Tribal starts with a familiar crime show cornerstone: two cops unwillingly partnered and forced to work together. But Tribal itself is refreshingly less familiar, an engaging Canadian First Nations crime drama tackling cases based on real-world events, from mistaken identity to poaching and pipeline controversy.
Canada’s Jessica Matten (Blackstone, Frontier) stars as Interim Tribal Police Chief Samantha Woodburn, newly appointed to her role just as the department of Federal Justice takes control of the Tribal Police Force that looks after four Reserves surrounding a large city. She’s not only dealing with the tension that takeover creates, but reaction to her appointment, too, along with the clashes with her new partner, veteran Chuck ‘Buke’ Bukansky (Brian Markinson, a face that will be familiar from roles in a wide range of films and series, including Mayor of Kingstown, Continuum, Mad Men and Shooter).
The storylines in Tribal are based on real issues facing Indigenous Canadians, but it steers clear of easy sensationalism, well guided by its creator, award-winning show runner and director Ron E. Scott, who was also responsible for the hard-hitting series Blackstone.
To get you ready for what one critic describes as a gripping, nuanced and twisted cop drama everyone should be watching, here’s a ‘who’s who’ of the people of Tribal. Then catch episodes on NITV and SBS On Demand (scroll down for links).
SAMANTHA WOODBURN (‘Sam’) played by Jessica Matten
Samantha Woodburn is a new interim head of the TRIBAL police force. A Métis woman (of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry), she struggles with her identity and encounters levels of intersectional discrimination, sexism and racism.
Jessica Matten is of Red River Métis-Cree descent and is directly a descendant of Cuthbert Grant, the rebel Métis leader known for the Battle of the Seven Oaks in Canada. Matten stars in Season 3 of Discovery Canada & Netflix's TV show, Frontier, with Jason Momoa. Matten has spoken of how her own experiences, and the death of a family member, made the show hit home for her, and prepared her for playing Sam Woodburn.
Sam, she says, is a fascinating character to play, a woman dealing with two different worlds.
CHUCK BUKANSKY (‘Buke) played by Brian Markinson
Chuck Bukansky, also known as Buke, is a city police detective forced to collaborate with the TRIBAL police force. He’s a seasoned veteran of the Major Crimes Detective Unit for the Metro police. He is highly decorated for bravery, but it’s soon clear he has his own issues. He resents Justice Department for 'making' him go to TRIBAL, and he has no problem letting loose with some casual racism. Will working on TRIBAL cases provoke a change of mind?
Brian Markinson started his career in the New York theatre scene, performing on Broadway in Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winning Lost in Yonkers and off-Broadway in Elliot Loves, directed by Mike Nichols. Brian has gone on to work with Nichols in multiple films including Wolf, Primary Colors, multi Emmy award winning mini-series Angels in America and Charlie Wilson's War. His film credits include Sweet and Lowdown, Small Time Crooks, Godzilla, Shooter and Enemy of the State. In TV, he’s appeared in many series including Fargo, and Mad Men.
CONSTANCE EDWIN HARRIS ('Connie') played by Garry Chalk
As the head of the Justice Department, most people call him “Sir”. Some say he could be Mayor. He’s not a politician but handles most issues with his savvy political sensibilities. He pairs police chief Sam with big-city cop Buke, insistent to see their partnership work out. He knows the game and how to play it.
LUCAS FIELDING played by Adam MacDonald
Lucas Fielding is the Metro police commander. He is sceptical of Sam and thinks she isn’t ready to run TRIBAL. His lack of interest in collaborating with her is obvious, as Buke constantly has to get involved. Lucas is later called in by Connie to confer about how Buke and Sam are working out. He regularly swaps stories with his fellow cop buddies over drinks.
NATE MERCREDI played by Jaren Brandt Bartlett
Nate Mercredi is a TRIBAL police officer working with Sam. He is loyal to Sam, working diligently to investigate community crimes even when the Metro police department wants to take a different approach. Nate is learning to navigate the new TRIBAL police system collaborating with Metro police department. He takes much of his guidance from Sam about how to work with this different model, which has been forced upon them by the Justice Department.
DANIEL CROWCHILD played by Julian Black Antelope
Daniel Crowchild is the former TRIBAL Police Chief. He is strong-willed, traditional, and more outgoing than he probably should be. He is torn between tradition and the brutal reality of accepting that for many, destiny mostly lies with how to navigate the government system. Allegations against him - from “losing” speeding tickets to destroying murder evidence have seen Justice put him on extended leave from TRIBAL. He plans to exonerate himself and move back into a position of power.
MITCH WHEELER played by Ryan Northcott
Mitch Wheeler is a member of the city police forensic support team, but TRIBAL uses him to help with evidence gathering and more detailed office paperwork. He’s a fit, square-jawed Metro cop, who is generally a nice guy within the Metro police. He urges Buke to reminisce about the old days, when the department was a Wild West place where anything went. When it comes to his job, he's a hands-on professional who works closely with Sam on her current cases.
RYAN STREIT played by Justin Rain
Ryan Streit is Sam’s boyfriend. He’s supportive of Sam’s family life, although occasionally he feels jealous of Sam's demanding new job.
JACKIE WOODBURN played by Michelle Thrush
Jackie Woodburn is Sam’s mother. Sam and Jackie have a loving, yet complicated relationship since her husband passed away. Jackie doesn’t quite understand what Sam is experiencing while Sam is immersed in her new job as TRIBAL police chief. She tries to be there for her, but Sam is apprehensive.
JUSTINE TRUEBLOOD played by Marika Sila
Justine Trueblood is a TRIBAL officer who has been on the job for a couple of years. She is in her mid-20s, is professional and smart, although she’s still learning. She works hard to investigate cases in collaboration with Sam, who she looks up to and admires.
DENNIS FITZ played by Stafford Perry
Dennis Fitz is a Metro police cop, leery about the merger of the Metro department with the TRIBAL police. He makes this known as one of Buke’s drinking buddies, and his skepticism about the potential for the TRIBAL police and Metro police collaboration is obvious in his work.
Plus: meet the team behind Tribal:
New episodes of Tribal premiere Thursdays from 8.30 pm on NITV and SBS On Demand.