There are few people on the screen that have had a lasting impact on my senses. Few performances that I am tempted to go back to, over and over, and enjoy as much as I did the first time. Which is why I’m so pleased to talk about Cara Gee. Truth be told, I knew nothing about her before ‘The Expanse’ (2015), but once she came up in season 2, I was struck and intrigued. By the end of season 5, I was irreversibly enthralled, having watched her grow and shine.

Born in Calgary, Alberta, Ms Gee is a proud Ojibwe and one of the few First Nations actors in the entire film and TV industry. While I do believe that North America can and should do infinitely better in terms of Indigenous representation, I am glad that Cara Gee has broken through and asserted herself as the exquisite artist that she is.


She got her start in theatre, building up a grand reputation on the Toronto scene. Among her most memorable stage performances one will find Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Penelopiad’, a rewriting of ‘The Odyssey’ from Penelope’s perspective; Daniel MacIvor’s ‘Arigato, Tokyo’, which follows a Canadian author on a publicity tour in Japan falling in love amidst the sacred stages of Noh theatre and the vibrant dance clubs; and ‘The Rez Sisters’, a two-act play written by Cree Canadian writer Tomson Highway which blends the sometimes darker aspects of living on a First Nations reserve with humour and bits of Aboriginal spirituality.

Her TV break came with the role of Alicia Pratta in ‘King’ (2011-2012), the Canadian procedural created by Bernard Zukerman and Greg Spottiswood, followed by an appearance in ‘Republic of Doyle’ (2010-2014). Shortly afterwards, Cara Gee made her way onto the silver screen and into the international limelight as Lena in ‘Empire of Dirt’ (2013), an independent feature film directed by Peter Stebbings. It brought her a Best Actress nomination at the 2nd Canadian Screen Awards for her portrayal of a single First Nations mother struggling to bridge an ever-growing generational gap from her mother to her daughter.

Its theme of First Nations pride prompted the actress to address her own heritage during an interview with Toronto Now, where she said: ‘I wish my granny [an activist and defender of First Nations rights] were here so she could see this… Part of the struggle of being First Nations is that so much has been taken from us. My granny was the last person in our family to speak Ojibway. She had babies in the ‘50s, and she didn’t teach them the language because they’d get beaten by their teachers for speaking it. It was easier not to know it.’


One year later, ‘Inhuman Condition’ cast Cara Gee as Tamar, one of its leads, an anxious and vulnerable young woman with a mysterious supernatural affliction that caused her to accidentally murder 306 people as a child. The web series was created and written by R.K Lackie and had a great run on the KindaTV YouTube channel in 2016, after having been selected for funding by The Independent Production Fund back in 2014.

But it was 2017 that became the take-off point for this remarkable First Nations actress when she took on the role of Camina Drummer in ‘The Expanse’, developed by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby for television and based on the eponymous novels by James S.A. Corey—a penname used by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who also serve as executive producers alongside showrunner Naren Shankar. At first, Camina Drummer was a recurring role, a faithful assistant to Fred Johnson and Belter head of security of Tycho Station. By season 4, however, the character became known as one of the best female leads of science fiction due to Ms Gee’s stupendous performance, which is driven gloriously by a most artful emotional intensity.


Going from a Belter nobody to captain of Medina Station and ultimately captain of her own crew on the Dewalt, a scavenger ship run by a polyamorous family, Camina Drummer can be effortlessly described as a masterpiece for both theatrical skill and social representation. Cara Gee may not be the first Indigenous lead on the small screen, but she is certainly one of its best—and she has put plenty of her Indigenous identity into Drummer.

In response to a comment by Mr Shankar from the New York Comic Con talks back in 2019 referring to the historical precedents incorporated into the show’s political world-building, Ms Gee said: ‘I think that’s why having such a diverse cast is such a huge asset to the story because we all bring our unique points of view to this story. I’m an indigenous woman and so, for me, of course I look at Belter issues from that perspective, and I think that’s part of what makes this story special.’

She went on to add that, for her, Belter issues such as access to clean air and water are painfully relevant, considering that there are still so many First Nations reserves that do not have access to clean water across the North American continent. When the Ring Gate opened in season 3, thus providing an opportunity for human exploration, one cannot help but observe the historical reference made to the European invasion of America—which makes Cara Gee’s presence on the show downright crucial.


Another aspect that makes Drummer such a wonderful character in terms of representation is her positioning at the head of a polyamorous family, one of the many reasons why season 5 has been such a spectacular rollercoaster ride, to begin with. In the show, her plural marriage is sometimes referred to as a ketubah, and it’s a place of comfort and solace for her character after having experienced traumatic losses (Klaes Ashford, Fred Johnson, and presumably Naomi Nagata). For Ms Gee, this development was enticing, to say the least.

‘I was so excited that we got to represent this polyamorous Belter family. I think that respectful representation of polyamory is nowhere to be seen in the television landscape, and I’m so proud that we did that. I think that for our queer fans to see Drummer finally get hers is so satisfying’, she told Screen Rant in an interview, adding that ‘nobody shipped Drummer and Naomi harder than me and Dominique. […] So, to finally see her – I wouldn’t say happy under the circumstances of the show – but happy with the relationship, is really beautiful. The relationship between all of those polyamorous characters is so tender and vulnerable.’


Alas, the good times do not last. Drummer is soon forced to make gut-wrenching choices as captain of her crew/family, to whom she is bound through a love and devotion as powerful as the emotions that once bound her to the aforementioned and recently departed.

She has no choice but to cooperate with Marco Inaros, the terrorist whom she once spared only to watch him kill her friend Ashford by tossing him through an airlock. If she wishes to keep her ship and her people safe, Drummer must join Inaros’s Free Navy. Oksana, her partner and lover advises her to make this sacrifice, while Drummer becomes consumed with rage and guilt. Unavoidably, she hits rock bottom and comes apart completely before she finds the strength and resolve needed to push through and rise against Inaros’s tyranny.


The entire performance of Cara Gee as Camina Drummer is a spectacular tour de force, unlike anything I have ever seen. Her emotional intensity breaks boundaries and transfers itself onto the viewers. Her power transcends the screen and the universe itself, as she is broken down into bits and pieces for everyone to see before she comes back up and smashes into anyone and anything threatening to take those she loves away. She doesn’t plan on making the same mistakes twice.

Having followed the show since the beginning, I find myself genuinely impressed by Ms Gee’s range as an actress, effortlessly going from the proud, strong and ruthless Drummer of earlier seasons to the softer and deeply emotional Drummer of this penultimate arc in the series. Knowing that this is still the early stage of her acting career, I can’t help but feel excited as I look forward to what other projects await her in the future, given that ‘The Expanse’ is set to end with its sixth season later this year.


Despite her onscreen growth, however, Cara Gee has yet to abandon her first love, the theatre. As early as 2019, she played May in Sam Shepard’s ‘Fool for Love’, a story that explores the fiery love-hate dynamic of a couple. The play ran from July until August of that year at Soulpepper Theatre Company and was met with a plethora of radiant reviews. In an interview with Muskrat Magazine, Ms Gee delved into the complexity of May and Eddie’s relationship and the play’s treatment of toxic masculinity:

‘We are seeing a couple who are really struggling with violence. It’s not just Eddie. May is also perpetrating physical violence against Eddie – we are looking at how we break this cycle, and what actions they should take to treat each other with kindness and respect. We see a lot of them getting it wrong. We see a lot of a certain kind of entitlement to each other’s bodies.’


In 2018, Cara Gee played Phoebe to Kristian Bruun’s Damon in ‘Red Rover’, a romantic comedy that follows a lonely geologist who is disappointed in his life on Earth and tries to qualify for a one-way mission to Mars. Directed by Shane Belcourt, the film sparkled on the independent circuit, earning Ms Gee a Rising Star Award at the Whistler Film Festival.

Two years later, she appeared as Françoise in ‘The Call of the Wild’ (2020) alongside Omar Sy and Harrison Ford—an adventure film based on Jack London’s 1903 novel and directed by Chris Sanders of ‘Lilo & Stitch’ (2002) fame. It was met with a mixture of hot and cold, truth be told, but mostly because of the audience’s discontent with what the Razzie Awards called ‘that totally fake-looking CGI dog’.


Her star is still rising, though. According to multiple sources, Cara Gee and Mpho Koaho, the latter known for his roles in ‘Falling Skies’ (2011-2015) and ‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ (2016-2017), are set to star in ‘Levels’, a forthcoming sci-fi thriller written and directed by Adam Stern, with principal photography set to begin this year. Marking Stern’s feature directorial debut, the story follows Joe, a man who risks everything (including reality itself, according to the logline) to discover the truth about his girlfriend’s death.

When talking about his choice to work with Ms Gee, Stern said: ‘Cara’s phenomenal work as Drummer on “The Expanse” consistently blows me away, a combination of elegance and ferocity that’s perfect for Aislinn. I can’t wait to see [her] breathe life into [this role].’

My thoughts exactly.