Alyssa Wapanatahk Stars As Tiger Lily In Peter Pan & Wendy – Pow Wow Life 87

Alyssa Wapanatahk Stars As Tiger Lily In Peter Pan & Wendy – Pow Wow Life 87

Join Paul G for an interview with Alyssa Wapanatahk.

Walt Disney recently released a trailer for its new live-action update of the 1953 classic Peter Pan & Wendy. The movie will feature Alyssa Wapanatâhk, who plays Tiger Lily, the tribe chief’s daughter and a warrior princess of the Indigenous tribe of Neverland. In real life, Alyssa is a member of the Bigstone Cree Nation.



Intro: Welcome to Pow Wow live podcast from Connecting you as native culture since 1996. Here's your host, Paul Gowder.

Paul: Welcome to the Pow Wow Life podcast. I'm your host Paul Gowder. Thank you for being here this week. On today's show, I've got an interview with the actress starring in the new Disney film, Peter Pan and Wendy, and she's playing the role of Tiger Lily. Exciting to see an indigenous actress included in this film. So stay tuned for her interview. A couple of announcements before we get there. First off, don't forget, make sure you're entering daily into our countdown to Gathering of Nations Powwow giveaway. Our friends over at 8th Generation have provided us three amazing blankets to give away. You can find out more over at slash win and enter daily for more chances to win. At the end of the episode, I will give you a special bonus code for only people watching or listening to this video, listening to this podcast we'll have access to. So make sure you listen to the end, get that bonus code to get your exclusive entries into the contest. We are just 36 days away from Gathering of Nations, so I'm so excited to be heading back to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the biggest powwow of the year. I hope you'll join me whether it's in person or online, but you can find out more over at We have all the information for you to follow along. Again, whether you're coming in person or if you're going to be watching virtually, we'll be streaming the two different streams, one for Stage 49, their music festival, as well as all of the stuff going on inside the arena at the Pow Wow. Today's episode is brought to you by our Pow Wow Nation supporters. Those are our folks over at our Patreon, that are supporting us each month. And it's thanks to them that we're able to produce this kind of content and so much more. If you'd like to join us, I'd love for you to be a part of this community Head on over to powwow and you can join for as little as $2 a month We've got some really cool rewards there as well as we do monthly zoom calls And you can support and get involved in this community over at powwow All right, let's talk about today's interview If you are familiar with the Disney classic Peter Pan, you know that there's some scenes in it there are questionable at best if not just outright racist. Disney is aware of this and has over the last few years tried to do some improvements. They've come out with an initiative called Story Matter where they realize that representation does matter and that they need to tell more authentic stories in their movies and their films. And they've even gone so far as in Peter Pan and some of the other movies of putting in a the cultural insensitivity. They even have one movie that they've still yet to release in the United States. That is Song of the South. So in doing all that, they have started to do some improvements and while remaking classics into live actions, they have now cast Alyssa as Tiger Lily. or listen to this interview, the question I want you to answer is, is this enough? How would you handle Peter Pan if you were to remake it? And what do you think about this? Is this good on Disney? Do they need to just not remake Peter Pan? Or what are your thoughts? I want to hear from you. Let me know what you think about this and enjoy this interview of the upcoming star of the new film, Peter Pan and Wendy.

Alyssa: Hi, my name is Alyssa O'Penetak. I am from the Big Stone Creepers Nation in Treaty 8 territory in Canada. And I am playing Tiger Lily in this Disney's upcoming Peter Pan and Wendy coming April 28th.

Paul: That is so exciting that we're getting an authentic story of Tiger Lily in the movie. First, I mean, how did you, I guess, let's go all the way back, right? How did you get involved in acting? Is this something you've been doing for a long time

Alyssa: No, it's actually, it's so funny because I've never, anybody who's known me growing up, I've never been into drama at all or anything like that, I would be like so scared to be in front of anybody doing any performing. So I was not a drama person growing up, but then suddenly one day my mom had a friend who was in the film industry and she just asked us to go out for an audition. I had no idea what it was all about. I had no idea what an audition was. was, but that was when I was 16 years old and that's basically what drew me into the whole filmmaking process and seeing Indigenous people making their own stories that just really connected to me and I fell deeply deeply in love with it and when I turned 18 that's when I went to acting school and I have my diploma in acting for TV and film and after that I've just been the magic happened and I got my big role and things have just been like a steam trains and sun. 

Paul: That's really exciting. You know it seems like we're really in I don't want to say a resurgence because it was never a surgeon's right but we're in this big all of a sudden explosion of indigenous people in film and TV with reservation dogs and Rutherford Falls you know and everything all this story so it's exciting to see that Disney's taking this well in the remaking of this classic. How did it come about that they looked for you to be a part of this? And how did they approach you with this, the idea of actually putting a more authentic spin on Tiger Lily?

Alyssa: I think it's something that they knew they had to do. I think they really want to remake all these classics in a really good way because a lot of the classics in Disney were not to representation of, I think, any cultures. They were all just done kind of poorly and just living in the past. So I think they wanted to come out of that and with new directors and new people that, you know, are a little more kind and actually know that this stuff is important. It's important to have representation done properly and, yeah, that's when they casted  are looking to make Tiger Lily into a much bigger role than she was ever given in the past films. There are so many films with Peter Pan and Wendy. And this one I think is like everybody is seeing just from the trailer, I think it is a hundred times better for representation and for Tiger Lily.

Paul: I've always had a hard time racking my head around how Peter Pan got made with what they put in the movie. I don't know how much, I'm a Disney guy so I know, I love reading about Walt and his wife actually grew up on a reservation. So she had a very strong relationship with several tribes and I would think had a better understanding. So it really surprised me when you watched that movie and how bad it was. stereotypical it was. So what did they tell you about the character and were you given any input in how the character was going to be created and kind of what her story was? 

Alyssa: Yeah, there was tons and tons of conversations that went in immediately in pre-production. I think first I saw the script and the script was done so well and I knew that Tiger Lily stuff was so beautiful and I could already see it being in really great shape at that point. As we went along in pre-production, David LaRie reached out to me, the director, and he asked me if I would like to bring in my pre-culture into the film. That was another huge, huge point for me. I remember the day so clearly because I was so giddy and so excited because I see this email pop up on my computer and I'm like reading it allowed to my whole family. I'm like, can you believe this is happening? Like this is just everything that was happening in the whole pre-production process. While we're filming and even in post, they're always keeping in touch with me and always asking me, Disney is always asking me if what we're doing is good and like, and they're asking me to put my own voice in it and to give my own self to it, basically. And I've been really happy to do that every step of the way.

Paul: That's really refreshing to hear that they're, you know, starting to, right, just having the conversation is a big difference than what we've seen in the past from not just Disney, but from everybody in Hollywood, right?

Alyssa: Yes.

Paul: So on, we published a story about this last week because, you know, we're so excited to see this coming to be. And I'll tell you, a couple of the negative comments I heard, and I'd love to hear your take on this. Of course, there's always Disney haters out there, you get people that are saying that this is just part of Disney being woke, which I hate that word, um, woke and changing the stories. And so for you, what do you, what's your take on a changing Tiger Lily's background and what does this mean for, you know, the cultures where, or I guess the kind of landscape we are in right now?

Alyssa: Yeah. I feel like what you were saying before about Disney, like trying to, I don't know, have their own, spin on things, trying to be woke and the whole conversation that way. I think, I mean, what they're doing is a good thing. They're keeping with the times. If they don't, then they're, it's not gonna last. I think that's for anybody who is still racist and who are still homophobic. All of these types of things, they're, I think those people are not going to last in the world. I think there's too much change that's happening and if you're not gonna get on the boat and you're gonna drown basically. So yeah, I think that's that's what's happening there. The really good thing that they did was bringing David on the project because he is a genuinely kind person and takes care of things like the way you're supposed to. And then bringing me on the project too was also really good for them because I also think about every single detail that goes I don't make any choices before I think about them a million times over just to make sure that they're done really well. And I noticed like, because I watched the movie as well, I watched it a few weeks ago, just so I could, I know what the movie looks like. I had my own private screening at home, which was really nice. And it's really fantastic. It's really good.

Paul:  I can't wait, I can't wait. 

Alyssa: Yeah. 

Paul: My comment back to some of the people that are discussing the woke thing is and Honestly what I was afraid of when I heard that they were they were turning to Peter Pan is one of their remakes for live actions is that I Assume they were just gonna eliminate the character all together And I'm not sure that fixes anything. I think that just avoids the issue if you eliminate the storyline So I was glad to see they did it and did it right

Alyssa: Yeah, I know that was one of the things actually that David was saying to me while we're filming, he was like, does he want me to do a few films with them? And they wanted me to do Peter Pan and Wendy. And the only way I was going to do Peter Pan and Wendy is if we do a complete different take on Tiger Lily. So that was huge for me. I was like, yeah, like Tiger Lily is very important. She should be given the voice and the platform that she deserved from way back a hundred years ago, whenever that was. Yeah. I think it was. I think it's 70 years this year since the first Peter Pan and Wendy, yeah.

Paul: Yeah, that's really crazy. That it's that old. And still really, it is still really popular, but I know Disney's added warnings in front of several of their movies now if you watch One Disney Plus or whatever, to alert people of the cultural insensitivity in these films. Now, having seen the original Peter Pan, I know that Tiger Lily in that movie. So, and I haven't heard, I don't know, if you can tell us anything, but are there other people in your Tiger Lily family in the film?

Alyssa: Yeah, I think we see that in the trailer. So, I guess like a little bit about it. Yeah, so Tiger Lily does have her little tribe there. They are smaller in numbers, but they're still there. 

Paul: Nice. That's great. That's great. Now, the film's going to debut, you said April 28th?

Alyssa: Yeah. 

Paul: And is it Disney Plus release or?

Alyssa: Yeah, it is.

Paul: OK. And it's a film, not a series, right?

Alyssa: No, it's a film. And a lot of people, a lot of people are kind of funny. They're like, they come up to me and they ask me, oh, you're in the Peter Pan and Wendy cartoon or in the voiceover. And I don't know why that got a little bit mixed up, but but it is not a cartoon. It's a live action.

Paul: Yeah, you know, as somebody, I think I told you, I was Disney World last week and I'm excited now that we have an more authentic character is that maybe we can go back and fix the attraction at Disney World, you know, and make that a little better now and and maybe we won't have somebody running around with the Pocahontas outfit that's just weird. So maybe we'll have a little bit more authentic take on things at Disney World, which would be pretty exciting. And representation is so important and I know There are so many hundreds of thousands of little girls that are going to see this film and attach themselves to this. As you have been working in 16 years, even though it's just a few years, can you tell me who have been some of the people that you've looked to in film or in other roles that kind of led the way for you? 

Alyssa: Well, since I was a little girl, I saw, I think, one of the first girls. big representations that I saw was this dance team that was called the Red Power Squad. And I don't know if you have heard about them, but they were like a team that were out in Alberta and they'd travel around to schools and basically do a little dance for the kids like break dancing and just show that kids can dance and they can have fun. They're a native team so it was Another really cool thing was that one of them was actually my older cousin that I had no idea he was my older cousin, James Jones. And he is a really well-known person now in TikTok. I hear and he does all the powwows and dances. But yeah, he was one of the people that I really looked up to just seeing that positive, positive role model to look up to because he also went on a big sober journey as well, which is really nice to see. And just another, like a bunch of actors that were from back in the day, like Michelle Thrust. She was an OG actress that everybody knew about. And she also came from Alberta. So like all of these people back in the day that were, they were a bit smaller, but they still did really big things to me as a kid. I was like, yeah, like people can do things and they can make change. want to be and that's something really cool.

Paul: Yeah. So, you know, I'm hoping this is going to open more doors for you. So do we have any more projects on the horizon that you can talk about or where we're heading in the next year? Hitting up any powwows this year or anything?

Alyssa: It's my dream to go to Gathering of Nations Powwow. I've never been yet. But this year I definitely want to go. I want to get my daughter out dancing as well. She loves dancing. Ansey and Jingle. So I want to take her out. And other than that, I do have a few projects that are coming up this year, but they're very, very underwrapped still. And then I just, I just did Bones of Crows, though, that was this past fall that we'd wrapped it, or actually, that was a year ago. The whole COVID thing that happened kind of made me think that the past few years are all one year.Yeah, but last year I filmed Bones of Crows, which was filmed here in Vancouver. And that's, I think that's coming out now this year as a TV series. And we just released the feature film that was also made at the same time. And that's been traveling around to a lot of Canadian and now United States film festivals.

Paul: All right. We'll look for that too. That's exciting to see. more stuff already on the way. That's cool. And being worked on. That's exciting. Cool. Thank you for spending a few minutes with me. I'm really excited. I can't wait to see the movie. It's going to come out in the middle of Gathering Nations, of course. So hopefully maybe I can download it and watch it on the plane on the way home. That would be perfect, right?

Alyssa: Yeah. 

Paul: All right. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate your time

Alyssa: Yeah. Thank you. It was really nice chatting. Maybe we'll see you gathering in Nations. 

Paul: Okay.

Paul:  Thanks again for being here on this episode of the Powwow Live Podcast. And I wanna thank my guests for spending some time and giving us that interview. Now, as promised, I've got a bonus code for you listening to today's episode so that you can get extra entries into that eighth generation blanket giveaway as we count down the days until the gathering of nations powwow out there in Albuquerque, New Mexico. So your bonus code today is 436-251. Head over to, slash win to enter that and get your bonus. Good luck. Thanks again for being a part of the community. I'll see you soon, everybody. Thanks. 

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Last Updated on March 27, 2023 by Paul G

2 Comments on “Alyssa Wapanatahk Stars As Tiger Lily In Peter Pan & Wendy – Pow Wow Life 87”

  • Avatar for Fred s

    Fred s


    Thank you PAUL FOR all you do.. FOR. Indian culture .it means so much to all.

    • Avatar for Paul G

      Paul G


      Thanks, I appreciate that!

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