Johnny Sequoyah plays Audrey Bishop, the strong-willed activist daughter of Iron Lake's police chief on Dexter: New Blood. We caught up with Johnny to discuss her role on Showtime's wildly successful series.
This interview contains spoilers, including Dexter: New Blood Season 1 Episode 5.
Content warning: Discussion of some topics that may upset sensitive viewers/readers, so continue at your discretion.
Mary Littlejohn: What led you to Dexter: New Blood, and what made you want to be part of it?
Johnny Sequoyah: I was not allowed to read any of the scripts until I was cast, so I only had about five pages of context as to who Audrey was. What attracted me to the role was how sassy and assertive she was, how she knew exactly what she wanted. I thought that was powerful and inspiring.
From there, I auditioned and had my fingers crossed that I would get it. I'm so grateful I did and got to be part of the show!
You were four when the original series premiered. I imagine you didn't watch it when it first aired! Did you end up watching it in preparation, and if so, what did you think of it?
It's funny -- as I was auditioning, I immediately started watching the show. I got up until season four when I found out I got the role.
One of the first things that the director asked me when I got the call -- firstly, he welcomed me to the Dexter family -- he asked, "Have you seen the show?" and I said, "Yep, I'm watching right now! I know I'll be able to finish it by the time we're filming in Massachusetts." And he said, "Stop! Don't watch anymore!"
Basically, he didn't want the new actors to have any preconceived notions on what the tone of the show was going to be. Also, he didn't want us to have any context of who Dexter was and to be as unfamiliar as we could be because he thought that would make it feel the most natural.
So I stopped watching it and then continued to watch it after we finished filming. I'm a fan! I think it's great! Michael and Jennifer [Carpenter] -- everyone in the original is just amazing. It was definitely inspiring and so interesting to watch the old show and then watch them on set.
What are your most special memories from being on set?
My favorite days were with Jack [Alcott], Julia [Jones], and Michael [C. Hall]. The four of us would just goof around all day on set. Jack has some very funny videos, which I know he will eventually post of us doing the most absurd, silly things in between setups of shots.
One day on set, we all assigned each other animals that we thought we would be. I gave Michael the caterpillar, which I felt was good because his band is called Princess Goes To The Butterfly Museum -- caterpillar turns into a butterfly. Jack was a spider monkey, Julia was a horse, and they gave me a deer, which I'm not going to question.
It fits -- especially after the whole thing with the stag!
We haven't seen much of your characters together yet, but what was it like being reunited with Jamie Chung [co-star from NBC's 2014 series Believe], having worked together when you were a child and now as an adult?
It was amazing to work with her again! Such a treat! I was already living in Massachusetts. We were in pre-production when I got a text from her saying, "Guess who's moving to Massachusetts, too?"
[Jamie Chung] was someone who, working on Believe with, took me under her wing. She taught me so much about being a young person in the film/TV industry and how to hold yourself on set. To have the privilege of working with her again now at 19, I'm learning even more from her, in a different way.
She is such a fierce and incredible woman, so I'm really grateful to have her in my life, as an older sister figure but also being able to work with her now, twice. She is so talented, and she's so good in this.
You come from an entertainment family. How did you know you wanted to pursue this as a career?
I was very fortunate to grow up on my parents' small, independent film sets. So, from a very young age, some of my earliest memories are watching actors just being in their process and being so intrigued by it. I got bit by the acting bug at age four and begged my parents to let me audition for things! They were hesitant -- the industry is difficult.
When I was eight years old, I actually made them a PowerPoint of all the reasons they should let me be an actress and let me audition! Luckily I convinced them, so they started to let me audition within a year. Believe was my first audition -- they were definitely surprised!
How much of you would you say is in Audrey? What makes you connect with this character?
There's a good amount of me in Audrey! I have an activist spirit in the same way she does, and I am loyal to those I care about. I relate to her sassiness too! I'm not as sassy as her, but I definitely have some in me!
I also have a special connection with my mom. She's my person. I think that Angela and Audrey have a beautiful relationship, even if you don't see that much of it in the show. It's years of building trust.
It's an interesting parallel to the Harrison/Dexter relationship, seeing how Audrey and Angela have built this relationship that is not necessarily based on blood but on loving and trusting each other. In contrast, Dexter and Harrison are trying to develop their relationship.
It feels like after Episode 5, there is newfound respect between them -- Audrey has proven to her mom that she can be more responsible. Given Audrey's interest in true crime and her emotional investment in Harrison, how involved will she be in the investigation of "Jim Lindsay"?
I can't give too much away! As you said, there are personal feelings involved. This question now of what is happening with the person that her mom is dating becomes personal in a new way because Audrey really cares about Harrison. They have a unique relationship.
Even though Audrey has grown up in this town her whole life and Harrison is new, they both feel like they don't entirely have anyone that fully understands them. When they find each other, there's this awe within it. I think for Audrey, when things are unraveling, she really cares to go to Harrison and make sure he is okay within it all.
And now she's saved his life, and he saved her life, so it feels like a whole other level!
Yeah, that's beautiful. It's really sweet.
I really appreciate Dexter: New Blood's inclusion of the Seneca peoples and their traditional beliefs, particularly having two strong Indigenous female characters prominently featured. I'm curious how that care for the Indigenous perspective came about behind the scenes in terms of production/creative consultation?
We had a Seneca consultant who was on set every day whenever we were filming anything Seneca-related. Caleb [Abrams] was the person who oversaw everything in the script and everything on set, saying this is accurate or this isn't accurate. Everyone was grateful to have his guidance.
I had the privilege of learning the Seneca language, which is absolutely beautiful. I had lines in the show speaking Seneca, which I found really empowering because it's not every day that you hear a Native language being spoken on a big network show like this.
Having these strong Indigenous characters in the show that are important and monumental to the season is great for representation. I think it's awesome.
It feels like Dexter: New Blood is making an effort to address topical issues -- climate change, school shootings, fentanyl, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). Audrey is often central to the discussion of these topics -- very much the activist, as you said.
What does it mean to you to be part of bringing up topics to mainstream media that the general public might not be aware of? Do you feel a personal responsibility to educate people about these issues?
That was actually one of the most exciting things about Audrey, to me, as someone who cares about these causes and speaking to them. I was excited that I would be able to do it on television, on such a big platform -- even if it's not entirely what the show is about, but to still have my voice be in there.
Audrey really is what I hope to be in that's she's a representation of my generation. We're here to create change, bring change, represent the people who haven't been represented in the past, and we have a different perspective on how the world should work.
I think it's cool that Audrey gets to be that voice within Dexter, along with other characters.
It's such a strong choice to see two women of color investigating this and demanding justice for these women. With everything that happened in Episode 5, with the revelation about Dexter's identity, will the missing women plotline still maintain a strong thread throughout the season?
When it comes to [Angela], she definitely has a personal motive as to why she's following these missing women. More of that will unravel throughout the show, and you'll get to see more of why she is a cop, which ties into the MMIW.
Is there anything you'd like to add to the conversation regarding Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women that viewers/readers might not know about?
It's so incredibly important for people to educate themselves about this and find ways to help support Indigenous communities because the numbers are heartbreaking. It is just not right.
When you have at least 6000 Indigenous women going missing every year and only about 300 of these cases are actually being followed up on -- what does that show?
And less than 5% of those 300 cases get media coverage. It was a surprise to see this topic addressed on the show, but a welcome one. It really hits home. In British Columbia, Canada, where I live -- there's the Highway of Tears and other horrific crimes against MMIW.
I've listened to CBC's [true-crime] podcast about it -- Missing & Murdered.
IllumiNative is an organization that has incredible resources, not just regarding MMIW but in general really breaking down the narrative of Indigenous people in media, film, television, politics. It's a great all-around resource.
I think that if Dexter can do anything in terms of shedding light on this issue, that would make this whole experience for me truly more incredible than it's already been. I think it's so important and not talked about enough at all.
You're so young, and you have so much ahead of you. What's next for you? What are you working on, and what are your goals for the future?
What's next is auditioning and hopefully continuing to tell stories that I'm passionate about. I want to write, direct, and produce. I love every side of storytelling. I hope I am able to keep being creative and tell stories that are impactful and inspiring.
Dexter: New Blood airs on Showtime, Sundays at 9/8c.
Visit IllumiNative for resources about Indigenous visibility/representation.
This interview has been edited for length/clarity.
Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.