What does it feel like to completely give yourself over to the making of a much talked-about TV show and then all of a sudden be sharing it with the world? Well, according to Toronto’s Mouna Traoré, “it’s like delivering a baby—but the baby is Beyoncé.” The series in question is the critically acclaimed, inspired-by-true events CBC drama The Porter, which debuted earlier this year. Set primarily in Montreal’s St. Antoine neighbourhood during the 1920s and made by a predominantly Black cast and crew, it tells the story of how a group of railway workers formed the first-ever Black union in North America. It’s a show about unwavering ambition and Black life that doesn’t shy away from the hard realities of the era, but it isn’t focused on endless trauma either. Traoré, whom you might recognize from her roles in the period drama Murdoch Mysteries and season two of the Netflix hit The Umbrella Academy, plays Marlene Massey, the wife of one of the porters, the mother of a young neurodivergent boy and a passionate Black Cross nurse who wants to launch a clinic for her underserved community. In another show, in the hands of another actor, Marlene is a character who might be overlooked, but Traoré effortlessly commands the screen in a way that leaves you wanting more.

History Lesson

“We wanted to get [this show] right and do people justice. We were also working on it with the knowledge that it’s setting a precedent, and we wanted to prove to the industry—and the world—that Black-led historical shows can be successful and that there’s space for these kinds of stories.”


“I’ve worked on a number of period shows in my career, and I always try to be deliberate with them because I don’t want to get stuck in [the same types of roles]. But when I read the script for The Porter and saw that it was Black creators, Black writers and Black directors telling the story, I felt like I had to audition and be a part of it. I can’t complain about the ceiling being low or there not being roles if I’m not part of this new wave of people who are trying to break in and make space for that. As a Black Canadian woman who had been waiting for so long for this kind of opportunity, I knew this wasn’t the time to turn my back on it. And, of course, the scripts were beautifully written and the characters are dynamic, expansive and fully human in a way I hadn’t seen before.”

Jill of All Trades

“I find Marlene fascinating because she straddles so many different roles. I identify with her in many ways because she’s a woman trying to keep it together. It’s a beautiful portrayal that goes beyond the sort of simplified version of women we’ve seen from that time period, particularly Black women. It’s an opportunity to really redefine women of that generation.”


“For me, working on a [predominantly Black set] means a feeling of freedom and liberation. There’s no code-switching—I can speak to my castmates and the crew the same way I speak to my own family because we all have the same language. It’s this experience of Black people from so many different cultures blending together and communicating in a way I’ve never really had before. I don’t have to be shy—I can bring my entire self to the set.”