A Star of ‘Reservation Dogs’ Breaks Barriers

Name: Paulina Alexis

Age: 21

Hometown: Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Reserve, Alberta, Canada

Currently Lives: A one-bedroom apartment in Edmonton, while her family home on the reservation is being renovated.

Claim to Fame: Ms. Alexis is an Indigenous Canadian actress whose portrayal of Willie Jack on the FX dark comedy “Reservation Dogs” has garnered praise, including from Hollywood power players like Barry Jenkins. Created by Taika Waititi and Sterlin Harjo, “Reservation Dogs” is the first television series to boast an all-Indigenous writers’ room and roster of directors. “I always wanted to be an actor, but I felt embarrassed to tell anyone my dream,” Ms. Alexis said. “There was no representation on TV. I didn’t think I would make it.”

Big Break: Ms. Alexis comes from a family of filmmakers and followed her older brother, Nathan Alexis, into professional acting when she was 13. “Those open casting calls they have for Disney — I would always go to them, but I never got a callback.” On the day of her high school graduation, she got an email from her agent. “I was like, ‘What is this?’ and then ‘Oh my god, it’s for “Ghostbusters.” Mom, I got “Ghostbusters”!’ I was flipping out,” she said. “My whole family started jumping up and down and going crazy.”

Latest Project: For “Reservation Dogs,” Ms. Alexis originally auditioned for the part of Elora Danan, the female lead. But Mr. Harjo asked her to also read for a different part, one originally written for a boy. “He wanted me to read for Willie Jack. He thought I’d be funny for it,” she said. The character is a tough kid with a funny bone and a heart of gold. “Everyone knows a Willie Jack, you’ll find her on every rez.”

Next Thing: In addition to season two of “Reservation Dogs,” she will be shooting “Bones of Crows,” a CBC mini-series about Canada’s residential school system by the Indigenous filmmaker Marie Clements. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” in which Ms. Alexis appears alongside Bill Murray, Paul Rudd and Finn Wolfhard, is slated to be released next month.

Ice Moves: Ms. Alexis plays many sports, but her heart belongs to hockey. “Growing up on the rez, I’ve played hockey since I was four,” Ms. Alexis said. “My dad picked up a net on the side of the road — we really didn’t have much back then. I was the worst when I started, but I would work on my skills every single day.” She was often the only girl player, but the boys welcomed her. She plays left wing and just finished tryouts for Alberta’s Junior Hockey League.



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