when I’m on these red carpets now,” Dion says. “It’s so bizarre.”
The film was released at a time when Indigenous voices have taken a central role in various TV and film projects. In shows like Reservation Dogs and the latest season of True Detective, these characters’ dynamic experiences are central to the plot and help drive core themes. Dion says she thinks Hollywood is likely to explore this perspective more in the coming years instead of relying on the same old narratives and tropes.
“People are,” she says, “hungry for that now.”