As he closes in on his 59th birthday this summer, Ojibway writer and humourist Drew Hayden Taylor is riding high.
He recently spent time in Manitoba hashing out the pre-production logistics for Season 2 of his new TV series Going Native.
With Season 1 of Going Native premiering this week on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Taylor is elated that he and his production team have been given the green light to move on to Season 2 well before Season 1 has even aired.
“The in-house people at APTN watched the 13 episodes we had produced for the first season and were so delighted with what we did,” said Taylor. “They thought it was amazing and really liked what they saw so much that they gave us the go-ahead for Season 2 without the first season even having been broadcast to the public.”
Going Native has the celebrated Anishinaabe author in the role of host and presenter. Taylor travels across North America to tell the stories of Indigenous peoples that have changed the world and those individuals actively re-defining their cultures in the 21st century.
Though discouraged by some teachers and family members from pursuing a career in writing, a chance opportunity to write for the iconic Canadian televisions series The Beachcombers launched Taylor on a career trajectory that has taken him down many roads.
Over his career Taylor has worked as a columnist and has written numerous fiction and non-fiction books, plays, and has scripted episodes of television shows, including North Of 60 and Street Legal.
Over the course of his career Taylor has worn many hats, and his relationship with APTN dates back to 2007 when he worked as co-creator of the series Mixed Blessings.
With Going Native, Taylor has again partnered up with Paul Kemp following their work on the CBC documentaries Searching for Winnetou and Cottagers & Indians. Together with Kurt Spenrath, Taylor and Kemp have written Going Native. Karney, Kemp, Wiens and Spenrath direct. Going Native is produced by Karney, Wiens, and Spenrath, and executive produced by Kemp and Taylor.
"I have always felt this kind of series was sorely needed in the Indigenous community,” said Taylor.
“If you look at a lot of the literature and media about our communities, the focus always seems to be on the negative. Or perhaps more accurately the dark, depressing, sad, bleak, and angry perspective of Indigenous life.”
Highly informative and entertaining, each episode of Going Native finds Taylor exploring a variety of areas where Indigenous people are making impressive contributions.
With Taylor as your guide Going Native investigates a broad selection of topics, including cuisine, music, architecture, filmmaking, fashion, art, business, and cowboy culture, with both humour and a genuine interest in the people he connects with.
“I have been very fortunate to travel to over a 150 First Nation communities across Canada, and everywhere I’ve gone I have been greeted with a laugh and a smile and a joke.
“I felt a lot of that wasn’t appearing in our literature, and I thought it was very important to highlight that,” explained Taylor. “In my opinion, it’s the benefits of humor that has allowed us to survive many of the darker aspects of our history.”
In the series Taylor can be found sampling the harvest at Native-owned wineries, learning Indigenous survival skills in the Canadian Rockies, and interviewing artists and musicians actively taking their culture in new directions.
The life of a writer can be one of extreme isolation so taking on the role as presenter in front of the camera was a bit of an adjustment for Taylor, and it’s his lighthearted, inquisitive and easy-going nature that really works to welcome the viewer into the various worlds that Going Native sets out to explore.
“I'm a writer by nature and I feel more comfortable writing. But in this particular situation, I really enjoy being on camera because I get to interview people. I get to sort of stand there and peel back the onion of the story. It gives me the opportunity to be nosy,” said Taylor.
“You're not in command of the story. The story is in command of you,” he explains.
“You write according to what you find. You talk with people and you find what’s most important, what's happening and you try and find the threads that combine them all together and you let the people tell their story. You're just there to frame it, but it's not your story. It's their story.”
Spread out over 13 half-hour episodes, you can catch Drew Hayden Taylor in action when Season 1 of Going Native premieres on APTN this Saturday, May 8.