Twilight actor set to emcee Junior All-Native Opening Ceremony | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Twilight actor set to emcee Junior All-Native Opening Ceremony

Port Alberni

One of Canada’s fast-rising First Nations film stars will be in town to open the B.C. Junior All-Native Basketball Championships, which take place from March 18 through March 23 at the Alberni Athletic Hall, Maht Mahs gym and Alberni District Secondary School in Port Alberni.

Justin Rain, who appeared in Twilight: Eclipse and is currently starring in the APTN series Blackstone, will act as emcee at the opening ceremonies, and will also teach two youth acting workshops on March 18 and 19.

The hardworking actor said sharing his life and experiences with young First Nations people has become an important part of his own spiritual and cultural journey.

A member of the Sakimay Cree Nation, Rain was born in Vancouver. His mother moved the family to Prince Albert, Sask. when he was three. While he was closer geographically to his roots, Rain said he grew up without any sense of his cultural identity.

“I’m an urban Indian. I grew up in the city and my whole family grew up in the city,” Rain said. “It was that way since my grandparents got out of the [residential school] education system. Our language on both sides of my family is lost now, because of that. There is a ‘cultural identity’ piece missing in most of my family.”

Rain said he graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Prince Albert.

“That was not with honours. I was a very different person then–getting into trouble, drugs and partying,” he said.

Several years after leaving high school, Rain moved to Vancouver, and ironically, that was where he began to reconnect with his own heritage.

“I moved away from all the Cree people and came here, and I noticed all the First Nations people were a lot more culturally connected. It was something that really stood out while I was hanging out in East Vancouver and attending the community events. It really opened my eyes.”

It was at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre that the future actor first took to the stage.

“There was an improv group that met three times a week. I hung out there for three years before I worked up the courage to take it to the next level,” Rain said.

Things began to happen very quickly for the young actor, as he sought out formal acting training and landed an agent. In 2008, he starred in his first short feature, The Dance of My Beating Heart, and landed a guest appearance on The Guard (now known as Search and Rescue). The next year brought another short film, Mountain Spirit.

Along with TV and film roles, Rain also worked on the stage.

“My first big theatre production was in Los Angeles with the Center Theatre Group,” Rain said. “I had the pleasure of working with Russell Means for three months in Palestine, New Mexico. He played my father.”

Means starred as Chingachgook in the 1992 blockbuster, Last of the Mohicans, along with Eric Schweig, who played Uncas.

“I always remember when I was a kid, my mother took me to see Last of the Mohicans,” he said.

The impact of seeing two First Nations actors in such powerful roles made a huge impression, said Rain.

“Now, I’ve worked with both Russell Means and Eric Schweig,” he said.

Schweig stars as Andy Fraser to Rain’s Alan Fraser in Blackstone.

Rain had come to the attention of the producers of the Twilight Saga, who were casting for the second film in the series, New Moon.

“My agent got me the audition and I went in. I did a very extensive audition for the second film and I came close,” Rain said. “They remembered my work and my dedication, and when they were casting for Eclipse, they called me.”

Rain said the Twilight experience was a major career boost.

“I had a blast, and I definitely learned a lot. It has been a great addition to my resume,” he said.

Rain, who is approaching his eleventh year clean and sober, said his growing fame has made him a role model for First Nations youth, and that, in turn, has compounded his own spiritual and cultural growth.

“I went to the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival, and they had a youth project attached to the festival called Youth Education Days. They had a whole section called ‘The Integrated Effects of Residential Schools,’” Rain said. “They asked me to keynote-speak about it, and I had never really zoned out on a question like that.

“At first, I thought, ‘This doesn’t apply to me,’ until I really sat down and thought about it. I got a bit emotional, because I don’t speak my language and that part of me is missing, and it does hurt.”

Rain said being forced to confront that legacy passed down from his grandparents has made him strive that much harder to reconnect with his First Nations heritage.

“I’m becoming more and more serious about my cultural background and traditional practices. I have attended a lot of sweatlodges and national events and powwows,” he said.

Rain said his quest has since brought him to Vancouver Island, and next month, to Port Alberni.

“One of my films, Two Indians Talking (2010), played at the Cowichan Film Festival, and they had me speak because they had a youth festival attached,” Rain said. “I realized that a lot of the young audience were familiar with Twilight and Blackstone, and that it gave me a chance to connect with young people.”

The appearance at the Cowichan Film Festival led to further speaking engagements on the Island.

“I really enjoy being personal and telling people about my life and my journey and struggles–stuff that a lot of people would hesitate about,” Rain said. “One of the messages I like to impart is that we are, and we become, what we surround ourselves with. There is a reason homeless people hang around homeless people and lawyers with lawyers, the architects and the artists… If you want success, you surround yourself with success.”

Blackstone, which is shot outside Edmonton, focuses on life on a fictitious First Nations reserve. The series runs on the APTN network, and viewers can also watch every episode on the Web site.

“It is a very raw, gritty, uncensored show. I like to call it the Sopranos of the native film world,” Rain said.

With TV, film and stage work already under his belt, Rain plans to take on his next professional challenge in May.

“I’m directing a film that I wrote. It’s a short native drama piece. This will be my first directing experience,” he said.

The two acting workshops, for youth 18 and under, take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 18 and 19 in the Arrowsmith Room at the Best Western Barclay Hotel. The cost is $40.

For more information, contact Donna Lucas at 250-735-0752, or by email at

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