Crystle Lightning has acted in dozens of films and television shows over the years, but her role as Maggie on Trickster catapulted her career and culminated with a Canadian Screen Award for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series in 2021.
“That’s where I really got to flex,” says Lightning, whose first acting role came at the age of nine in the American martial arts comedy, 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up.
Lightning’s mother, Georgina, who’s also an actress, director and producer, had just packed up the family and moved from Edmonton to Los Angeles. Lightning booked her first audition for 3 Ninjas and went on to immediately star in the franchise, The Last Chance Detectives.
But Lightning says the film and television industry is a very unforgiving business.
Lightning, who is originally from Enoch Cree Nation in Alberta, remembers how badly she wanted to be in the Twilight movie series.
She auditioned but never got a callback.
A year later, she saw the billboards go up for the film in Hollywood and knew it was going to be a big deal. Lightning says she started questioning her career.
“I don’t think I’m good anymore, I don’t think I have what it takes, I can’t handle the rejection,” Lightning says, reflecting back on losing on the role. “And then I ended up booking, I think it was American Pie, so that put me back on the horse.
“But, throughout my career, I felt like I always just got these little crumbs, like, I never really got anything that I could sink my teeth into. I always wanted to prove myself. I always wanted to prove that I could act, that I wasn’t just a pretty girl or in a period piece, like the token Native.
“And it wasn’t until I started seeing a few years ago that there was actually legit content being put out there for us,” says Lightning.
Lightning says on the latest edition of Face to Face that people interested in acting to be patient, and work on your craft every day because there is a lot of competition out there.
“I like being that vessel for the storyteller. I just love everything about it,” she says. “I love that you get to play different characters and the beautiful thing about acting is you get to take all of your emotions, all of your life experiences, your traumas, your happiness, your anger and turn it into art.
“That’s beautiful. It’s another form of therapy, I think.”
During the lean years of her acting career, while waitressing and bartending, Lightning picked up DJ’ing and was playing clubs all over Los Angeles and the United States.
That’s how she met RedCloud. The two hit it off and formed Lightning Cloud, picking up Indigenous Music Awards along the way.
Lightning Cloud also beat out thousands of other artists to win an LA radio show’s Battle of the Best competition. The grand prize was $10,000 and the opportunity to work with famed, hip hop producer Timbaland.
Lightning Cloud recorded that track at Will Smith’s studio. They would go on to perform with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, and more.
In recent years, Lightning has been releasing solo music.
Lightning and RedCloud have also partnered again to created Bear Grease, an Indigenous take on the original 1978 film Grease, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
“Red Cloud and I loved the love story and the dance element that was incorporated in there. It was a little bit like rated PG 13 or rated R. That wasn’t available for Indigenous people back then like I said, there was no, kind of, fun,” she says.
“Everything that Indigenous people were doing was based out of trauma or sadness. We wanted something fun, something that could make them laugh and entertain them visually as well through the dance and through the drama.”
Bear Grease has a few dates booked in Calgary before the show hits the road for numerous dates across the U.S.
Lightning is also working on new music and will be appearing in an upcoming episode of Rutherford Falls and has a recurring role on the upcoming mystery series Three Pines, airing on Amazon Prime.