Kali Reis of ‘True Detective’ Fought Her Way to HBO. What’s Next?

In Ms. Reis’s childhood neighborhood — which she described as “neither good nor bad” — she was “the token Native kid, with thick Harry Potter glasses and braid ties.” Other children picked on her, sometimes calling her Pocahontas.

Growing up, there were signs of a future career in acting. As a child, she dressed up in her mother’s clothes and performed one-person plays, with protagonists inspired by the people she met on the streets of East Providence, R.I., her hometown. One character in particular, Mary, was “based on the older ladies who smoked Newport 100s and drank Dunkin’ Donuts all day.”

“How ya doin’, darlin’? Got any ciga’ettes?” she croaked in a gravelly Rhode Island accent.

“I’d love to do comedy,” Ms. Reis said. “It’s always been a dream to be on ‘Saturday Night Live.’”

She believes the roots of her attraction to comedy run several generations deep. “In my Indigenous community, we love to tell stories and crack jokes on each other,” Ms. Reis said. “Laughter is what’s gotten a lot of us through” some tough times, she added, using more colorful language.

After taking some questions by the ring, Ms. Reis started to put on her gear. “I’m going to teach you how to tie boxing gloves,” she said, putting a half-laced one in front of me. I tugged hard on the strings, as directed. “Tighter,” she said several times. “Is that how you tie your shoes? You need Velcros, bro!”

While Ms. Reis has laced up countless times, her acting career is still very much in its first round. She has played several Indigenous characters — including a half Native, half Cape Verdean boxer in “Catch the Fair One” — but says she is planning to spread her wings with future other roles. “I’m an actor,” Ms. Reis said with a pause, then smiled. “That’s so weird to say.”

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