Burden of Truth: Meegwun Fairbrother talks Beckie’s development

Meegwun Fairbrother. Photo credit: Kevin Mcintyre
Meegwun Fairbrother. Photo credit: Kevin Mcintyre /

Meegwun Fairbrother stole our hearts as Beckbie on Burden of Truth. We’ve seen him go from police officer to police chief and much more throughout the series.

It’s hard to think that we’re onto the series finale already. The good thing about it is that this has been written as a series finale. The plan was to develop four seasons to tell a complete story, and the CBC series got the chance to do that.

Precinct TV got the chance to talk to Fairbrother about his role on the series and what’s to come next. We’ve watched Beckie move up the ranks on the force and deal with racism and distrust from both the local white people and the local Indigenous tribes.

Beckbie was originally going to be more of a bad guy on the series, but things changed when Fairbrother got to set. We’re certainly happy to see this character development happen, but what about Fairbrother as an actor? Let’s delve into the exclusive interview.

Meegwun Fairbrother talks Burden of Truth

Precinct TV: I understand Beckbie was originally written as a bad guy but something changed along the way. What was that like for you, especially as an actor who was used to doing bad guys when initially cast?

Meegwun Fairbrother: Haha. Yeah, I think the writers originally wanted me for this kind of down-and-out guy around town who gets into trouble. But when I went for a costume fitting, one of the producers took one look at me and said, “you’re not a bad guy!” And then went and pitched me as someone they wanted to keep around. I think it even created some turmoil in the writer’s room because it threw a wrench into their already laid plans. But on the first day of filming, the creator, Brad Simpson, came up to me and just stared at me… then said, “yeah okay.” And that was it I guess.

I’m thankful it went down like that because over the four years we did the show, I was able to grow Owen into the character we love. I think it also coincided with my personal life, in which I was making positive changes, like learning a martial art, learning about wellness and working with youth as a role model. It seemed to all happen together, art mirroring life.

PTV: There’s been a lot of focus on racism throughout the series. Did you have any input into those storylines before stepping into the writer’s room? How important has it been for you to portray the very real racism problem Canada has tried so long to ignore?

Yes, I did get to have a say in the storylines. After Season 1, I was invited into the writer’s room to talk about my experience growing up and the experiences my family went through. I think it was an eye-opener for a lot of them and it became a point of pride to get it right, so they invited me back into the writer’s room in Season 3 as a consultant—then as a writer in Season 4.

It’s super important to me to tell truthful stories that also entertain and I think Burden Of Truth was able to strike that balance—so that it wasn’t about pointing a finger, rather it was about inviting people into our experience in a powerful way. To be a part of this story has been an honor and when people from my community say “hey that show is pretty good” and hear that they see themselves in it—that’s the greatest reward for me. That’s a win.

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PTV: Beckbie has also faced distrust from the Indigenous communities. What’s it been like portraying this character that has to straddle two worlds that don’t really want to include him?

MF: Well, it’s been similar to my own journey. So it was something that I knew I could portray. In our communities, actions always speak louder than words. You have to do the work, chop the wood, catch the fish, walk the talk. Words can lose their meaning if there’s no action to follow.

So as Owen, he had to straddle that line of doing what’s right for the people while also playing within the rules of Canadian society and law. Not always an easy thing to do. And it certainly wasn’t easy for Owen to take on that battle, as seen with Mercer. In a lot of cases, he had to toe the line in order to be the role model he wanted to be. He couldn’t say the things that he wanted to for fear of being shunned or relegated to the sidelines. It’s hard to stand up for what you believe in.

But this is a tv, and hopefully, the good guys win in the end, but not before a hard battle is fought. And the great thing about Burden of Truth and Owen’s journey is that we showed the different aspects of that battle at different levels. Even as Police Chief, the work doesn’t end—it’s just more work at a higher level. And obviously, we still have a lot more work to do on that front. But shows like this can provide a framework for that possibility. So onward we go!

PTV: How much involvement have you had in shaping the personality of this character?

MF: Over the four seasons, it’s been a collaboration with the writers and producers. Each year we’d uncover another layer of the story and we’d get to dig a little deeper. So it was a real pleasure to share my stories and then get to live them out on screen. A truly rewarding experience because it becomes very real. Real for me, real for my communities, and real for our audiences.

But what really locked Owen in for me, was the first time I filmed with Luna (Star Slade). I realized he was a stepdad who loved his stepkid—that he just wanted to be a good role model. Which is something I aspire to in my own life. My nephews and nieces all watch me in my work, so I want to make sure I’m doing the best I can to be the man that my community needs. Our industry can often be showy, but I want to be as authentic as possible.

Meegwun Fairbrother. Photo credit: Kevin Mcintyre
Meegwun Fairbrother. Photo credit: Kevin Mcintyre /

Writing the penultimate episode of the series

PTV: What has it been like co-writing “Where the Shadows Lie Waiting…”? The penultimate episodes are usually some of the biggest, and this really set the tone for the finale.

MF: Well I had a lot of mentorship and help—the writer’s room, showrunners, and senior staff did a great job at guiding me. I got to work with Eric Putzer on this episode and he did a lot of the prior penultimate episodes, so he knew what tension and pace to keep. They gave me clear goals to hit and I worked my butt off to meet them.

Writing is a different beast. There’s an always-on aspect that I had to get used to. Like it’s never done, until it’s done type-of-thing. And after every draft we sent, there was a wash of relief that would come over me. Like, okay that took a lot out of me. But it was also thrilling. When a scene finally starts to work, it’s a really exciting moment. You can picture it and feel it when it’s working. Big time payoff to see it on screen too, to be like, “whaaaat, I wrote that!” It’s truly dope. haha.

PTV: Beckbie has stepped into a sort of father figure role for Kip, even if Kip doesn’t want him to be a father figure. We’ve always seen Beckbie offer advice and help, but this seems to be a step up for him. What’s that experience been like to portray on Burden of Truth?

MF: Well, I think it’s been a natural progression for him, or at least a journey that he’s always wanted to go on but never could admit. With Luna, he loved being a dad and missed the job when he broke up with her mom. So in a way, this is full circle for him. And working with Skye [Pelletier] has been a dream, that young man is so compelling, just put a camera on him and it’s all there.

I think Owen sees a lot of himself in Kip and it’s a lot like seeing my students in real-life achieve their artistic goals. It’s so cool to see their faces light up when they figure something out. I think that’s the same with Beckbie, he sees the light in this kid and wants the best for him but attempts to push rather than support. Beckbie can’t make Kip walk through the door but he can show him that there are opportunities waiting for him and that he’s worth it.

PTV: Things have gone a little wrong when it comes to Kip, though. Beckbie wanted to do the right thing but went the wrong way about it. Can you tease what’s to come in the finale for these two?

MF: Hehehe, without giving anything away…I think you’ll find the ending to be satisfying. Owen wants to be a support system for Kip, so he’s going to figure out how to best do that. Enjoy!

PTV: What are you going to miss the most about Burden of Truth?

MF: I’m going to miss the stellar cast. They’re all great people in the show but also great people in real life. Such generous, caring, and beautiful souls. It’s been a career highlight to share this time with them. Truly.

Meegwun Fairbrother. Photo credit: Kevin Mcintyre
Meegwun Fairbrother. Photo credit: Kevin Mcintyre /

What’s coming next for Meegwun Fairbrother after Burden of Truth?

PTV: I know you were awarded the chance to turn your one-man show Isitwendam into a TV pilot. How is that process going?

MF: That process is happening! I recently just finished my first draft, which took about a year (yeah pilots are tough!). But it’s cooking and man oh man, I am excited to share with you all! I think the play will continue to have a life of its own, as I travel it to communities across the world but like Fleabag, it also has a story to tell on screen. And it’s going to KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF! I’ll be making an announcement on social media soon, so stay tuned!

PTV: Are there any other projects you can talk about?

MF: Well, I just finished working in a writer’s room on a brand new show for CBS and Paramount+ called SkyMED, created by Julie Puckrin. It’s about medevac in northern Manitoba, and the nurses and pilots saving lives and trying to manage their own without too much drama… who am I kidding, there’s a lot of drama. It’s been likened to Grey’s Anatomy meets Top Gun.

I also just got a web series greenlit with APTN streaming service LUMI called D dot H—a sci-fi dramedy about love and the interdimensions. Aside from that, I just starred and co-directed a short film that aired at LA shorts (July) called Shoot Your Shot and played a part in Madison Thomas’s new apocalyptic thriller, Finality of Dusk.

Also had fun playing another cop in a web series, coming out soon, called DJ Burnt Bannock by Darcy Waite. I’m also writing a ton and can’t wait to share what’s coming next!

PTV: If you could do one dream role, what would it be?

MG: It’s a tie between Superman, James Bond, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. HAHA, dream big right!

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Burden of Truth‘s series finale airs on Friday, Sept. 17 on The CW. Watch the series on The CW App.