Interview with DEVERY JACOBS | Honoring My Dreams
We often argue for our own limitations. Even when we know what we want, our own beliefs can be aligned with the opposite. Hard work and sacrifice are not always the means to live the life we consider is best, there has to be a thought process behind our actions. All of our desires come with tremendous value not only for us as individuals, but for the entire planet. What can be a bigger contribution than honoring your dreams and fulfilling your calling?
Mohawk writer, actor and producer Devery Jacobs uses her diverse artistic expressions to bring to reality her desire to tell true stories about her First Nations community. She follows her heart in finding new ways to manifest her creativity with what she believes is her purpose.
“I believe that we can determine our outcomes, depending on how much we value our dreams and happiness,” affirms Jacobs.
And indeed, she does. One of Devery’s characters is Sam Black Crow, a queer Indigenous woman like herself, on Starz’s series American Gods, based on the Neil Gaiman’s novel with the same title.
In this interview, you will tap into Devery’s inner world and its effect on her outer reality.
- Please introduce yourself briefly. Who, in your own words, is Devery Jacobs?
Kawennahere Devery Jacobs is a Mohawk, queer writer, director, producer and actor born and raised on the Mohawk reservation, Kahnawa:ke.
- What was your path to feel your way through making the decision to become an actor and manifesting it as your physical reality?
I always loved acting, but never thought it was a possibility for a career path. Instead of going to theatre school like everyone expected of me, I asked myself, “if I can’t act, what would you want to do with your life?” – and the answer was to help Indigenous people. I studied to become a counselor and worked at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal when I was cast in my first leading role, in the feature called Rhymes for Young Ghouls. It was upon shooting that project that I knew I couldn’t do anything else with my life and I shifted my focus toward my passion for the film industry.
It was a difficult uphill battle – I lost out on many roles and wondered if I would ever be cast in something – but it was when I took the control into my own hands, by creating my debut short film as a writer/director, that I began to achieve success in front and behind the camera.
- Does your creative pursuit in any way contribute to your personal growth? If so, how?
My personal growth is intrinsically entwined with my creativity – it is how I practice self-reflection and expression, and has more recently, taught me to set healthy boundaries in my work and in my life. Protection of your spirit is key.
- As part of the industry, how does it feel to represent the LGTB and First Nations community in film and TV?
Representing my communities is an incredible honor but also comes with immense responsibility and pressure to properly tell our stories. There has been nearly nothing but misrepresentation since the beginning of the film, with white, cishet creatives portraying the idea of marginalized peoples’ experience, having them be the supporting character to white protagonists or oftentimes completely erasing BIPOC, LGBTQ+ narratives.
- The entertainment industry is continuously expanding becoming more inclusive and diverse in its content and talents. Why do you think this is happening and how do you envision its future?
It’s hugely important for us to be regaining control of our own voices and to properly demonstrate our rich cultures, histories and experiences. I envision the future to be filled with so many colorful stories that feature diverse storytellers working in every department in media.
- Sam Black Crow is the character you are portraying on Starz’s series American Gods. Your character is strong-willed and intelligent. What is it like stepping into this role and how do you connect with her?
I completely connected with Sam Black Crow when reading Neil Gaiman’s novel, being a sarcastic, queer Indigenous young woman myself. Stepping into this role and providing my own take and interpretation of Sam has been surreal. I’m so appreciative of the fans on Twitter who pushed for me to play this character, and thought I should play Sam as much as I did. I wanted to do her character from the novel justice, as well as properly represent the two-spirit and Indigenous community. She’s curious, she’s cynical, playful, sarcastic, and playing her requires you to be open moment-to-moment.
- American Gods is an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel with the same name which you were a fan of before even being cast. At the moment you read the book for the first time, what kind of connection did you feel?
When first reading American Gods, I was enthralled with the mythology Gaiman combined and created, but it was when reading Sam that everything in my body knew I was meant to play her.
- Due to a filming conflict, you almost lost the role of Sam. However, you wrote a letter to American Gods production that convinced them you are the perfect actor as Sam. Do you remember your state of being while writing the words? What were your expectations of the answer?
When writing the letter to American Gods, I knew I had to do something, I couldn’t just let the role go – especially after knowing that I was their first choice. I wrote it as my swan song, letting them know how much I connected with Sam, but had hoped deep down that it would help in changing their mind to configure their schedule around me. Learning that the entire production and Neil Gaiman himself read it and that they all agreed I was Sam Black Crow was one of the highlights of my career.
- Lilith is the character your play on Netflix’s supernatural drama The Order. Who is she within the context of the story and how was the process of becoming her?
Lilith Bathory is a werewolf in the sacred brotherhood gender-neutral collective, The Knights of St. Cristopher, who are a sworn opponent of The Order. Lilith will always tell you exactly what’s on her mind. Lilith hates witches and magic, and when Jack becomes a werewolf apart of The Knights, she’s not too happy about it. But as the season progresses, Lilith gets into some rowdy brawls, kicks ass at beer bong and learns more about her complicated past with The Order.
- Not only have you acted, but you have also written, directed, and produced. Did moving between different roles behind and in front of the camera made your professional skills to expand? If so, in which ways?
Working as an actor has only benefitted me as a writer, director and producer, and working behind the camera has helped me immensely in my acting work. It’s helped me to have a better understanding of the story and a better understanding of each of the components that go into creating a project. I’ve also developed a deeper respect for every department.
- What other exciting projects you are you currently working on?
I’ve co-written the feature film, This Place, which I will also be starring in, that goes to the camera this July. It follows Malai, who is coping with her Tamil refugee father on his deathbed, and her romantic relationship with Kawenniiohstha, a half-Mohawk poet who has left her reservation in search of her estranged, Iranian father. It deals with how the past affects our present, in a story that could only ever happen in the city of Toronto.
I also acted opposite Joey King and Peter Sarsgaard in the new Blumhouse Productions’ crime-thriller, The Lie, directed by the creator of The Killing, Veena Sud.
- How do you embrace your life process of becoming while allowing others to be who they are?
I focus on myself – I know that I require time to myself, staying connected to my community by practicing my culture, keeping close with my family and learning my language, and to continually grow through my art. If I fulfill what I need to achieve, then it gives others space to be who they are.
- Art is your channel of self-expression that focuses on your activism ideas in creating a change of the perspective about how Indigenous people are seen. What is the perspective you have about yourself and where you come from?
I think that there are so many different experiences of Indigenous people depending on your specific culture (there are over 600 tribes/nations across North America), whether or not you were raised on a reservation or in the city, geographically where your people are from, if you know your language/culture, etc.
I come from Kahnawa:ke and was raised Kanien’keha:ka. Mohawks are notoriously hot-headed (although I’m probably the most chill Mohawk you’ll ever meet) and have strong convictions in defending our territory.
- Are you involved in any other charity organization or humanitarian cause you would like to mention?
Growing up Mohawk, my existence is inherently political. When I was younger, I used to be more active on the frontlines of Indigenous-lead protests, but as time has progressed, I am learning that there are more ways than one to be politically involved. My current focus lies more in telling stories that reflect my community and the issues Indigenous people face through art, and supporting Indigenous communities in their fight to protect land and water, like the Wet’suwet’en People or the Sipekne’katik District Mi’kmaq Nation.
- When you hear: “You can be, do and have anything you want,” words from the Abraham-Hicks teachings, what is your take on such a statement?
I believe that we can determine our outcomes, depending on how much we value our dreams and happiness. I’ve reached heights greater than I ever thought I could by following my heart and what brings me joy.