This year’s recipient of The August Schellenberg Award of Excellence is Cree actor Lorne Cardinal.
The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival presents the annual award to an actor whose work celebrates the spirit and commitment that Schellenberg showed over the course of his career.
With more than 100 film, television, and stage credits on his resume, Cardinal has played everything from historical figures like Tecumseh’s brother Loud Noise, to the good-natured Sergeant Davis on Corner Gas.
Cardinal said the award’s namesake, Schellenberg, “left an indelible mark in my life,” and he “was lucky to call him a friend and a mentor.”
The two had the opportunity to work together a number of times over the years on projects like Lonesome Dove, Crazy Horse, and a stage version of King Lear.
Actors bonded over their love of Shakespeare
In the mid ’90s, the two were working together when they began discussing their mutual love of Shakespeare. Over breakfast one day, Schellenberg said to Cardinal, “I’m thinking of doing the King Lear.”
It would take almost 20 years, but eventually the dream of an all-Indigenous production of King Lear would be realized. In 2012, then artistic director of the National Arts Centre Peter Hinton cast Schellenberg in the title role.
“It would be the first time that an all-Indigenous cast would take on a Shakespeare play on a large main stage theatre in Canada,” said Cardinal.
Classically trained actor
Cardinal, who came to acting relatively late in life, credits his classical training for much of his success, even going as far as to turn down a role on CBC’s series North of 60 to pursue his training. He attended the University of Alberta and received his BFA in acting, becoming the first Indigenous student to graduate from the program in 1993.
After graduating, Cardinal would go on to play the recurring role of Daniel Deela on North of 60.
“I invested my three years in to learn some basic classical theatre training, which paid itself off numerous times,” said Cardinal.
Cardinal’s career path — in many ways — mirrors that of August Schellenberg. For Cardinal, there’s one bit of advice he received from Schellenberg that he continues to uphold.
“Augie said … just be respectful of everyone you work with and you’ll always be able to get work,” he explained.
The August Schellenberg Award of Excellence is supported by Schellenberg’s wife Joan Karasevich Schellenberg, ACTRA National and ACTRA Fraternal Benefit Society. It will be presented at the ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival on Sunday October 25 at an online ceremony.