Tayton Mianskum recently starred in a soon-to-be-released series on CRAVE television, and if that’s not remarkable enough, this was Tayton’s first time auditioning or acting, so his first role is in a major television production.
The show is called Little Bird, and the six-episode arc tells a story about the Sixties Scoop, a time when many Indigenous children were taken—or ‘scooped away’—from their birth families and communities, usually without consent of those families or bands.
Mianskum, who was 12 years old while filming the series, played Young Leo, the child version of actor Braeden Clarke’s character Leo. The show is a co-production between CRAVE and APTN, and is set to hit the airwaves this May.
Now because the show is still awaiting premiere, Tayton’s mom, Samantha Mianskum, was sure to not reveal any spoilers as she told us about the exciting experience of having her son work on his first television series.
The opportunity came through the grapevine, Samantha recalled, as family friends were mentioning the show was about to film and they encouraged Tayton to apply. This planted the seed, and before long he decided to make the leap, so the family sent in a photo of Tayton by local photographer Nikki Commanda.
Producers liked his look, and felt he could fit the role of Young Leo, so the family was asked for more information. With the help of his sister, Tayton filmed an audition, and sent this along to the production team.
This all occurred in early 2022, and due to Covid, producers preferred to review self-tapes as opposed to calling in actors for in-person auditions. The producers were impressed with how Tayton delivered the lines, and asked for one more video, which he provided. And that was the tape that finalized the decision. Tayton had the gig.
His mother admitted to being surprised, as Tayton had never auditioned for a role in his life, nor had he had experience in acting. However, he was a natural for the role, and producers saw he was a perfect fit to bring the fictional Young Leo to life.
Once cast, the family—who live in Nipissing First Nation—travelled from North Bay’s airport to Winnipeg about nine times to shoot Tayton’s scenes, which were shot about an hour from the city in a rural home. This was in late spring and summer of 2022.
On set, Samantha recalled her nerves ran high, but Tayton “got out there and he just did it, everything seemed so natural” when he was before the cameras. “I would have been so nervous,” she said, “but he did it like it was an everyday thing for him.”
Clearly, she’s a proud mom, and now that Tayton has had a taste of a big television production, the family is curious what other opportunities might arise from that. Right now, they’re looking forward to the Toronto Premiere of Little Bird, and to seeing it air on television. After that, if more roles come, Tayton will most likely give one a try. But for now, the plan is to carry on as before, and see where the future might lead for their talented son.
David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.