The Netflix series Chambers is a psychological thriller about a girl who, after suffering a nearly-fatal heart attack, is haunted by unexplained visions about the life of her heart donor. We sat down with Griffin Powell-Arcand, who stars as TJ, the main character’s boyfriend, to ask him about his experiences on set and how his personal beliefs influence his craft.
LS: How did you come to be attached to Chambers?
GP-A: My agent contacted me and sent me the audition info for TJ. He asked me to read it over, and we scheduled my audition.
When I first read the sides for the audition I instantly connected with my character (TJ) and I had a really good feeling about the show.
LS: What was it like to be cast in a project that is so heavily influenced by Native American imagery?
GP-A: It feels amazing! I feel like there’s already enough movies/TV shows with Native American imagery that only involve the stereotypical perception of being a native person.
We need more projects that portray us in a positive and contemporary way, rather than being portrayed wearing loincloths, shooting arrows, and scalping.
LS: What was it like filming in Albuquerque, the center of New Age mysticism?
GP-A: I enjoyed Albuquerque! Especially the diversity and culture that fluctuates through New Mexico. Also, having never really traveled before, I really got to learn so much about how people in other places live from day to day. I enjoyed learning about the lives of everyone I met, from culturally or the way they express themselves artistically and the way their homes are built, etc.
LS: Does religion or spirituality play a heavy role in your life?
GP-A: Throughout my childhood and teenage life I never really gave it too much thought, to be honest.
That being said, I have always believed in a higher power, and as I’ve grown up I’ve definitely fallen back into my Cree background and culture.
LS: How do you relate to TJ as a character? Is he at all like you or is he totally different?
GP-A: TJ is a reflection of myself and who I want to be as a man. Someone who is sensitive, smart and a hero to those he loves.
LS: How do you feel about the comparisons being made between Chambers and Jordan Peele’s Get Out?
GP-A: Oh wow, I hadn’t seen it so I just watched the trailer and that is spooky! I feel that is a good comparison because Chambers is also about loss of identity, and being forced from your culture and beliefs. To me it relates to the world we live in today, where everybody wants you to be the way they see you and not the way you really are.
LS: The ending is such a cliffhanger and leaves open so many possibilities. How do you imagine Season 2 playing out if you were the one writing it? What do you hope is next for Sasha and TJ?
GP-A: I hope TJ and Sasha can work together through whatever is happening with her! They are such a strong couple and they’ve been through so much together. I’m not sure where I would take it if I were writing the script personally, but I’m sure Leah has some cool ideas!
LS: I read an interview you gave with the CBC recently where you said you took a break from acting; what was it that prompted the step back and what made you decide to come back to acting?
GP-A: I wanted to be a “normal kid” and just go to school, but it was hard for me. I wanted to live a simple life but it didn’t work out…I ended up in a dark place for a few years because of it.
One day I decided to change my life around and I told my agent I wanted another chance at acting. I was serious about making a better life for myself so I proved it by working hard at a restaurant and doing any audition he sent my way. Then, before I knew it, I was going to LA for the callback for Chambers, and a month after that I was heading to New Mexico to shoot the series!
I love acting, I love rapping; the arts is where I belong and that’s why I’m back!
LS: I’m from Edmonton too and I have a lot of friends in the theatre scene. It’s a small community and it’s very tight-knit and exciting but there’s not a lot of film or TV work—people have to move to Vancouver or Toronto for that. So it’s always very cool to see a local kid make it big in something like this (congrats by the way!).
I’m wondering if you could talk a bit about how Edmonton shaped or influenced your career trajectory (for good or bad)? What are some of the challenges and benefits of acting here vs elsewhere? What advice might you give other actors from places like Edmonton who want to break into film or TV?
GP-A: Thank you. Living in Edmonton made me stronger as a person and that really built my character for when I dive into a role. It’s also helped me to understand diversity and the fact that we all have to stick together or fall into the grinder.
The challenges for Edmonton would be the lack of roles that don’t focus on negatives and stereotypes among Native American people. Also, a lot of the shows or movies made in Canada aren’t always out on major networks, etc. I’d say the USA has a lot more opportunities for actors and musicians and has a wider marketplace for putting yourself out there.
If you’re from a place like Edmonton or even a small town somewhere, etc., never give up on your dreams because of your location. Anything can happen; your location does not matter, it’s just the drive you put behind it! Definitely find yourself a good agent and always give it your all!
LS: How does your Cree heritage influence the choices you make when it comes to considering or accepting acting roles?
GP-A: The influence is huge, especially because I want to get away from all the stereotypes and negativity that’s put onto First Nations people in show business. If I feel like we are getting portrayed badly as a whole, I won’t accept the role; although if I feel like it’s something we should tackle and it’s going to be dealt with respectfully then I’ll do it no question.
LS: Thanks so much for chatting with us! Best of luck with your future projects—we’re looking forward to Season 2 of Chambers and seeing what TJ is up to when we see him next!
GP-A: Thank you so much for this interview I hope to chat with you again soon!
You can find Griffin’s film & TV credits on IMDb. Chambers is available to stream on Netflix and stars Sivan Alyra Rose, Uma Thurman, and Tony Goldwyn.