Inspired by real events and set in the roar of the 1920s, The Porter follows the journeys of an ensemble of characters who hustle, dream, cross borders and pursue their ambitions in the fight for liberation – on and off the railways that crossed North America. It is a gripping story of empowerment and idealism that highlights the moment when railway workers from both Canada and the United States joined together to give birth to the world’s first Black union.
Set primarily in Montreal, Chicago and Detroit as the world rebuilds after the First World War, The Porter depicts the Black community in St. Antoine, Montreal – known, at the time, as the “Harlem of the North.”
The Porter is set to make its premiere this February 21st on CBC and BET+. We had the opportunity to speak with actor Shane Marriott who portrays Sticks, a loyal man who abides by the laws of the game but he’s also one not to be messed with. Sticks works for Queenie, a powerful person in charge of running an illegal numbers/gambling.
Kat: The show features the black community in St. Antoine, Montreal – known, at the time, as the “Harlem of the North.” What kind of research or preparation did you do for your role?
Shane: I searched YouTube and tried to find various videos, interviews and documentaries from this time in history, as well as reading the book ‘They Call me George: The Untold Story Of Black Train Porters And The Birth Of Modern Canada’ to give me a better understanding of the character I had to portray from that era. Once I read and watched various interviews I started to do my script work by reading the whole story then moulding my character into how I interpreted him within the story.
Kat: Was there anything about your role that was particularly challenging?
Shane: I would have to say working with the dialogue coach was challenging. It was my first time doing it and I wanted it to sound as accurate as possible. Watching countless videos and phrasing certain words posed as a challenge but the whole process was great.
Kat: What do you hope the audience will take with them from the story?
Shane: The truth about Canadian history that isn’t taught in school curriculums. That Canada still dealt with racism and segregation like the US, maybe not to the same degree but they faced the same issues and injustice. How hard Pullman Porters had to fight and what they had to endure just to be treated fairly and equally by implementing a Union for their workers. The simple fact that this movement contributed to Canada loosening their immigration laws.
Kat: Had you portrayed a character in a period piece before, and if not, what did you learn in the process?
Shane: I was on an episode of Murdoch Mysteries which too is a period piece. I love them, I wish I can be a part of more. Everything from the costumes to the props and set, it’s fun diving into that world and having the freedom to play.
Kat: You portray Sticks, a man who has been through his own trials and has seen it all. Did you find any commonalities between yourself and your character, and if so how did that help you share Sticks’ story?
Shane: I did! Sticks is a man of a few words, very observant and skeptical. I just had to dive right into the world and play each situation as truthful as I could depending on the circumstance. I found that a lot of his thoughts were internalized until he decided to share, I think I fit into the same persona.
Kat: What’s next?
Shane: Several projects in the works right now. I am currently wrapping up an episode for Mayday, Amazon Prime’s ‘Reacher’ (Alan Ritchson) which just released this month and Steven King’s remake ‘Firestarter’ (Zac Efron) coming this summer. The audition process has begun but I cannot wait to see all of the new opportunities, stories and characters that will cross my path.