‘Reservation Dogs’: Devery Jacobs Reflects on Elora’s Journey & Writing Scenes for Ethan Hawke (VIDEO)

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FX‘s sorely overlooked series Reservation Dogs delivered some of the best storytelling TV has to offer, thanks in part to star, writer, and director Devery Jacobs who, as Elora Danan rose to the occasion for the show’s third and final season later last year.

Created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi, the series opened with a group of Indigenous youth — Elora, Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai), Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis), and Cheese (Lane Factor) — living on an Oklahoma reservation where they were dealing with the aftermath of their friend Daniel’s (Dalton Cramer) suicide. As the series progressed, the pals moved through their grief, making the long trek to California where they let Daniel go, and begin to think about the next chapters of their lives.

For Elora, that means exploring her future career through schooling, but to get to that next step, she must face a mystery from her past by uncovering the identity of her father. Grappling with the reality of learning her dad is a white man named Rick Miller, it is financial aid forms that send her in his direction, unveiling one of the show’s most pleasantly surprising guest appearances from Ethan Hawke who is currently set to headline Harjo’s The Sensitive Kind.

Devery Jacobs and Ethan Hawke in 'Reservation Dogs' Season 3

(Credit: Shane Brown/FX)

TV Insider caught up with Jacobs, who along with starring in the episode opposite Hawke, also wrote the dialogue they share onscreen in the unique entry. “When writing this episode, I knew that Sterlin Harjo wanted to pay homage to the Before Sunrise trilogy that Ethan Hawke had done in the sense of just following two people having a conversation,” Jacobs reveals in TV Insider’s Scene Study segment, above. She adds that making it a one-on-one conversation between Elora and Rick was a way of letting the episode “breathe.”

“We’d never really done anything like that in Res Dogs before. And so there were definitely those influences that we wanted to have in this dialogue.” One particular piece of dialogue Jacobs appreciates most is when Hawke’s character says, “You never get the first pancake right,” in reference to the other children he’s had since leaving Elora after her mother’s death.

“This was the very first scene that me and Ethan filmed in the entire episode,” Jacobs reveals of the moment where Elora and Rick walk down the road to the bus stop where Rick’s other children are about to be dropped off from school. One detail Jacobs points out is Elora’s smoking of the joint with Rick. “I think that Elora Danan is trying to show how grown up she is to Rick, to her dad, and how much she doesn’t need him anymore.” But beyond the purpose of the scene, Jacobs admits, the smoking had a calming effect when it came to sharing the screen with Hawke.

Ethan Hawke and Devery Jacobs in 'Reservation Dogs'

(Credit: Shane Brown/FX)

“I was obviously nervous to have to shoot with Ethan Hawke and have such an iconic actor who I respect so much playing my dad. And to be able to have that moment where I’m relaxing into it, having some CBD weed ended up getting me more comfortable so that I was able to dive into some of the further conversations that we have in the house, in the diner, in the pizza spot, all of the different places that we go through this episode together,” Jacobs reveals.

Admittedly, Jacobs says, “I haven’t watched this since it came out, and we didn’t get a chance to talk about it because the strikes were happening, and obviously the strikes were really important, and I’m so glad that they happened,” but she adds, “it almost feels like we released [Season 3] into a void where we didn’t get to celebrate it, where we didn’t get to talk about it.”

Now that Jacobs has the chance to reflect, she says, “Getting to share with Ethan some of the inspiration behind Elora Danan’s journey as a writer, also as an actor, and getting to dive into that was something that was really special and that I’ll always cherish.”

As for Elora’s overall arc, Jacobs shares, “I haven’t had a chance to play somebody with so much growth over the course of such a long time. And it’s been a real privilege to be able to do that.”

Devery Jacobs, D'Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Lane Factor, and Paulina Alexis in 'Reservation Dogs' Season 3

(Credit: Shane Brown/FX)

By the time Season 3 rolls around, Jacobs notes that viewers are getting to see Elora heal through the grief and loss she’s experienced and move forward, “which is her reaching out and forming a new family and forming that sense of groundedness while also being secure enough in her relationship with the Res Dogs, with Bear that she knows she can… She has that rooted sense that she’s not… running away from something, but she’s just expanding on and building her life. And so getting to go from that one end of the spectrum to where Elora Danan ended up was so emotional, and I’m so grateful to have been a part of that journey.”

Beyond her success with Reservation Dogs, Jacobs has originated two Marvel Cinematic Universe characters within the past year with her roles as Kahhori in Season 2 of the animated series What If…? and Bonnie in the series Echo, which she learned American sign language for. “If I were to have any superpower in real life, it would be to be able to speak every language, because I think there’s so much culture and perspective of the world that’s rooted in language, whether that’s an Indigenous language, whether that’s American sign language. And so I think it better connects us as people when we’re able to speak in another person’s language with them,” Jacobs remarks.

When it came to the Marvel roles, she says, “They were very different processes. With recording What If…? I was originally cast in August of 2020, so it was a lot longer in the process because it was animation. Getting to work in my Indigenous language was something that was a lot of pressure to make sure that I got right because it was memorialized in film forever.”

With so few Native speakers left, Jacobs says, “My family has been really dedicated to language revitalization and preservation. And so to be able to do it on such a scale like the MCU just meant so much on a personal level to even share with my niece who’s a first-language Mohawk speaker. That was something that was so special. And to see such a badass Mohawk woman was awesome.”

As for Echo, Jacobs was excited to collaborate with Sydney Freeland and Alaqua Cox, noting, “There are so many people who we haven’t heard from yet. And the fact that it did so well just speaks to how much of an appetite there is for our stories and that there’s a lot people can learn from us. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the storytellers that we have in our communities.”

Most recently, Jacobs is starring in the film Backspot which costars Evan Rachel Wood and is executive produced by Elliot Page. “I’ve been working on Backspot for nearly seven years as a producer, and I know that I never would’ve been cast in a role like this had I not created the character of Riley for myself with the director D.W. Waterson,” Jacobs shares. “I’ve done so many roles that I’m so incredibly proud of and Backspot is up there as one of the roles that I am most proud of as an actor. And it’s been a long labor of love and a fun kickass cheerleading movie.”

See what else Jacobs has to say about her Reservation Dogs experience in the Scene Study video interview, above, and don’t miss What If…?, Backspot, and Echo.

FX’s Reservation Dogs, Streaming now, Hulu

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