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A Jimmy Fallon for Indian Country? Derek Miller's Late-Night Adventure

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On Tuesday, January 6, the Guilt Free Zone made its TV premiere on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). The show puts an Indigenous spin on a very familiar concept: the late-night talk show. It's hosted by Mohawk blues musician Derek Miller, the guests are all Native entertainers, and the funny and sexy discussions all include an Indigenous viewpoint. It's an unprecedented concept—can Miller pull this off? Tune in if you can (airs Tuesdays at 10 PM and 10:30 across Canada on APTN) to find out. Prior to the big debut, we asked the man of the hour—or half hour, strictly speaking—to explain a bit more.

We covered Guilt Free Zone in 2011, when it was a live show at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto; can you give us a quick summary of its journey to an APTN series?

Man, its been like 8 years in the making. First discussed over a poker game. We did the 2011 live pilot as an example of what it may look like, a producer sent it to APTN, they liked the idea so here we are with the premiere Jan 6th 2015; good way to start the new year with some content coming out. I feel like people may think I went dormant. But I released an album with the Smithsonian called Rumble: A Tribute To Native Music Icons just before the holidays, so I've been working!! And we started the beginning of our own Web TV, Music Label, Media Production Studio in Six Nations Of The Grand River called 6 Arrows Media

At that time, you described the Guilt Free Zone as a "positive place" where "you shouldn't feel guilty about having fun"—have you changed or clarified this concept at all? Have you had to tone down any of the elements for APTN?

That was the initial seed idea, it's evolved to a place where we can explore the collective guilt between settlers and Indigenous people through comedy, satire and truth. We looked at the Canadian attempted genocide, tobacco industry, cannabis industry, sovereignty, sex, sexual health and a bunch of other stuff. Looking to create dialogue, create awareness in the consciousness—our own whacked-out version.

Our skits we did were fun. We were learning together with the network on how far we could push. We got told to reel it in, then after they saw it, they said push more. So we were exploring together.

The show's logo has a silhouette of a sexy woman, and promotional photos feature you being held by scantily-clad models (male and female)—and the series premiere focuses on sex. Do Native people have a problem with expressions of sexuality?

I think talking about sex is a bit of a touchy subject to some. We definitely have received some complaints from people, but we're not doing our job, I don't think, if we don't push boundaries. I'm learning about and am taking part in this human experiment as well—and we is some freaky creatures.

Being Indigenous and having healthy sexuality is important, so we wanted to talk about it. It's the driving force around our creation. Unfortunately, a lot of our people have been through a lot of abuse, sexually, physically and it definitely affects the overall health of our communities' sexual health.

Promoting tolerance of differences in life choices and being aware and informed is how we attempt to be Guilt Free.

In addition to some sexy stuff, the series looks to feature comedy and music. What's the full list of ingredients?

There are music performances, a stand up comedian, a burlesque dancer, sketch comedy, interviews and an opening monologue. 

What Native entertainers will be appearing on the show?

Inez Jasper, Jayli Wolf, Plex, Snake Oil Salesmen, Lucas Jacko, Brendt Thomas Diabo, Leonard Sumner, Ali Fontaine, and Leela Gilday.

APTN lists 6 episodes for season 1—what happens after that? Do you have more episodes in reserve, or are you hoping to turn this into an ongoing gig?

We'll see if people watch it and then our fates will be decided, I reckon. I just hope to wake up tomorrow!