Casting Process

“The process of finding and training young actors for THE GRIZZLIES was one of the most challenging, moving and exciting experiences of my life,” said director Miranda de Pencier.

We auditioned more than 600 youth in over 25 communities all over Nunavut and the North West Territories. Over 60 Inuit youth were then invited to attend our Arctic Youth Performing Arts Workshops in Iqaluit for training in acting and Inuit performing arts. It was important to the producers to give an experience at the workshop that would include training which could be carried forward even for the kids who didn’t end up getting cast in the film. So in addition to our professional acting classes with the brilliant teacher and coach Melee Hutton, we taught the kids to make their own films and shoot on cameras, and we brought in the best performing arts teachers in the north to teach traditional Inuit performing arts - including Johnny Issaluk (Drum Dancing), Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory (Inuit Mask Work), and Sylvia Cloutier (Throat Singing). Finding and training our indigenous youth actors – most of whom have never been on screen before – brings a level of authenticity and sensitivity to the screen. Suicide and the issues that touch the characters are the same issues that affect many of our young cast – so no one understands how to portray the truths of the north better.

Emerald MacDonald

Character: Miranda

Bio: Emerald MacDonald is a first-time actor. She has traveled across Canada with Qaggiavuut! teaching performing arts to youth. She just finished touring with I Love First Peoples to bring THE GRIZZLIES to remote Indigenous communities across Canada. She is also an Inuvialuit drum dancer and throat singer.

Ben Schnetzer

Character: Russ

Bio: Ben just wrapped production on David Raboy’s The Giant. Recent film credits include Jose Padilha’s 7 Days in Entebbe, Andrew Neel’s Goat, Oliver Stone’s Snowden, Lone Scherfig’s The Riot Club, Brian Percival’s The Book Thief, and Matthew Warchus’ Pride, which received a Golden Globe Nomination for Best Picture, Musical or Comedy in 2015, Xavier Dolan’s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, and the Sky Witness miniseries, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair. Ben was recently on Broadway in Dan Sullivan’s production of The Nap at MTC.

Paul Nutarariaq

Character: Zach

Bio: Miranda de Pencier discovered Paul in a student centre playing ping pong. His passion was evident then. She cast him in his first role in her short film Throat Song. Paul has gone on to act in IQALUIT, Aviliaq: Entwined, and was featured in CBC’s Little Dog. Paul was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for his work in THE GRIZZLIES.

Ricky Marty-Pahtaykan

Character: Adam

Bio: First-time actor. He’s First Nations (Plains Cree and Nakota Stoney Canadian descent) and lives on Frog Lake Nation Reserve in Alberta. His brother Tristen was the lead in Indian Horse.

Booboo Stewart

Character: Kyle

Bio: Booboo Stewart was thrust into the spotlight with his winning the coveted role of Seth Clearwater in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010) and reprising the role in both The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 (2011) and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (2012). At age 10 Booboo began his career as a model, participating in numerous campaigns. He received a record deal at the age of 12 with Walt Disney records-touring with acts such as The Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and The Cheetah Girls. Booboo first worked on camera as a stunt person in films like Beowulf (2007) and then was captured by the acting bug after watching Heath Ledger's performance as the 'Joker'. Booboo strives to play interesting roles and he can be seen in Spiderman (TV series), Westworld, White Frog, The Last Survivors, Space Warriors, Christmas in Balsam Falls and Descendents 1, 2 and 3. Booboo is an accomplished martial artist - winning two World Championships and being inducted into the Jr Blackbelt Hall of Fame. Booboo is an American actor of Scottish, French, Native American (Blackfoot - undocumented), Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent.

Will Sasso

Character: Mike

Bio: Will Sasso recently reunited with Director Peter Farrelly in the role of “Ben," opposite Ron Livingston on the series Loudermilk from AT&T’s flagship Audience Network. He first worked with the Farrelly Brothers as “Curly” on the 20th Century Fox feature, The Three Stooges, alongside Sean Hayes as “Larry” and Chris Diamantopoulos as “Moe."

Sasso just wrapped Boss Level opposite Mel Gibson, Noami Watts, and Frank Grillo and is now filming Inside Game. He will soon be seen in the much anticipated Jake Scott thriller The Burning Woman joining Christina Hendricks, Aaron Paul, Sienna Miller and Jacki Weaver. He also plays "Mountie Ray Archambault" in Super Troopers 2.

He starred in Amazon's pot comedy, Budding Prospects, as well as recurred on Comedy Central’s Another Period, ABC’s Kevin Probably Saves the World, with further recent credits, include the films, Hit By Lightning, opposite Jon Cryer and Army of One, starring Nicolas Cage and directed by Larry Charles, appeared opposite Larry David in the new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, as well as Showtimes’s hit series, Shameless and ABC’s Modern Family, and NBC’s Great News.

Sasso’s affinity for comedy was inspired from a young age by such iconic television shows
as SCTV, Saturday Night Live, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, along with a heavy dose of the Kids in the Hall through his adolescent years. Growing up in Ladner BC, a suburb of Vancouver, he booked roles in television and film as a teenager, making his small screen debut on the CTV series Neon Rider. While still in his teens, Sasso starred as the quirky "Derek Wakaluk" on the award-winning Canadian dramatic series, Madison, and soon landed big-screen roles in Happy Gilmore and Beverly Hills Ninja, starring Chris Farley.

Eventually, Sasso moved to Los Angeles where he would ultimately join FOX’s sketch comedy series, MADtv, where he starred for five seasons.

Sasso enjoys taking part in social media across various apps on the internet. He also has a podcast as well as a YouTube channel because that’s in a bio and you just read it.

Tantoo Cardinal

Character: Janace

Bio: Tantoo Cardinal is a Member of the Order of Canada, recognizing her contributions to the growth and development of Aboriginal performing arts in Canada. Tantoo has appeared in numerous plays, television programs, and films, including Legends of the Fall, Dances With Wolves, Black Robe, Loyalties, Luna, Spirit of the Whale, Unnatural & Accidental, Marie- Anne, Sioux City, Silent Tongue and Mother’s & Daughter’s. Her stirring performance in Loyalties earned her a Genie nomination, American Indian Film Festival Best Actress Award, the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival plus Best Actress Awards at International Film Festivals in Zimbabwe and Portugal. Her television credits include recurring roles on the series: Penny Dreadful, Longmire, Strange Empire, Blackstone, Arctic Air, The Guard, North of 60, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, The Lightening Field, Street Legal, The Campbell’s, Gunsmoke, Tom Stone, Myth Quest, Lonesome Dove and Renegade MOW’s include The Englishman’s Boy, Dreamkeeper and the PBS documentary Nobody’s Girls. Back to back feature films Shouting Secrets, Eden, Maina and Chasing Shakespeare were followed by Tantoo playing the role of Regan in the production of King Lear at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa followed by a production of The Rez Sister’s at the Belfry Theatre. Tantoo’s most recent project is Godless, a limited Series for Netflix, produced by Steven Soderbergh and written and directed by Scott Frank.

Jamie Takkiruq

Character: Vinny

Bio: First-time actor. Attending law school in Nunavut. From a tiny fly-in community of about 500 people – he was the only kid in his town to audition (on his cell phone).

Anna Lambe

Character: Spring

Bio: Anna Lambe is a first-time actor. She is currently studying International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa and plans to become a fierce advocate for Indigenous rights. Anna’s credits include THE GRIZZLIES and the upcoming limited series, TRICKSTER, set to premiere on CBC In 2020.

Fred Bailey

Character: Roger

Bio: First-time actor. Fred is a heavy equipment operator. 


Eric Schweig

Character: Harry Aviak (Kyle's Father)

Bio: Born in Inuvik, NWT, Eric is an Inuit and Ojibwe/Anishinaabe Indigenous Canadian actor best known for his role as Chingachgook's son Uncas in The Last of the Mohicans. His other credits include: Blackstone, Elementary, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee and Into The West. Eric’s fame as an actor gives him the opportunity to share his life's experience in numerous speaking engagements in Canada and the US. He is able to make audiences aware of aboriginal issues, including adoption, the foster care system, addictions, and suicide.

Miali Buscemi

Character: Lenore Aviak (Kyle's Mother)

Bio: Miali was brought up in Kimmirut, a small community south of Iqaluit. She is as adept at living on the land as she is creating compelling performances. Her film credits include: The Grizzlies, Iqaluit, Aviliaq: Entwined, Maina, Throat Song and The Necessities of Life. On television, she has appeared in Qanurli and Kenojuak Ashevak, Heritage Minute and she starred at the 2017 Stratford Festival in The Breathing Hole and in Treasure Island.