Tantoo Cardinal on Bringing a Timely Social Message to ‘New Amsterdam’
“She’s a history professor with a drive for social justice and the truth,” Cardinal says. Although she has a dangerous blood clot, the descendent of the Native American Lenape tribe that once inhabited Manhattan tells him she can’t stay in a hospital whose name represents the erasure of her people.
For Cardinal, “I can feel [the lack of respect]. It’s in your marrow,” says the prolific Canadian Indigenous actress (Dances With Wolves), explaining why she took her first flight in a year to be part of telling the story.
The episode’s writer, Shanthi Sekaran, realized the show had taken the name for granted. “I wanted Jane to be a headstrong, flinty woman who pushed the limits of activism and pushed Max to the limits of his idealism,” she says. “Max is all about reckoning and justice — so how might he reckon with Jane’s demands?”
The hour is a civil but intense negotiation. “She’s hard on him,” Cardinal says. “She sends him back to the drawing board until he comes up with something that’s palpable.”
New Amsterdam, Tuesdays, 10/9c, NBC