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Darcy Waite didn’t so much develop the character of DJ Burnt Bannock as stumble into him.
“I was producing a feature film called Ruthless Souls with my friend Madison Thomas, and we needed to cast some DJs for a scene,” the Calgary-born, Edmonton-reared multi-hyphenate says over the phone from Winnipeg. “I was like, well I can do that. So we came up with these ridiculous, blinged-out outfits. And when I walked out in it, I didn’t see that someone put a chair in front of me. I tripped over it, broke it, my bling went everywhere, and everyone just erupted in laughter.”
This was well before the TV series DJ Burnt Bannock — the first episode was released Monday on APTN Lumi — was even a gleam in Waite’s eye. He knew the embryonic character of an Indigenous DJ was something special, though, and after pondering an appropriately ridiculous name, he began writing the script in 2018. Nothing ever moves quickly in the world of film and television, however, and Waite was forced to pitch the idea of a show a number of times before linking up with producer Eagle Vision and APTN, assisted with funds from the Bell Fund’s Short-Form Digital Series Program.
The unnamed DJ in Thomas’s film started as inadvertent slapstick and continues on as intentional slapstick. DJ Burnt Bannock is an unabashed comedy following Waite as Kevin Cardinal, aka DJ Burnt Bannock and his cousin Allan (Paul Rabliauskas) as they navigate increasingly ludicrous scenarios, Cardinal’s kookum (Joy Keeper) attempting to reign in their antics. It’s enjoyably funny stuff that gently touches on Indigenous issues, and much of the pleasure to be found in the show is in watching Rabliauskas and Waite’s undeniable chemistry.
“Everyone says that we have that kind of David Spade and Chris Farley energy and those were my heroes growing up,” Waite notes. “That’s so cool to hear.”
The 28-year-old Waite has been bouncing around as an actor, writer, producer and director for some time now. He grew up in foster care, living in Calgary before relocating to Edmonton as a teen. A graduate of Ross Sheppard High School and Red Deer College’s Motion Picture Arts Degree Program, Waite also briefly attended nursing school and held down a few 9-to-5 jobs while chasing the acting bug.
“When I was at Red Deer I was told, ‘Yeah, you can act, but you can’t just do that.’ That’s when I learned that in this industry you also have to be a producer, a writer, a director, something else that’s gonna get you on set. That’s also where I learned that I wanted to do comedy.”
Thankfully Waite’s parents were supportive of his passion.
“My parents are Indigenous, so I still grew up with the teachings,” Waite says. “My mom made sure that I knew about my culture, so I’m very fortunate that way because a lot of people have lost that connection to the community. So we do talk a bit about that in the show, elders in the city and the Friendship Center, which was really important to me.”
While DJ Burnt Bannock has scenarios relatable to Indigenous people, Waite is also quick to point out that it’s the kind of show that offers something for everyone.
“I think everyone knows what it’s like to get scared and throw your garbage from 50 feet away in the dark,” Waite laughs. “I think everybody’s done that. Or, you know, messing up and getting in trouble with your mom and she’s like, ‘What are you doing, you didn’t do what I asked?’ And, you know, everyone has a dream as a kid, and what if you went for it? These are universal themes.”
Cardinal is still working on that dream in the first six episodes, but Waite is clearly living his. Perhaps more important to Waite is the opportunity to show another side of Indigenous people, who often aren’t given the chance to show their sense of humor on television or film.
“I haven’t had a great life in many ways,” Waite admits. “So this is the way that I’ve healed. I love comedy, I love making people laugh, it’s an amazing thing. I’ve been doing so many shows about social justice and I just wanted to do something like this, because in our Indigenous culture, laughter is medicine.”
DJ Burnt Bannock is available to stream on the APTN Lumi app, Apple TV or via the website; signup is required at aptnlumi.ca.