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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 3, 2004 - Issue 110


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Carsen Gray


Carsen GrayCarsen is 11-years-old, is a full-time student, actress, singer and Princess of the Haida tribe. The Queen Charlotte Island, First Nations prodigy has sung for dignitaries, danced in Haida ceremonies and performed as a nightclubsinger in Vancouver’s famed Rossini’s restaurant, a favorite of jazz aficionados. She performed in Brisbane, Australia before coming home to Canada to rouse the audience to a standing ovation at the Leo Awards for Film and TV in Vancouver. Carsen enjoys horseback riding, soccer, and skating. She speaks French, Haida and learned Mohican for her role in Peter Pan.

She's barely five feet tall, but something about Carsen Gray made her stand out from the thousands of girls who wanted to star in the new Hollywood movie Peter Pan. Carsen is 12 years old, and she plays the Mohican girl, Tiger Lily. And true to fairy tale form, Carsen was discovered after singing jazz onstage in Vancouver. That's a story in itself. Carsen is a member of the Haida First Nation, and she lives in the community of Skidegate on the Queen Charlotte Islands, or Haida Gwaii. Even though people in Skidegate are excited about Carsen's success, they still haven't been able to see the movie because Skidegate doesn't have a movie theatre.

"Eleven year old Carsen Gray has put in the work for her lucky break. The Queen Charlotte Island, First Nations prodigy has sung for dignitaries, danced in Haida ceremonies and performed as a night club singer in Vancouver's famed Rossini's restaurant, a fave of Jazz aficionados. In fact it was when Carsen was headlining at Rossini's that local talent agents at CTM International saw her and scooped her up. Carsen is only eleven but she has pipes like Aretha or Etta James and the star presence that goes with the voice. What neither her agents, nor young Carsen knew, was that she would soon be working on a major motion picture on another continent.

PJ Hogan (Muriel's Wedding) was helming a live action version of Peter Pan in his native Australia. Legendary casting director Matt Casella has discovered Brittany Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake to name but a few… He was hired to find the young cast for Peter Pan but found himself at his wits end. He had literally searched the world, auditioned 5000 little actors, and still he could not find Tiger Lily.

Carsen's agents at CTM International finagled her a coveted spot to see Mr. Casella when he arrived in Vancouver for just two days casting. They worked with Carsen, coaching her through the daunting process of auditioning and got her ready to meet the man who had discovered her idols.

Carsen was cool as a cucumber. She knew she was Tiger Lily. When she finished her audition Mr. Casella called in her agent and told her that he was calling Carsen back and that he would fight for her to get the part. It is a big gamble for a production to take on a a little girl with absolutely no on set experience for a show of this caliber.

Carsen went for her callback. This time she sang for the casting director…in Haida. He loved it. Afterward he reiterated his promise to fight for Carsen, and he said she had the same god given vocal talent Christina Aguilera possesses.

Sure enough Carsen was called to meet the producer, Patrick McCormick (Donnie Brasco) and director PJ Hogan. She and her mum had to get passports quick-like and fly to Australia where production had begun.

Patrick McCormick was a fan of Carsen from the moment he met her. He was bowled over by her poise and great manners (Carsen's mum is a believer in and enforcer of please and thank you). When she acted for PJ Hogan it was a fate accompli. She was Tiger Lily. She flew home to prepare for a three month stint in a foreign land.

Since working on Peter Pan, Carsen has been up for several other feature films, including the new J. Lo flick -- which would be a natural for her. Two singer/dancer/actors in one film. Carsen would doubtless have a much smaller posse than J. Lo - her mum. "

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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