Wiiky youth actor gains Hollywood prominence

Just before the pandemic, Sladen Peltier was busy filming ‘Running Home,’ a film that is expected to be released soon.

Sladen Peltier has Los Angeles move in his sights

OTTAWA – Up-and-coming Wiikwemkoong actor Sladen Peltier is navigating the complexity of working in acting during a global pandemic and its related travel restrictions, all while balancing his high school education from home and trying to stay motivated as he explores new opportunities to appear on screen.

“Finding Canadian work isn’t too bad, because there’s lots of small and big things that happen here in Canada. ‘It Chapter Two’ was filmed near Toronto, so there’s lots of opportunities. Even with the competition, you’re bound to get one eventually,” Sladen told The Expositor.

People who don’t immediately recognize Sladen’s name will likely still recognize the young Anishinaabe actor for his big break as young Saul Indian Horse in the 2018 film ‘Indian Horse,’ as well as a role in 2019’s Stephen King thriller ‘It Chapter Two.’

He got the opportunity to take on his first acting gig when he received a casting call flyer at a Little NHL tournament, as this newspaper first reported in 2016. On-ice skills were a significant part of his ‘Indian Horse’ role.

Sladen’s dual passions of hockey and acting have continued to fight for precedent in his life, especially when potential gigs happen at the same time as big tournaments. This year, he hasn’t been able to join hockey, baseball or lacrosse teams because of the public health crisis, and has had to pass up some acting opportunities because of travel restrictions and the challenges in going back and forth between Los Angeles and Ontario.

“I was supposed to be down in LA with my dad right now, working on a TV series, but we couldn’t do it with the travel restrictions,” he said.

The parts and opportunities keep coming Sladen’s way, despite the state of the world. He has a prominent role in a soon-to-be-released film called ‘Running Home,’ directed by Zoe Hopkins and filmed in Six Nations of the Grand River. COVID-19 has pushed back the release date.

His agent has kept busy in search of new opportunities, including for a few potential animated projects. With recommendations against travel, audition processes have become slightly more accommodating—preliminary tryouts can be completed at home by sending in a recording of him reading the parts into his phone and sending off the audio file.

Sladen’s dad, Alex Peltier, said he was concerned about turning down some parts in LA during the pandemic and what impact that may have on his career. However, he has had some reassurances from Sladen’s agent and from directors who have emailed the family directly to say they understand the situation and still wish to work together in the future.

“It makes me proud that they’re after him, that they want him,” Mr. Peltier said. “They treat him very well (in Los Angeles).”

Mr. Peltier said he has encouraged his son to pursue his passions, whether that may be hockey or acting (or both, as in the case of ‘Indian Horse’), and has helped to keep connections up with executives down there.

One new friend for Sladen is the director of ‘Indian Horse,’ Stephen Campanelli. The two regularly share conversations and Mr. Campanelli keeps an eye out for potential opportunities (he is a frequent collaborator with Clint Eastwood).

Sladen said he was proud to be able to portray Indigenous roles on screen, especially in projects like ‘Indian Horse’ that also serve an educational purpose of illustrating Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples.

But he hasn’t let his work go to his head. The ninth-grader said he doesn’t broadcast his work on the silver screen beyond a few close friends, preferring to be known as ‘Sladen’ rather than “that guy in a movie.”

These days, he is spending a lot of time at home with his mom Katelin Gillis in Ottawa, going to virtual school alongside his younger sister from their bedrooms. The virtual learning has been a good experience for Sladen, who got to spend a few months in Wiikwemkoong this year because he could continue learning there uninterrupted.

There is a chance that he may end up in a Los Angeles high school for part of his next few years of education. Sladen said he recently did an online interview with a teacher about the prospect of playing lacrosse for the school and learning there. 

This would allow him to be closer to work opportunities in Hollywood and also put him in the same halls as fellow up-and-comers, such as basketball star LeBron James’ child.

Despite his surroundings around plenty of big names, a lot of his inspiration comes from closer to home. Sladen sometimes helps his dad, a carpenter, on his work projects. He is interested in following higher education and possibly getting trained to be an electrician.

For now, Sladen is remaining busy with school and enjoying a little break in the acting roles as he prepares for what 2021 will bring.

“I find (balancing things) pretty good,” he said. “The life experience of doing this is very cool!”