The critically acclaimed series True Detective is back. The fourth installment of the thriller returned to HBO on January 14 with Night Country, an atmospheric exploration of life for residents of fictional Ennis, Alaska after a group of researchers are found stripped naked and frozen in the snow. On its face, the new season is an eerily macabre murder mystery set against the inhospitable landscape of frozen perpetual night. In fact, what director, creator, and writer Issa Lopez built is an intrepid and unapologetic character study about the power, compassion, and kinship of Indigenous women.
On and off screen, Indigenous women are the heart and soul of this show. In starring roles, Isabella Star LaBlanc, 26, and Anna Lambe, 23, are acting powerhouses—delivering career-defining performances that are deeply human, gut-wrenching, and historic. LaBlanc, who is Dakota herself, plays Leah, the stepdaughter of Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster); Lambe, who is Inuk, plays Kayla Prior, a young nursing student who’s navigating motherhood and a strained marriage, all while helping Leah explore their characters’ Iñupiaq roots.
Off screen, executive producer Mark Ceryak explains how along with Lopez, their team met with Illuminative, a social justice organization led by Native women. “They connected us with Princess Daazhraii Johnson and Cathy Tagnak Rexford, who both hail from Alaska and joined us to produce the series,” he said in a statement. Princess and Tagnak assembled an advisory council made up of Iñupiaq women who provided insight and advice on every aspect of production. Together with Johnson and Rexford, Lopez went through the script page by page, ensuring the story she told was an authentic one.
As a result, Night Country is nothing short of a revelation, taking viewers on a propulsive journey into the depths of the very real scourge of violence and marginalization that Indigenous women face. Critically, it does so by representing Indigenous women not as victims who need saving, but as forces to be reckoned with. Each of the six episodes unfolds as a love letter to the noir thriller genre and a testament to the art that can be created when we center the voices of the real people at the heart of the stories we tell.
Watching Lambe and LaBlanc onscreen, it’s apparent that these are two emerging talents, holding their own opposite industry giants like Foster and Fiona Shaw (Rose Aguineau). And off screen they are every bit as magnetic, carrying an infectious pride in their work and their heritage.
We spoke with Isabella and Anna about the significance of telling Indigenous stories, the singular sense of community on set, and being the presidents of the “Jodie Foster Fan Club.”
Glamour: This is such an important story about Indigenous women, and it’s significant that Indigenous women like yourselves are front and center in the cast. What did it mean to you both to be on this True Detective set?
Anna Lambe: Being part of this project was really meaningful. I’m an Inuk. I’m from Iqaluit, Nunavut. I grew up there, and I didn’t leave until I was 18 to go to university. I’m very proud of where I come from, and very rooted in where I come from. To see the level of care that was put into this production, and to talk with Cathy Tagnak Rexford and Princess Daazhraii Johnson about Alaska, and to connect based on…not our shared realities because it’s still very different—but finding those different ways to relate and understand each other was really beautiful. Of course, meeting Izzy and Kali [Reis], it is just such a privilege.