Megan Broussard puts her heritage in the spotlight

I may have mentioned once or twice here that I have boundless love for my home state of Louisiana. And my pride only grows when I see a fellow Louisiana native succeeding — especially when she’s from my hometown of Lafayette, and she’s helping the world learn more about our unique culture. Megan Broussard and I are not related, although I’m happy to claim her as my “play cousin.” Yes, we are related … one removed by Instagram. Ha!

Megan is one of the stars and writers of a new web series called “Late Bloomers.” Her character, Renée, shares Megan’s Louisiana background. But her show isn’t the only way Megan is celebrating her heritage and deepening her connection to it. Just before Megan headed to Canada for a rigorous language immersion program, I caught up with her for a fun conversation about French, family, food, and more.

‘The Community Raises You’

 Comedy is practically in Megan’s DNA. “I think Cajun Creole people are just naturally very funny,” she says. “We’re very self-deprecating people.” 

(A quick aside here: You may have heard the words “Cajun” and “Creole” both used to refer to people with deep roots in Louisiana. Megan emphasizes, and I agree, that the way we choose to identify is deeply personal. The two terms are intertwined, and you can read more about their history here. “I always think the most inclusive term is Louisiana French, and then Cajun Creole together,” Megan says.)

Besides humor, Megan’s early life was shaped by the strong influence of family. “We see family as more than just blood,” she says. “It can include friends, neighbors, classmates, co-workers — a chosen family. The community raises you, not just your parents.”

This emphasis on family is part of the distinctive way of life where we grew up. Another difference between our home and mainstream America is language. Megan’s grandparents spoke fluent Louisiana French (often called Cajun French), and her elementary school classes were taught in both French and English through fourth grade. Her family nickname was perroquet (parrot) because of her chattiness.

While she takes great pride in our regional culture now, Megan was a typical kid who sometimes felt self-conscious about the things that made her different. She dreamed of snowy Christmases and traditional holiday meals like the ones she saw on TV — not seafood gumbo eaten while wearing cutoff shorts. 

 

From Louisiana to New York

Megan’s feelings about her home started to change once she moved away — first to Dallas, Texas, and then to New York City. She encountered people who didn’t understand her accent (which she started toning down) or know much about her culture. For them, “Cajun” was just a kind of chicken seasoning. (Seriously. People said this to her. Mon Dieu!) Living in New York, a city with a variety of communities from different cultures, Megan yearned for her people.

 

As she built a successful career as a television producer and writer, Megan also began writing short humor, personal essays and features for publications like The New Yorker, Marie Claire, Slate, McSweeney’s and Southern Living. Some of those writing opportunities gave her the chance to share her heritage with the world.

Now, Megan is putting Cajun and Creole culture center stage with her role in “Late Bloomers.” She connected with the series’ other creators and stars through GOLD Comedy, an “online comedy school, community and creative network.”

 

“We wanted to make something for people like ourselves, who feel like we’re late bloomers,” whether in pursuing their passions or forming relationships, Megan says. Like Megan, her character, Renee, is from South Louisiana. Her efforts to be a “real New Yorker” are spotlighted in Episode 2 of “Late Bloomers.”

 

Preserving Language and Culture

 While Renée is a funny character, she is not the butt of the joke. This is important to Megan because she grew up seeing characters with her background serving only as comic relief. Take the gibberish-speaking character Farmer Fran in “The Waterboy,” a movie that Megan otherwise loves. 

At the same time, though, Megan wants Renée’s story to diverge from the sad or supernatural themes we often see in shows about Louisiana. While Renée has a strong regional identity, she’s also funny and relatable.

And she has a Louisiana French accent.

“One of the big things I wanted to do was use my accent in the show,” she says. “I just want people to feel proud of where they come from.”

Beyond her new web series, one of Megan’s other passions is preserving Louisiana French. She writes a Substack newsletter called “In Search of the Lost Tongue”about her quest to keep her family’s language alive. And she’s serious about her own language studies. She took lessons in Louisiana French from Dr. David Cheramie, a leading advocate for the preservation of the dialect. She’s also taking part in a French immersion program in Canada. How immersive is it? “If you get caught speaking English three times, they kick you out,” she says.

That’s pretty intimidating, but Megan is motivated by a powerful goal. She realizes that she will probably not move back home, but she wants to share her Cajun Creole heritage with her future children. And, as she points out, you can’t really understand a culture if you don’t understand the language. “That’s actually brought me closer to my roots than anything else,” she says.

Before we ended the conversation, I asked Megan what brings her joy. Her response was that she loves to read fiction. For her, fiction is a way to take a slow break from her own life and play pretend in a new one. I couldn’t help but chuckle when she said that reading novels is meditation for her. 

I mentioned that Meg’s character is named Renée, which is also a special name for me. I pointed out that Renée means, “rebirth,” and asked Meg if she had connected the meaning to her character. Meg said, “I wonder if there is some subconscious reason why it felt so right. I think for her, moving to a big city and being curious about new culture like the concrete jungle is so different from her own shows she is looking for a rebirth of sorts.” Meg also said that she hopes Renee and the rest of the “Late Bloomers” characters inspire viewers to, “keep welcoming rebirths throughout life.” Meg continued, “There are no deadlines, no set times, when it comes to getting what you want out of life. Sometimes that means living a lot of different lives in one life we’re gifted.” I co-sign that notion, and I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear it. 

As you can tell, I loved talking with Megan and celebrating her dedication to the special Cajun Creole culture. I have a feeling big things are ahead for her — she’s working on TV and movie scripts that are grounded in her heritage. Without a doubt, she’s the cher t’crème (Louisiana French for “best of the best”).

 

 

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