Xavier Watso is a Two-Spirit creator who has been blowing up on TikTok with his entertaining videos dedicated to Indigeneity. Watso, Abenaki from Odanak, co-stars in a new production of playwright Drew Hayden Taylor’s acclaimed play alterNatives which opens at Centaur Theatre on October 17.
A former high school drama teacher with the Commission scolaire de Montréal for 16 years, the Abenaki actor portrays the character Bobby in alterNatives, a Centaur collaboration with Montreal-based Indigenous theatre company Menuentakuan Productions.
The play focuses on the relationship between Angel, a young Anishinaabe science-fiction writer, and his partner Colleen, a university professor who studies Indigenous literature despite not being Indigenous herself. Colleen invites two of her friends – Dale and Michelle, a couple of white liberal vegans – to sit down and share a meal with two of Angel’s friends – including Watso as Bobby – a pair of radical anti-colonial activists who have dubbed themselves “alterNative warriors.”
The comedy of manners shines a light on the cultural divides that still exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.
Watso is also a media columnist, familiar face on Radio-Canada, Master of Ceremonies at the Odanak, Wolinak and Cacouna powwows, and host of the Présence Autochtone Festival.
We recently sat down for a candid Q&A. On this day Watso preferred using he/him pronouns.
Are there similarities between Bobby and yourself?
Xavier Watso: The difference between my character and me is that he’s a bit more of a troublemaker. I’m happy I’m playing Bobby because there’s a lot of truth behind my character and he says a lot of interesting things that many of us can relate to, even if you’re not Indigenous. It’s also a really fun first step into professional theatre for me. I’m playing with such great actors too!
As part of this production, you are still teaching audiences.
Xavier Watso: Yeah, 100 per cent! I love to teach. I think it’s important to teach people Indigenous realities whether it’s in a classroom, on TikTok or on the stage. Audiences will learn something and they’re going to have fun while doing it.
Your TikTok videos are hugely popular. How effective a medium is it to share your messages?
Xavier Watso: If you take the time, it’s about communities. You get to follow what you’re really interested in. Find your niche. Another reason why it’s a great app is because everybody can use it. Everybody can post a video. It’s simple.
In your TikTok videos I couldn’t help but notice you have beautiful nails. How much time do you spend doing your nails each week? They’re amazing!
Xavier Watso: I found this TikToker from Montreal who does my nails. I’d like to get them done once a month but sometimes I have to stretch it out.
You identify as Two-Spirit. What does Two-Spirit mean to you?
Xavier Watso: It can relate to your gender, sexuality, but it also can relate to your spirituality. And it can be a combination of those three, or just one of those. That’s how I perceive it. But I know other Indigenous people do not see it the same way. For others it’s absolutely about gender or absolutely about sexuality. And I think that’s okay because every nation has their own view, their own culture, their own tradition. We’re not all the same.
You have a new APTN television series premiering next year.
Xavier Watso: It’s an Indigenous series talking about legends. We’re shooting in the spring and the series will air in the autumn of 2024.