North of 60 Interview: Tina Louise Bomberry

"North of 60" is blessed with strong, fascinating female characters. One of them
is Rosie Deela. Smart, feisty, compassionate, Rosie goes through many struggles
during the course of the show, but always triumphs. The woman behind Rosie
Deela, Tina Louise Bomberry, also has clear goals that she has accomplished
both on and off the screen.

"North of 60" publicist Fran Humphreys was also with us during this interview.

Rosie Deela as a role model

PW: So, Rosie Deela. She's a great character. Everybody loves Rosie. She really took control of her life and made a lot of changes. She even ended up co-owning the coffee shop. There was that storyline at the end of the series where she was going to buy Gerry out, but then Gerry never left. So I assume they still co-own it?

TLB: Yeah.

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PW: She was also chief for a while, but I guess in this movie, Teevee is back to being chief?

TLB: Well, yeah, he was out of town at a time of crisis, and I had to step in for a short period.

PW: But that certainly wasn't the first time we've seen Rosie take charge of a situation.

TLB: Rosie has been one of the...I see her as like matrilineal strong women characters. And for me, I had hoped to be somewhat of a role model for large Indian women, because I had never seen that on television. So my large women role models were Oprah Winfrey and people like Aretha Franklin, black large women. So I was hoping to be the first large Indian woman. Kudos to my friend on "Northern Exposure," she was also an inspiration for me. She was the first.

PW: Elaine Miles?

TLB: Elaine, yeah.

PW: Do you know her?

TLB: Yes, I have met her. She does the powwow circuit. I'm just moving towards the powwow circuit.

PW: Have you actually heard from some fans that they've gotten inspiration from Rosie?

TLB: Oh yeah, I have.

PW: What kinds of letters have you gotten?

TLB: It's funny because the most interesting letter that I received was from a group in Detroit that watched the show. There's about 30 people that get together faithfully and watch the show together. That was really something that we have such a following!

FH: That's wild, eh?

TLB: I'm very thankful that we've been here for ten years. You know, when we started, I had guaranteed ten days' work, and we just went from season to season. And when we came into this movie, it was like, "Aieee!" It was so good to be together! Who would have thought that we would have been still here, and it's ten years later?

PW: Everybody keeps saying that! Everyone here is surprised at the longevity of the show.

TLB: Yeah, I guess it's really been quite a movement.

On and off the set

PW: What have you been doing between "North of 60" movies?

TLB: I've been really busy having a life.

PW: What a concept! [all laugh]

TLB: As soon as we finished the show, I had two more children, and I have three altogether now.

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PW: How old are they?

TLB: Ten, four, and three. And I went to college and I received my native community care counseling and development diploma. So I have that. I work a little bit doing social work in the community.

I just really wanted to experience my own family, have my own family life. Because I had a family on the show for many years and I had a life that was full of travel and a lot of good experiences doing theater, travelling across Canada, doing different characters for theater. And it was time for me to settle down, have some more children before I got to be forty. I'm still in the thirties! So I just really wanted to do that. And I built a house.

Now I'm in hairstyling and aesthetics, and I want to take makeup and do special effects. There's just so much to learn. I never want to stop learning. So between family life and learning and working whenever I can, getting the odd gig here and there, that's great.

PW: You really do sound like Rosie! She never stopped learning. She always wanted to improve not only her own condition, but life for her kids.

TLB: Yeah.

PW: Where do you call home?

TLB: Six Nations, Ontario. I'm Mohawk from Six Nations.

PW: So you have to travel quite a way to come out for these movies. But when the series was running, you must have lived out here, right?

TLB: For the first couple of years I flew back and forth. And then, yeah, I stayed here for the rest of the period. We'd work six months and we'd have six months off. So I'd work six months and then either I'd go home for six months or I'd go to Vancouver for six months.

PW: To work in Vancouver?

TLB: Yeah, I thought I'd try it out there and see what the scripts are like and everything.

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PW: And you've also done theater?

TLB: I started out doing theater, and then one thing led to another and then I eventually did a little television.

PW: But recently, you haven't done any theater or screen work besides these movies?

TLB: Nope. The last time I had done television was I think the first movie after we finished the series. And at that time, my daughter was six months, my oldest was 10, and I was six months pregnant with my son that I have now. So, yeah, it's harder for the women because a lot of us had babies when we were filming, right? I say harder meaning that we grew...

PW: They had to hide the fact that you were pregnant?

TLB: Yeah. Actually, I just wore bigger clothes. We didn't write it into the script. A lot of us have had babies during that period when we were filming. But the men could get away with it! They were having babies, too, but it wasn't showing!

PW: Tina Keeper and Tracey Cook also had children while the series was running.

FH: Willene was another one, eh? They wrote that one in.

TLB: Willene, Lori Okemaw...And the men were having babies, too at the same time, but it was okay for them. They could get away without growing! [all laughs]

PW: So when this movie finishes filming, you'll be going home to take care of your family?

TLB: Yeah.

Roles for native actors

PW: Other than "North of 60," do you see yourself trying to get any more film or TV jobs?

TLB: Well, what's happening right now, I'm based out of Toronto, so I find there's a lot of American productions coming up. But there's really small roles. All the Canadian actors are going out for one- and two-liners. For me, it's, I don't know, I want to see more of a movement, and it's happening. You know it's happening and you've just gotta be ready for it, you know? Like, there's a lot of people that have done the show, started out here, and they're doing big projects in the States. The men, the young men especially.

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PW: Like Adam Beach and Nathaniel Arcand?

TLB: Yeah, and I'm so proud of them. It's so good to see that happen. I feel like I'm just a part of the movement. Like I look at the black people's movement in television, and where they started, and the roles that they had. And I look at the Native American roles that were out there. In the beginning, they were played by Italians. And now, like Nathaniel Arcand, he's going to be playing Tonto. The original Tonto was from Six Nations, Ontario--Jay Silverheels. So he was a role model. And Gary Farmer's from Six Nations. Graham Greene's from Six Nations. So I had male role models from my reserve. But while I was a child growing up, I had black [female] role models, Aretha Franklin mainly.

PW: So you feel that "North of 60" played a crucial role in opening up more roles for native actors?

TLB: Oh, definitely.

[At this point, someone came into the green room to take Tina Louise back to the set.]

PW: Tina, would you like to say a little something to the fans?

TLB: Sure. Sekoh, tansi, boozhoo. Keep watching, keep smiling, keep crying, and keep sharing. Nyawen.

[ Click here to hear that greeting. ]

PW: Okay, I give up! What language was that?

TLB: "Sekoh" was where I'm from, Six Nations. That's what everybody says back home.

PW: And it means?

TLB: Hello. And "tansi" is Cree, and "boozhoo" is Soto, Ojibwe, for hello. I have lot of friends in many nations.

PW: Well, thank you for your time.

TLB: Nice meeting you.

PW: Thank you, Tina.

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Text and photos (c) 2002 Patricia F. Winter.

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