Simu Liu, Kenan Thompson among BANFF Rockies Gala Award recipients

Saturday Night Live cast member Kenan Thompson, Orange is the New Black star Danielle Brooks and soon-to-be Marvel superhero Simu Liu are among this year’s Banff Media Festival Rockies Gala Award honourees.

Set to stream live on YouTube on June 15 at 3 p.m. ET and hosted by comedian and YouTube personality Jasmeet RainaRockies Gala recipients include:

SIR PETER USTINOV AWARD: Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live, Kenan)

The award recognizes a creative talent who has made an outstanding comedic contribution to the media industry. Past honorees include: Sean Hayes, John Cleese, Tracey Ullman, Bob Newhart, Tantoo Cardinal, John Candy and Bill Hader.

Kenan Thompson

Thompson is currently in his 18th season on Saturday Night Live as the show’s longest-running cast member. He also stars in and executive produces the new NBC comedy Kenan. In 2018, he received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics for the SNL song Come Back, Barack and was nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2018 and 2020. Thompson also received an Emmy nomination in 2017 for co-writing Last Christmas from the popular Jingle Barack sketch. 

A+E INCLUSION AWARD: Danielle Brooks (Mahalia, Orange is the New Black)

Danielle Brooks

The A+E Inclusion Award recognizes an individual whose efforts and vision in media champion and reflect the diversity of the world in which we live. Past honorees include: LeVar Burton, Jonathan Murray and Elizabeth Vargas.

Brooks is best known for her role as “Tasha ‘Taystee’ Jefferson” in the Netflix Emmy-nominated series, Orange Is The New Black. Brooks received the Screen Actors Guild Award for “Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series” three years in a row.

She most recently starred as Mahalia Jackson in Robin Roberts Presents: The Mahalia Jackson Story on Lifetime and is currently filming HBO Max’s Suicide Squad spin-off series Peacemaker in which she will play Leota Adebayo.

CANADIAN AWARD OF DISTINCTION: Simu Liu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Kim’s Convenience)

Presented by the Canada Media Fund (CMF/FMC) and MadeNous, the award is given to a Canadian whose body of work exemplifies outstanding achievement in the entertainment industry. Past honorees include: Just For Laughs, Eric McCormack, Kim Cattrall and Sheila Hockin.

Liu is a Canadian-Chinese talent who is Marvel’s next leading man in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings opposite Tony Leung and Awkwafina. He most recently wrapped a leading role opposite Mark Wahlberg in Simon Cellan Jones/Lionsgate’s Arthur the King. He can be seen in Lissette Feliciano’s SXSW directorial debut, Women Is Losers. He’s most well-known for his starring role as ‘Jung’ in the CBC/Netflix hit, Kim’s Convenience.

INNOVATIVE PRODUCER AWARD: Sinking Ship Entertainment (Dino Dana, Odd Squad, Endlings)

Presented by Lionsgate, the Innovative Producer Award recognizes the entrepreneurial excellence and achievements of an independent producer in TV/digital media. Past honorees include: Wattpad Studios, Scott Brothers Entertainment, New Metric Media, Wolf + Rabbit, Don Carmody and marblemedia.

Matt Bishop

Sinking Ship Entertainment is a multi-award-winning production, distribution, and interactive company specializing in family and kids’ live-action and CGI-blended content. Since its founding in 2004 by J.J. Johnson, Blair Powers and Matt Bishop, Sinking Ship has produced more than 17 series and 500 hours of content, distributed to more than 200 countries around the world. With a global reputation for quality, groundbreaking original series and companion interactive experiences, Sinking Ship has won 21 Daytime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Series for Dino Dan: Trek’s Adventures (Nickelodeon), Outstanding Children’s or Family Viewing for Odd Squad (PBS KIDS), Outstanding Children’s or Family Viewing for Ghostwriter (Apple TV+) and Outstanding Education or Informational Series for Giver (ION). International awards include a 2019 BAFTA for Odd Squad and multiple Canadian Screen Awards, Youth Media Alliance Awards, Parents Choice Awards, the Shaw Rocket Prize, and the Prix Jeunesse International.

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER IMPACT AWARD: The team from ARRAY (Selma, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, Lingua Franca) including Ava DuVernay, Tilane Jones, Regina Miller, Tammy Garnes & Dee Tuck

This award is bestowed annually to an individual or group who has made a significant and impactful contribution to screen-based entertainment. Past honorees include: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Shore, accepting on behalf of ​The Good Doctor; Anthony Anderson, accepting on behalf of ​black-ish; and Justin Simien accepting on behalf of Dear White People.

Ava DuVernay

Narrative change non-profit, ARRAY Alliance, has launched ARRAY Crew, a personnel database for Hollywood’s below-the-line crew members with a special focus on the amplification of women, people of colour and other underrepresented film and television professionals. Created by filmmaker Ava DuVernay and led by an all-women executive team, ARRAY Crew currently boasts nearly 6,000 crew members and more than 300 productions utilizing the database. ARRAY Crew is supported by every major studio and streaming service, including founding partner WarnerMedia, Amazon Studios, Apple TV+, FOX, Lionsgate, NBC Universal, Netflix, Paramount Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, ViacomCBS and Walt Disney Studios. It currently features U.S. based profiles with plans to expand to select international markets in late 2021.

“This year’s Rockies Gala honourees exemplify not just incredible work, but also contributions to the entertainment industry and to society,” said Jenn Kuzmyk, Executive Director of the Banff World Media Festival, in a release. “Each recipient has demonstrated excellence, innovation, creativity and empathy, making choices about the projects they work on and the impact that they can have on the world. We are honoured to recognize such outstanding talent.”    

Additional awards to be presented at the ceremony include:

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: The Program of the Year award is presented to an outstanding, critically acclaimed, ground-breaking, and/or highly rated program from within the last calendar year. Past recipients include: This is Us, Handmaid’s Tale, Making a Murderer and Surviving R. Kelly.

THE GRAND JURY PRIZE: The Grand Jury Prize is awarded to the highest scoring project in the Rockies Program Competition by the festival’s specially appointed Grand Jury of industry executives. Past recipients include: Big Little Lies, Planet Earth II and Sharp Objects.

Taking place online from June 14 – July 16, the Banff World Media Festival is also arranging virtual Rockie Awards Roundtables with select nominees from programs like Alone, Love on the Spectrum, Filthy Rich and Homeless, The Last Ice, Noughts + Crosses, I May Destroy You, About Sex, and El Presidente. More details will be released in the coming weeks on the full agenda, here.

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Connie Thiessen
Connie Thiessen
Connie has worked coast-to-coast as a reporter, editor, anchor and host at CKNW and News 1130 in Vancouver, News 95.7 and CBC in Halifax, and CFCW Edmonton, among other stations. With a passion for music, film and community service, she led News 95.7 to a 2013 Atlantic Journalism Award and regional RTDNA award for Best Radio Newscast. More recently, she was nominated for Music Journalist of the Year at Canadian Music Week 2019. To report a typo or error please email -

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