‘Molly from Denali’ co-creator discusses the creative process behind the hit PBS show

DEDHAM, Mass. — Before Boston’s GBH took kids to Alaska in the hit PBS show, ‘Molly of Denali’ Executive producer, and co-creator Dorothea Gillim had to get it right.

“I wanted to do a show about a store,” said Gillim. “Kids love playing store so I was thinking about where should this store be set. And Alaska happened to be in the news, and I thought, Alaska, that’s a cool place.”

“I think the challenge was really finding the right writers to tell the story and we put a lot of work into that,” said Gillim. “Before Molly, less than one percent of shows had Native American characters. And those characters were largely stereotyped.“

Working with child development experts and Alaska native writers, Molly of Denali’s formula is simple: two native words, plus one Native American value per show, and a lot of fun in the beautiful landscape of Alaska.

”Even though there are thoughts that we’re riding on polar bears to work or living in igloos sometimes, they can see in Molly of Denali that we have homes, we have libraries, we have stores, we have vehicles and our lives are very much similar even though we live in a very far off state,“ says Yatibey Evans, an Alaska native, who is the former president of the National Indian Education Association, and creative producer for Molly of Denali.

From confronting stereotypes like that to creating their own Alaska native characters in comic books to having the tough conversations about race and belonging, Evans and Gillim say kids of all cultures can and do enjoy the show.

”We don’t have to look back any longer and say, there’s nothing there. We can look at shows like Molly of Denali and see ourselves as a part of it,” said Evans.

“Mister Rogers was the first to say it’s important for kids to see themselves reflected on screen. It’s important for kids to know that people care about who they are. Those representations matter,“ said Gillim.

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