Ajuawak Kapashesit has done a lot of different jobs throughout his life, but right now, his focus is working as a writer, actor, and director.
Kapashesit was born in Moose Factory, Ontario, a community that takes multiple avenues of transportation to get to. He also spent a lot of time in White Earth Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota because he has dual citizenship between the United States and Canada.
He was motivated to become an actor when he was working for a non-profit and it wasn’t fulfilling him in the way he wanted. He decided to move to White Earth to be closer to family and to “reset.”
From there, he was trying to figure out what he wanted to do next and knew he wanted to do something that resonated with him. So he started looking around for options and started picking up odd jobs here and there to explore.
“I was watching I think a movie one night and this kind of clicked in my head that everybody on that movie they were all just people working. It was a job,” said Kapashesit.
“They get to ride on horses or drive cars or do whatever it is they want to do. Because some days this actor is a doctor, the next day he’s a gangster. He gets to be all these different things.”
From there, he started looking into what his options were and living in Minnesota at the time, the film industry wasn’t as big as the major cities. But the community theatre was big and he decided to take that route.
He started doing small productions such as student films or short films, and realized he wanted to see more characters that reflected the “world he came from” and people who looked like him. So he started writing around the same time.
“A lot of people weren’t writing for me, a lot of them didn’t come from my experience so they didn’t really have that view,” said Kapashesit.
From his writings, Kapashesit ended up writing a play, which was put up, and he performed in.
Since then, he’s gone on to appear in movies like Indian Horse and Incredible 25th year of Mitzi Bearclaw, along with TV shows like Outlander and Bad Blood. He most recently worked on a TV show called Power Voice as a story editor.
Kapashesit’s education for acting is different than what many might think. For him, he learned a lot about performance from the storytellers in his community, and for acting in front of a camera it was just “doing it.”
“I just was thrown in front of the camera. I had no idea what I was doing…one of the things that I’ve found and I’ve experienced is that you’re going to learn so much more by doing it than by sitting in a classroom talking about it,” said Kapashesit.
But just going out and doing it doesn’t mean there’s no point in studying. Kapashesit thinks there’s still a lot to be gained by being in a classroom and “workshopping the work.”
He didn’t take his first acting class until he was already acting, but took a course in Minnesota at Macalester College to develop new tools for his work.
Most recently, Kapashesit was at the CBC Actor’s Conservatory with the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto, where he got a lot of training and got to explore a lot of different approaches in acting with trainers.
But still, he says a lot of the work is just going for it and doing it.
“It’s okay if you don’t do it great in the first time or you don’t do it great 100th time. It’s about exploring and experimentation. You have to give yourself the opportunity to fail. You have to be okay with failing, because that’s a great way to learn about what works and what doesn’t work,” said Kapashesit.
Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.