Your task as an actor, says Stan Isadore, is to get people to believe in you. If they do, “you’ve done your job.”
Isadore was doing his job as the child molester Phil Henry on the TV series ‘Blackstone’ pretty well, if an experience in Fort Chipewyan is anything to go by. He says he and other Blackstone cast members were doing a promotional event in Ft. Chip, when out of the crowd came a woman, swinging her purse and shouting at the evil man from the show. Isadore says her son intercepted her, saying, ‘Mom, he’s just an actor!’
He is just an actor, and it’s a complex business, portraying a pedophile with apparently no redeeming virtues, on a show that paints First Nations communities in a very harsh light. It’s tough to explain, but Isadore gives it a try.
“It was very challenging,” he says. “It’s not who I am, (but) once I found who Phil Henry had to be, then I was that person. I stayed in that character every time I was on set.”
Getting attacked (almost) by an angry viewer was confirmation he was getting it right.
“I loved it,” he says. “It made me feel like I was really doing my job.”
Isadore, the Slave Lake resident and Driftpile native, worked about five years on the Blackstone project, which ended in 2014. He says it, “kind of got flat after a while,” and one reason he thinks it did is because of its relentless focus on the darker side of things. All that stuff is happening in First Nations communities, he says, but lots of positive things are too. Blackstone didn’t show much of that, but he still considers it “the high point of my career.”
So far. You get the feeling with Stan Isadore, there’s more to come. There’s a lot more to be told also about what he’s already done, in acting, dancing and more recently in a leadership role in his community.
Isadore has quite a reputation as a ‘fancy dancer,’ at pow wows and such. He started that at a young age, and now, almost 40 years later, he’s often joined by his son Nikosis in the fancy dance. For Stan, it all began at the age of five or six.
“I went to my first pow wow, at Poundmaker in St. Albert. “My eyes were opened. It was memorable.”
Stan says what especially impressed him was the performance of a ‘sneak-up’ dance. Watching it, he realized something.
“I wanted to be in the circle,” he says. “Capturing the audience. To share the story and get the people to believe it.”
Isadore has been sharing the story and getting people to believe it ever since. His dancing really has taken him places, enriching his life and the lives of others at the same time.
“I performed for the Queen twice,” he says, by way of example.
On another occasion, the King (he thinks it was in Oslo, Norway) asked him after a group performance to dance alone for him and his family. He’s danced (alone or as part of a group) in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Italy and Spain, not to mention in many locations on this continent.
Meanwhile, the acting bug was eating away at him.
“I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was 16 or 17,” he says. “It’s tough to get into! As an aspiring actor, you have to get used to the word ‘no,’ and can’t let it slow you down.”
Isadore’s first break in the acting biz came in 1993.
He was studying theatre in Calgary, and somebody on the lookout for extras in the TV series ‘Lonesome Dove’ spotted him in a mall and liked the look of him.
He got work in several episodes as an extra, and then got more of the same in the film ‘Last of the Dog Men.’ More work followed in the TV series ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.’
Isadore next landed a role as a member of the chief’s entourage in the film ‘Shanghai Noon,’ starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. Getting to know Chan was a big treat, he said at the time.
On ‘Blackstone,’ Isidore says he auditioned for, and got, one of the councillor roles, but was then asked to take the Phil Henry role instead. As noted, it was tough, but interesting.
Just recently, he finished filming the lead male role in ‘River of Silence,’ a film by Michael Auger and Petie Chalifoux. It’s about a couple whose daughter goes missing.
“The whole movie is looking for our daughter,” he says. “It’s filmed in Merritt and Vancouver.”
As if all that wasn’t keeping him busy enough, Isadore is in his fourth term as a Driftpile First Nation councillor. His duties there included a stint as a coordinator and master of ceremonies of the Driftpile Pow Wow, the annual community festival, at which he also performed. Although he lives with his wife Neena and their son in Slave Lake, he feels part of his home community and takes his role as a leader quite seriously.
“The only reason is the people,” he says. “They’re willing to work and they put their trust in me.
“It’s all one big family,” Isadore adds, reflecting on the recent pow wow experience. “That’s the best thing.”
Isadore acknowledges that it’s a bit of a balancing act, between the world of acting and that of a band councillor. But he thinks he’s doing a decent job of it and certainly appears to be.
“I always say I’m from Driftpile Alberta,” he says.
“You have to have something good to represent Driftpile.”
And on top of all that, there’s family. Isadore met his wife-to-be Neena 20 years ago, when she was teaching at Driftpile School. She’s now teaching high school Math and Science at St. Francis of Assisi in Slave Lake.
“She’s my rock,” he says.
Their son Nikosis – as noted above – is following in his father’s footsteps.
“He’s been dancing since he could walk,” says Stan, and not just the native style; he’s also a member of the local Ukrainian dance club.
What’s next for Stan Isadore? More acting jobs, probably. Not long ago he attended a series of classes in Los Angeles, one of eight applicants (out of 88) chosen. They not only learned about acting, but how to get work in the business.
“It’s working!” he says.
One thing he’d like to pass on to other aspiring actors is to, “take what you can get. Even if it’s an extra.
It’s all about paying your dues.”