This year, Dakota Ray Hebert made a promise to herself. The award-winning Dene actor, comedian and writer from Saskatchewan – who is currently starring in the CTV sitcom Shelved – committed to shooting her shot, no matter how out there an idea may be.
“I think sometimes I get too in my head or scared about going for things,” Hebert said. “It’s that second guessing or imposter syndrome part of ourselves that thinks we’re not worthy or we’re not ready or able to do something. I’m trying not to listen to the part of my brain that says, ‘No, you’re not good enough,’ and instead want to just start throwing spaghetti at the wall for whatever I’m interested in.”
This shift in mindset is already opening new doors for Hebert. In February, Saskatoon gallery The Drop Spot Studio posted an open call for artists. Although Hebert only started painting a few years ago, she applied, and her artwork will be included in an exhibition this spring.
Embracing challenges and being okay with people seeing you make mistakes while you learn can be intimidating. For many people, it takes time and effort to build up the courage to put yourself out there, but Hebert feels it’s worth the work.
“I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with sharing my development,” she said. “Instead of being a perfectionist about things and thinking, ‘Oh, I’m going to suck at it, so why even bother starting?’, I began pushing through those feelings and learning how to be more comfortable in that uncomfortableness.”
This has helped Hebert feel less awkward when taking on new projects and trying her hand at different things. New experiences that frighten us often leads to opportunities for learning, growth and other good things.
“It’s been a really helpful exercise. It’s been a few years in the making for sure, but I encourage anybody who wants to try to push through self-doubts to pick something that scares them and then make a point of sharing it on social media.”
Putting herself out there helped Hebert earn her role on Shelved. The workplace comedy was created by Run the Burbs showrunner and former The Office writer, Anthony Q. Farrell, and focuses on staff and patrons at an underfunded Toronto library.
Hebert was originally hired as a punch-up writer to help sharpen jokes on the show. When she learned there was going to be an Indigenous character on the program, Hebert seized the opportunity to help mold the role of junior librarian Jacqueline “Jaq” Bedard after herself.
She started throwing out ideas like making Jaq Dene and having her come from Hebert’s hometown of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. Hebert eventually asked if she could audition for the character and scored the part.
Shelved is Hebert’s first lead role in a TV series. She is grateful for the learning experiences she gained playing Jaq and for the chance to bring more Indigenous representation to popular TV programs.
“I think every person has a Jaq in them who’s not afraid to stand up or speak their mind,” Hebert said. “She’s very upfront. What you see is what you get, and she just seems so strong. I really admire that about her. I love that Anthony (Farrell) wrote in an Indigenous character. I think it’s so important for us to be in more mainstream shows, and this is a wonderful opportunity for that.”
After being cast in Shelved, Hebert was also able to help shape her character’s appearance. She utilized a lot of her own jewellery and fashion that she’d bought from Indigenous designers in Saskatchewan and across Canada. Wanting to use her growing platform to elevate others, after each episode of Shelved Hebert is posting her looks on social media and tagging the Indigenous creators.
“People have really appreciated it, and they get to be excited and show that their work is on TV,” she said. “I think it’s really important and I plan to continue doing this with all of the characters I play in the future.”
Before ending our call with Hebert, we wanted to ask about something we’re passionate about – insurance. And more specifically, if there’s anything she’d like to see changed about it.
“Insurance is boring, but really important,” she said. “I think the shopping around can be really overwhelming, so I get panicky about that. I feel like I’m in an insured bubble that is great, but there’s a lot of questions, and I never know what to ask. I wish instead of so much legalese, things were written simpler so that I could understand it more.”