If you haven’t caught Netflix’s original series Hemlock Grove, you’re missing out. This spooky, supernatural series is a twist on a classic werewolf / vampire thriller and we’re hooked. As if we needed another reason to watch, the show features an incredible rising star, Kaniehtiio Horn – a Mohawk actress from Kahnawake, Qc. We sat down with her to talk everything from showbiz to rez life and everything in between.
MM: Can you tell us about where you grew up?
Tiio: I grew up spending my school year in Kahnawake with my mother and sisters and the summer and holidays were spent with my father and sisters in Ottawa. Kahnawake has a small town feel and its only 15 minutes from downtown Montreal. As a kid I spent a lot of time outside with my cousins, buying penny candies and adventuring, hanging in the car while our moms talked politics. My dad brought me camping every summer in Algonquin Park, and we went to museums all the time, and live theatre and films. When I was 13 or 14 I started venturing into the city to see concerts with my misfit friends.
MM: What’s different about living on rez versus big cities like Toronto or LA? Do you find or seek out Aboriginal communities where ever you travel?
Tiio: All my life I have transitioned from city to rez, so I am really used to that but I have to admit the city really gets to me at times, its exhausting. Im a small town rez girl at heart, I need trees and I like to know who my neighbours are. I was sort of lucky in Toronto, the first reason I started going there a lot was to work with Big Soul Productions, a native owned and operated production company, they have become my family. Through them, events and a lot of my earlier film work I met a lot of onkwehonwe people in the business. LA is a different story, its kind of hard to meet anyone in that city if you don’t have an ‘in’, I don’t really know the cool onkwehonwe people there, I went there totally alone. Maybe after they read this they’ll reach out. Hahaha.
MM: It seems like you’re from a family of over-achieving women. Did your mom give you all magic water or something?
Tiio: Hahaha. You know I always hear stuff like that but all my mom did was encourage us to be the absolute best we can be, no matter what we decided to do with our lives, even if we chose to be a dishwasher. Playing water-polo, being on stage, whenever I looked into the audience or stands without fail I would always see my mother (and my dad when he could be there!). She is our number one fan. Im sure a lot of the odds she faced growing up a beautiful strong Mohawk woman back in the day played into raising us to not take shit from anyone.
MM: What influenced your pursuit of acting as a career? How did you start? What was your big break-through?
Tiio: I think i was always a bit of a performer, also being the youngest with 6 older sisters I got a lot of attention they would dress me up, hang with me and encourage my eccentricities, I was (and still am) the baby. I started doing plays when I was in grade 4 and in grade 5 i saw Jim Carrey in Ace Ventura and thats when it clicked that acting was a profession, he made people laugh for a living. Thats when i knew i wanted to act. I concentrated on sports for highschool and in Cegep I studied professional theatre for three years. I signed with an agent before graduating and started auditioning straight away. Im not sure what my breakthrough was…I did a crazy Jeff Barnaby short when I was 20, The Colony, and in 2008 I had great roles in 3 features that all premiered the next year at TIFF. I am getting a lot more attention on the American side now from roles I’ve done in Defiance, Supernatural and Hemlock Grove.
MM: Can you tell us about Hemlock Grove and your character? Why should we watch it?
Tiio: Hemlock Grove is insane. People with a sense of humour, patience and a penchant for gore love it. I somehow end up on these weird projects all the time but I totally enjoy it. Its a different take on the vampire/werewolf story with a hint of Twin Peaks and a dash of crazy. My character Destiny is a clairvoyant Romani gypsy who is the first cousin to the werewolf Peter played by Landon Liboiron.
MM: What’s the funniest / scariest thing that happened to you on set?
Tiio: Hmm. Well one time on Hemlock Grove I shot a whole scene with my glasses on and had no clue until the director yelled ‘cut’ and I was like ‘yeah i fumbled that line..’ he was like ‘dude your glasses?’. I thought that was funny… Scariest? It was pretty weird shooting the Oka crisis movie ‘Indian Summer’ and having guns pointed at me, and reinacting moments from a very traumatic time in my childhood, and trying my best to look stoic wearing those super 90s glasses on top of it. (if you have seen if you’ll know what I’m saying haha)
MM: A lot of people have been talking about there being a “renaissance in Aboriginal culture” – what do you think about that? What / who are the key influencers in this cultural movement?
Tiio: Well I mean it seems like its ‘cool’ to be native now. I guess thats awesome but I always thought we were cool. I was always proud of who I was and knew venturing out into the world means you are constantly educating ignorance and having to touch base with your roots. I grew up watching my sister Waneek make it her mission in life to be a positive influence on our people. I think she has succeeded but not without facing odds, as we all do. I know especially in sport she has had a great impact, and for mainstream music now A Tribe Called Red has been killing it obviously. There is definitely something happening, I felt it maybe 5 or 6 years ago, I knew I could count on my generation and the younger ones to start making waves because of people like my sisters facing odds and carving out paths.
MM: How did you hear about Manitobah Mukluks? Why do you wear them? What other Aboriginal brands / designers do you support?
Tiio: My sister Waneek! When she loves something she doesn’t shut up about it, so eventually everyone in the family started getting Mukluks from her. I thought they were super comfortable and I love the fact they have a Vibram sole and won’t be destroyed in slush. My man says I’m like the native version of ‘The Dude’, cause when I’m not working Im dressed as comfortable as possible and usually sporting some version of a manitobah mukluk. I like rocking beaded jewelry made by girls I know, or made by me. I wore Tammy Beauvais when I was nominated for a Gemini back in the day. I would love to get more familiar with native made haute couture. I would rock it all if I was given the chance.