WBA and WBO Super Lightweight champion Kali Reis made an indie splash last year in the IFC film “Catch The Fair One”, directed by Josef Kubota Wladyka. The movie was a true passion project for Reis, as it told the tale of a former boxer looking for her missing sister in upstate New York. Catch The Fair One is a grim thriller that highlights the plight of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW). A subject that Reis (who is half Native American) knows all too well.
Wladyka took a chance on casting Reis in her first film role and got paid back in full. Catch The Fair One ended up being a gritty and suspenseful film, one that spoke deeply and heartbreakingly to a subject (MMIW) that most Americans are unaware of. Not only did Reis deliver as an actor, giving a remarkable performance, but she also got a credit for developing the story, as Wladyka leaned on her for details and authenticity.
Despite being a micro-budgeted and independently funded film, critics and industry folk took note of the movie, and Reis earned a surprise Best Actress nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards. When I spoke to Kali for NY Fights last March, she made it clear that she was going full steam ahead with acting while still keeping a toe in the ring for just a bit longer. Kali shared with me that she had secured representation to pursue roles on film and television and that she was lining up auditions at the time.
Well, as it turns out. Reis just landed a plum role in HBO’s True Detective Season 4 across from the legendary Jodie Foster. In fact, she is playing a co-lead in this iteration of the groundbreaking series. True Detective (created by Nic Pizzolatto) debuted in 2012, and the show’s inaugural season, starring Woody Harrelson and Mathew McConaughey, was a smash hit and an instant classic with critics and TV watchers alike. While the second season with Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams as the leads is often derided (unfairly, I think), the third season, starring Mahershala Ali, was widely seen as a return to form. Season 4 will be set in Alaska and involve the disappearance of six men being investigated by detectives Evangeline Navarro (Reis) and Liz Danvers (Foster).
When I spoke to Reis in March, she was hopeful of returning to the ring against IBF and WBC Super Lightweight champion Chantelle Cameron in a title unification bout. Knowing the intense schedule and the long hours of shooting a series, along with the high-profile nature of this role, one has to wonder not only when Reis might get back into the ring, but if. Reis (who is currently shooting a film with Sean Penn called Black Flies) will be 36 in August, and with her expressed desire to not wear out her welcome, maybe we’ve seen the last of this proud warrior in the ring.
If so, Reis will leave the sport as a true champion, winning belts in two weight classes and facing down the sort of adversity that would stifle a budding career in the fight game. It’s instructive to remember that when Reis got into boxing, the women’s version of the sport was marginalized and barely had a functioning amateur program. Since Reis debuted in 2008, she has seen her sport go from a too-often dismissed curiosity to a main attraction (see Taylor vs. Serrano). Reis has been at the forefront of that growth and should be seen as one of the most significant historical figures in the world of women’s boxing, even as she goes off to find other mountains to climb.