How ‘Reservation Dogs’ Star Devery Jacobs Got Her Unlikely Start in Hollywood

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Devery Jacobs is an actor we can’t wait to see more of. Already an award-winning performer and creator in her native Canada (she was born and raised in Kahnawake Mohawk Territory outside of Montreal), she delivered one of the year’s breakout performances on FX on Hulu’s “Reservation Dogs” from creators Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi. The newly minted Gotham Award nominee is now in the writers’ room for Season 2, and she deservedly ranks among our 2021 Emerging Talent list.

The six months since wrapping Season 1 have been a whirlwind.
“The whole season’s come out since then. We’ve gotten to present at the Emmys and represent our communities back home. Now, we’ve started on Season 2. So it feels really exciting and really great and also a little bit like whiplash, just because it’s all happening so fast.”

Jacobs independently wrote and directed three short films between 2016 and 2018; they helped get her into the “Reservation Dogs” writers’ room. 
“The Native film industry is so tiny. So many people who have been a part of ‘Reservation Dogs’ [and] beyond have been kicking this door down and getting Indigenous stories seen and heard. One of the people doing that was Sterlin Harjo, who I knew from the independent film circuit. Luckily, he knew me as a filmmaker even before we started working together…. I was expecting to launch into a whole pitch of: ‘Maybe I can be in the writers’ room!’ And he’s just like, ‘Yeah, dude, come in!’ ”

Representing marginalized communities onscreen means being able to identify productive stories (as opposed to destructive ones).
“Above all else, I look for stories that excite me as an audience member or ones that I’d be curious to see. But there are certain things that I’ll veer away from, whether it’s Indigenous women venturing into the Pocahontas stereotype, or [it’s] queer folx with queerbaiting or the “bury your gays” trope. While I try and venture away from those stereotypes and traps that writers in the industry fall into, it also depends on who the creators are and if it’s taking a different look. If it’s coming from queer and Indigenous voices at the helm, that is also a component of what I look for in the work that I’m choosing to do.” 

Jacobs studied to be a social worker when she was a struggling actor. Now, she marries those concerns and passions. 
“I was working at the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal for a brief period of time. It was around that time that I had nearly given up on acting. I had been cast in a few roles here and there, but it was nothing significant. But it was then that I auditioned for ‘Rhymes for Young Ghouls’.… Now, it’s my hope that through acting and writing and creating, I can not only help bring our stories to the screen, but I can also help Indigenous people and all of our rights [by spotlighting] issues and everything that concerns us through this medium.”

This story originally appeared in the Nov. 18 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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Benjamin Lindsay
Benjamin Lindsay is managing editor at Backstage, where if you’re reading it in our magazine, he’s written or edited it first. He’s also producer and host of a number of our digital interview series, including our inaugural on-camera segment, Backstage Live.
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