Interview with TCA panel Zahn McClarnon, Kiowa Gordon, Jessica Matten, Rainn Wilson, Noah Emmerich, Chris Eyre and Graham Roland of “Dark Winds” on AMC/+ by Suzanne 2/10/22
“Dark Winds” premieres today, June 12 on AMC and AMC+. I’m most interested in its star, Zahn McClarnon (who plays Joe Leaphorn), because he was so great on “Longmire,” a show I loved. Noah Emmerich is also great (you might know him from “The Americans” on FX); and, last, but certainly not least, the cast also has Rainn Wilson, who’s always wonderful. This was a fun virtual panel back in February for the TV Critics Association.
CTAM PRESS TOUR WINTER 2022
AMC+ and AMC
Graham Roland, Creator, Writer, Executive Producer
Chris Eyre, Director, Executive Producer
Zahn McClarnon, Cast, Executive Producer, “Joe Leaphorn”
Kiowa Gordon, Cast, “Jim Chee”
Jessica Matten, Cast, “Bernadette Manuelito”
Rainn Wilson, Cast, “Devoted Dan”
Noah Emmerich, Cast, “Special Agent Whitover”
2022 Virtual Tour
Los Angeles, CA
February 10, 2022
© 2022 AMC Networks. All rights reserved.
Here is the introduction from the clip they showed us:
Our new series “Dark Winds” is 35 years in the making. It’s based on the popular Leaphorn & Chee Book Series by Tony Hillerman. Robert Redford optioned these books more than three decades ago and we’re honored that this remarkable series has found a home with us. Our dream team is comprised of Native American Director and Executive Producer Chris Eyre, Native American Actor and Executive Producer Zahn McClarnon, who also starred in AMC’s “The Son,” Native American Writer-Creator Graham Roland, and Redford as well as George R.R. Martin who also serve as Executive Producers. We’re proud of this show for so many reasons. For starters, Leaphorn & Chee are two iconic characters that will live right alongside Don Draper, Walter White, Rick Grimes, and others in the AMC Hall of Fame. It’s a thrilling murder mystery that takes place in and around the lands of the Navajo Nation in the Monument Valley, which hasn’t been accessed for filming since the days of John Ford. And also, the series features the rich and vibrant Navajo culture and community in ways it’s never been seen before. “Dark Winds” is set to premiere this summer on AMC+ and AMC.
Zahn told us that the cast and his experience on the show were “wonderful,” and he believes the series will be a hit because of George R.R. Martin and Robert Redford being Executive Producers. He’s excited to be working at this current time because not only are there more indigenous actors in TV shows that ever, but he hopes that this show opens doors for more indigenous talent behind the scenes of the shows. He’s glad to see it happening in our “unique time … with Native representation in media.”
Zahn was then asked a specific question about his role on the show as Joe: how torn is Joe as a “police officer trying to solve this crime” and as a member of his Native community? He was also asked if he had any trouble wearing two hats (that of actor and executive producer).
Zahn reminded us that Joe “is a Navajo tribal cop who is tasked to solve these double murders and also a bank robbery.” He pointed out that many tribal police members don’t get much cooperation from the people in “indigenous communities,” and they’re made to feel like they’re outsiders. Joe is also struggling with losing someone in his family and juggling all of these things at once. He has to make peace with both the people in his community as well as the FBI, and it’s very difficult for him. Zahn is new to being executive producer, but he admits that he was given a lot of support from his fellow cast. He learned quite a bit, which he found to be very positive. He hopes to be able to use his experiences next time, either in another season of this show, or in another show. He has his “fingers crossed” for all of that.
The other actors were asked about working with Zahn and how much they knew about him before filming the series.
Kiowa said that he met Zahn in 2013. “We were working on ‘The Red Road’ for Sundance TV and he immediately was just like the coolest guy ever. And I was taking a liking to him, and I followed his career throughout there. And he’s been a huge inspiration for me, so it’s great to be able to work with him in such a capacity.”
Jessica added that she met both Zahn and Kiowa on the set of the show “Frontier.” She commented that they’ve both been like family to her, so “it was a complete joy to hop on board this and do it with family. It’s been so collaborative.” She added about Zahn, “First and foremost, I knew him as a human being and a person, and he was wonderful. And then I was like, oh, he’s kind of a big deal.” There was a bit of joking around after that.
Jessica then continued seriously about how great it is to make these friendships and then to “uplift our community in the best way that we can.” She also admitted that she is a big fan of Rainn’s, so it was extraordinary to meet him. She also confided that she “drove almost two hours to set” to meet Rainn, even though she wasn’t shooting with him. She was very nervous, so she didn’t tell him that. She joked around a bit and then said that she called him “The Beyoncé of my life.” Rainn was amazed and flattered to hear this, and he made his own jokes.
Rainn thanked her and then went on to praise the show’s scripts, set design, costume design, etc. He especially loves the ’70s feel to it and said it’s “just such a pleasure to be a part of this show.” His part is a fun supporting role, which he describes as “the epitome of corruption, which was super fun.” He predicts that Zahn will win many acting awards because of his performance in this show.
Zahn thanked Rainn as well. He mentioned his age a few times during the panel but said that he feels like he must have worked with every single Native actor or actress in the TV and film community. He noted that the cast is “exciting,” and he can’t wait for us all to see the show.
Jessica went on to praise their director, Chris Eyre: “for us Native kids growing up, the film ‘Smoke Signals’ was a very big film.” She mentioned that it “really put Natives in a very contemporary setting, so it’s very full-circle for me to be able to work with Chris…because I grew up in awe of that movie and what he created. And to be able to work [in this], it’s just magical.” She gushed quite a bit, but it was very charming.
One journalist asked Rainn about his character, “Devoted Dan,” and how he compares to Rainn’s other characters from his past work. Rainn replied that he’s never played a character like this before. He joked a bit about showing some skin in the series. He also described him in this way: “he’s a car dealer, and a double dealer, and a born-again, and a preacher, and wherever there’s corruption happening around, you’ll find Devoted Dan right in the middle of it.” He also added, “I asked for the largest cowboy hat they could find and it dwarfed my already enormous head.” He said that he’s very happy to be part of the show.
The director agreed with Rainn and also pointed out how great Noah was in this show.
Noah also said that he was grateful to be part of it, “a project that is so fundamental in bringing unheard voices to light in our culture that have not been recognized, that have not been paid attention to, that Hollywood has sort of reduced and presented cliché. This is a full, three-dimensional examination of these characters and I just was grateful to be the outsider, to be the minority. It was a new experience.”
Zahn joked with Noah by saying that he was “around a long time, too” and also praised his long and impressive résumé. There was more joking around. Noah, too, loved Chris’ movie “Smoke Signals,” which he saw in the theater.
The moderator also asked everyone how they felt to be involved with the series, which took 35 years to get here. Of course, they’re all glad to be a part of it. Kiowa was somewhat philosophical about it, saying, “I’m just saying it’s a long time coming. Good things happen to those that wait and I think we’re all born to be here and making this right now, so here we are. So thank you all for coming together and making this awesome story.”
Jessica is Canadian. She said that up there, they’re called “First Nations” and have a small network called “the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network,” where they were able to tell many stories. However, getting past that into other networks has been difficult. She’s very grateful to AMC and the others to be their allies and to “continue to humanize the experience of being indigenous in this day and age or even in the 1970s where this show is taking place.”
Chris told us that the writers on the show were all “Native American writers,” including three that were of Navajo origin. They also had support from the president of the Navajo Nation as well as Navajo consultants. He also said, “It’s been 35 years in the making, but George and Bob were both fans of Hillerman, and all of us were as well. So, to bring that to the screen now is just a dream come true.”
Graham credited Chris for being on this project the longest, along with George R.R. Martin and Robert Redford. He added, “it shows the passion that Robert Redford had for this project and the importance he thought of getting a story like this put in front of a mainstream audience. So, a lot of credit goes to him for keeping up that fight for so long. ”
Another person from the press asked Chris a tough question. He thought that the show attacks the old western movie-making from the John Ford days and disparages the actors from them, and the hotel that had rooms named after the actors. He asked if there were some bad feelings about those days. He also asked about filming in the same areas where those old westerns were made. Chris took the second question, saying he loved those areas, such as Monument Valley, and the rest of the Southwest. He thinks of it all as part of the American story, and it’s all mashed together and seen through the eyes of their characters. He avoided the first question.
Graham answered the other question with great finesse. He pointed out that the hotel, which is based on a real one, had rooms with the names of the famous actors, but many of of them were white people playing the Natives. He was quick to point out that he loves those old westerns. They had to acknowledge in this series what it was in reality, and he doesn’t think that he went out of his way to intentionally put the westerns down. It was a great end to an amazing panel!
Based on the iconic Leaphorn & Chee book series by Tony Hillerman, Dark Winds is a psychological thriller that follows two Navajo police officers in the 1970s Southwest, as their search for clues in a grisly double murder case forces them to challenge their own spiritual beliefs and come to terms with the trauma of their pasts. Created and executive produced by Graham Roland (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, The Returned, Almost Human, Fringe), the series stars Zahn McClarnon (The Son, Westworld, Fargo), who is also an executive producer, Kiowa Gordon (The Red Road, Roswell, New Mexico), and Jessica Matten (Tribal, Burden of Truth). Vince Calandra (Castle Rock, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Sharp Objects) is showrunner and an executive producer. Chris Eyre is director and executive producer. Executive producers include George R.R. Martin, Robert Redford, Tina Elmo and Vince Gerardis.
AMC and AMC+ today released the trailer and key art of its upcoming original series, Dark Winds. The noir thriller, based on the iconic Leaphorn & Chee book series by Tony Hillerman, premieres Sunday, June 12 on AMC and AMC+, with the first two episodes available on AMC+. One new episode will debut every Sunday on AMC, and AMC+ subscribers will have advance access to an additional episode each week, beginning June 19.
Set in 1971 on a remote outpost of the Navajo Nation near Monument Valley, Dark Winds follows Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn (Zahn McClarnon, The Son, Westworld, Fargo) of the Tribal Police as he is besieged by a series of seemingly unrelated crimes. The closer he digs to the truth, the more he exposes the wounds of his past. He is joined on this journey by his new deputy, Jim Chee (Kiowa Gordon, The Red Road, Roswell, New Mexico). Chee, too, has old scores to settle from his youth on the reservation. Together, the two men battle the forces of evil, each other and their own personal demons on the path to salvation.
Created and executive produced by Graham Roland (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan), the AMC original series stars award-winning film and television actor Zahn McClarnon, who also serves as an executive producer, Kiowa Gordon and Jessica Matten (Tribal, Burden of Truth) as Bernadette Manuelito. Dark Winds also stars Noah Emmerich (The Americans, Suspicion) as FBI Special Agent Whitover, Deanna Allison as Joe’s wife Emma Leaphorn, and features Rainn Wilson (The Office, Backstrom) as Devoted Dan, a full-of-faith car salesman.
Vince Calandra (Castle Rock, Sharp Objects) is showrunner and executiChris Eyreve producer. is director and executive producer. Executive producers include George R.R. Martin, Robert Redford, Tina Elmo and Vince Gerardis.
AMC is home to some of the most popular and acclaimed programs on television. AMC was the first basic cable network to ever win the Emmy® Award for Outstanding Drama Series with Mad Men in 2008, which then went on to win the coveted award four years in a row, before Breaking Bad won it in 2013 and 2014. The network’s series The Walking Dead is the highest-rated series in cable history. AMC’s current original drama series are Better Call Saul, Fear the Walking Dead, Kevin Can F*** Himself, The Walking Dead, The Walking Dead: World Beyond and the forthcoming series 61st Street, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches, Dark Winds, Moonhaven, Pantheon, Ragdoll and Tales of the Walking Dead, among others. AMC also explores authentic worlds and discussion with original shows like Talking Dead, AMC Visionaries and Ride with Norman Reedus. AMC is owned and operated by AMC Networks Inc. and its sister networks include IFC, SundanceTV, BBC America and WE tv. AMC is available across all platforms, including on-air, online, on demand and mobile.
AMC+ is the company’s new premium streaming bundle featuring an extensive lineup of popular and critically acclaimed original programming from AMC, BBC America, IFC, and SundanceTV and full access to targeted streaming services Shudder, Sundance Now and IFC Films Unlimited, which feature content such as A Discovery of Witches, Creepshow, and Boyhood. The service features a continually refreshed library of commercial-free content, including fan favorites Mad Men, Halt & Catch Fire, Turn: Washington’s Spies, Hell on Wheels, NOS4A2, Orphan Black, Rectify, Portlandia, and series from The Walking Dead Universe, among many others. The service also offers a growing slate of original and exclusive series including Gangs of London, Kin, The North Water, Ragdoll, The Beast Must Die, Too Close, The Salisbury Poisonings, Cold Courage, Spy City, Ultra City Smiths, Anna, Anne Boleyn, Firebite, La Fortuna, That Dirty Black Bag and upcoming The Ipcress File. AMC+ recently launched in Canada, Australia, and India and is available in the U.S. through AMCPlus.com, the AMC+ app, and a number of digital and cable partners.
Zahn McClarnon is an award winning film and television actor who has appeared in over 80 film and television productions. He is most known for his role as “Hanzee Dent” in the second installment of the critically- acclaimed series Fargo, his recurring role of “Akecheta” on HBO’s award- winning series Westworld, and for his portrayal of “Officer Mathias” on the television series Longmire.
Zahn was also a series regular on National Geographic’s Barkskins, starring opposite Marcia Gay Harden and David Thewlis, and on the AMC show The Son. McClarnon has most recently co-starred in the crime-thriller The Silencing starring alongside Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and in the Stephen King film, Doctor Sleep. Zahn is currently recurring on the upcoming FX series Reservation Dogs, the much anticipated Disney+ series Hawkeye, and stars in the upcoming film The Last Manhunt with Jason Momoa. McClarnon is currently starring in and an executive producer for the AMC series Dark Winds.
Kiowa is a prolific Native American actor with award winning film and television credits. Born in Berlin, Germany, he moved to the States shortly thereafter to live on the Hualapai Indian Reservation in Peach Springs, AZ and moved around quite a bit growing up until settling down in Phoenix, AZ where he landed the role of Embry Call in THE TWILIGHT SAGA. In 2013, Kiowa won Best Supporting Actor at the American Indian Film Festival in San Francisco for his role in the indie film, THE LESSER BLESSED. On the small screen, Kiowa had a Series Regular role in the Sundance original series, THE RED ROAD, starring Jason Momoa, Julianne Nicholson and Martin Henderson and Guest Starred on the Netflix series FRONTIER. In 2019, he had lead roles in 2 features which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival – BLOOD QUANTUM (multiple festival nom and winner) from director Jeff Barnaby and CASTLE IN THE GROUND (TIFF nominated for best Canadian feature) from director Joey Klein. That year he also had roles in the Netflix comedy LADY DYNAMITE, a recurring in the technologically groundbreaking series THE LIBERATOR from A+E Studios for Netflix, and a recurring role on the CW series ROSWELL.
More recent work includes a lead in the feature TWO EYES, directed by award winning filmmaker Travis Fine which was the closing film at Outfest 2020, and a cameo in Taika Waititi’s RESERVATION DOGS (FX).
Up next, he just wrapped his Series Regular role as JIM CHEE on the forthcoming series DARK WINDS for AMC, based on the book series from Tom Hillerman, and produced by George R. R. Martin and Robert Redford.
Jessica Matten is of Red River Metis-Cree descent and is directly a descendant of Cuthbert Grant, the first rebel Metis leader famously known for the Battle of the Seven Oaks in Canada. Most recently, Jessica is set to star in Robert Redford, George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) and Graham Roland’s produced “Dark Winds” television series opposite Zahn McClarnon and Kiowa Gordon for the AMC Network this Fall 2021.
Jessica is the star and Associate Producer of the new critically acclaimed Crime Drama “Tribal” Season 2 the on APTN Network.
Jessica stars in Season 3 of Discovery Canada & Netflix’s TV show “Frontier” starring Jason Momoa. She also can be seen in the new CW Network and CBC drama alongside Kristin Kruek in “Burden of Truth”. Jessica also can be seen in the upcoming comic adaptation movie “The Empty Man” for Disney/20th Century Fox studios.
Jessica can be seen on 3 Canadian Screen Award nominated and winning shows: Frontier, Blackstone and Mohawk Girls.
Jessica has developed a small cult following in North America for her performance in the starring role of Elle-Maija Tailfeather’s short film, “A Red Girl’s Reasoning”. Other TV and films include the Gemini award winning show “Blackstone” and “Pilgrims” written and directed by Marie Clements that Jessica starred in, was an official selection for the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival 2013.
Besides acting, Jessica runs an Indigenous wellness and fitness company with her family called Lemon Cree where they have helped thousands of Indigenous people achieve their fitness, wellness and health goals. She also runs the viral campaign #N8Vgirls to help spread awareness globally on the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women in Canada.
She is currently in development with Herd of 1 Media with Julian Black Antelope creating an Indigenous Film Academy. The Counting Coup Indigenous Film Academy (“CCIFA”) is a progressive, state-of-the-art, holistic educational environment for intense creative work, where emerging and aspiring First Nations artists can effectively and successfully gain expertise and experience and establish the foundations of a professional film career.
Jessica ran multiple monthly articles and the magazine “Active Cree” distributed monthly to 60,000 people and 10 communities across the James Bay area throughout Northern Ontario. She is a guest speaker along with her mother across North America called: “Indigenous Women Breaking Barriers: A Mother and Daughter Story”. Jessica also instructs acting workshops, and has had many wonderful success stories with the youth over the years.
Rainn Wilson is an American television and movie actor, director, writer, and producer. He became a household name in 2005 with his inimitable portrayal of ‘Dwight Schrute’ in the U.S. version of the popular British sitcom, The Office. His first breakthrough role came when he played assistant mortician ‘Arthur Martin’ in HBO’s Six Feet Under, winning him a Screen Actors Guild Award for “Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.” He then went on to appear in films like Almost Famous, House of 1000 Corpses, and America’s Sweethearts. Wilson catapulted to fame during his nine seasons on the Emmy-winning comedy, The Office, in which he also directed three episodes. He has starred in films like The Rocker, Monsters vs. Aliens, The Meg, and Don’t Tell A Soul. On the TV side, Wilson has also starred in the Fox crime drama Backstrom, where he played the lead role of ‘Everett Backstrom,’ and in Amazon Prime’s Utopia as ‘Michael Stearns.’
Wilson has an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and spent ten years doing theatre in New York before moving to Los Angeles. Wilson founded the YouTube channel Soul Pancake, which has over 3.5 million subscribers, and he published his memoir The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy in 2015. He is originally from Seattle, Washington.
Rainn Wilson will next be seen opposite Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening in the film Jerry and Marge Go Large for Paramount+ and as ‘Devoted Dan’ in AMC’s Dark Winds.
Noah Emmerich recently completed the Netflix feature “The Good Nurse” opposite Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne. He is currently shooting the AMC series “Dark Winds” and will next be seen starring in the Apple series “Suspicion” opposite Uma Thurman. On the comedic side, Emmerich continues his role of “General Kick Grabaston” opposite Steve Carrell in the Netflix series “Space Force.” He was last seen co-starring in the Netflix mini-series “The Spy” opposite Sacha Baron Cohen.
Emmerich’s breakout performance was in Ted Demme’s cult hit “Beautiful Girls” alongside Natalie Portman, Uma Thurman, and Matt Dillon. His next role, opposite Jim Carrey in Peter Weir’s Academy Award-nominated “The Truman Show,” firmly established his outstanding talent.
Emmerich’s film work includes Todd Field’s Academy Award nominated “Little Children” (Kate Winslet), J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8,” Gavin O’Connor’s “Pride & Glory” (Edward Norton, Colin Farrell), Doug Liman’s “Fair Game” (Naomi Watts, Sean Penn), “Sympathy for Delicious” (Mark Ruffalo), “Miracle” (Kurt Russell), “Frequency” (Dennis Quaid), “Beyond Borders” (Angelina Jolie, Clive Owen), “Windtalkers” (Nicolas Cage), “Life” (Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence), “Copland” (Sylvester Stallone, Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel), Guillaume Canet’s “Blood Ties” (Marion Cotillard, Clive Owen, and Zoe Saldana), “Warrior” (Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton), and “Jane Got A Gun” (Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor) and “The Wild Wedding” (Glenn Close, John Malkovich).
Emmerich played FBI Agent Stan Beeman opposite Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys on F/X’s critically acclaimed drama series “The Americans.” His performance was recognized with a Critic’s Choice Award and a SAG Award nomination. He also appeared to great acclaim as Dr. Edwin Jenner in Frank Darabont’s long running hit series “The Walking Dead.” He has guest starred on shows including “The West Wing,” “Monk,” and “Master of None.”
Emmerich’s stage work includes Stephen Belber’s “Fault Lines” at the Cherry Lane (dir. David Schwimmer) and the Kennedy Center’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” opposite Patricia Clarkson.
Emmerich received an honors degree in history from Yale University and studied filmmaking at New York University. He was born and raised in New York City, where he currently resides.
Chris Eyre (Cheyenne/Arapaho) is an internationally recognized film and television director and producer who has received many awards for his work including, a Peabody (1998, 2009), an Emmy (2005) and the Sundance Audience Award and Sundance Filmmaker’s Trophy (1998).
Eyre began his career by attended the graduate film program at New York University and went on to the Sundance Institute’s Directors’ Lab being mentored by Robert Redford in 1995.
Chris Eyre’s directorial debut was the Miramax Classic Film “SMOKE SIGNALS (1998),” which won Eyre the 1998 Sundance Filmmakers’ Trophy and the 1998 Sundance Audience Award. 20 years later, in 2018, “SMOKE SIGANALS (1998) was inducted by the U.S. Library of Congress to the National Film Registry for movies “of historic and cultural significance to be preserved for all time.”
Eyre’s television credits as a director include multiple episodes of “FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS” (NBC) and work on “LAW AND ORDER – SVU” (NBC), as well as directing the award-winning dramatic mini-series “WE SHALL REMAIN” (2009) for PBS.
Eyre’s film “EDGE OF AMERICA (2004)” was selected as the “Opening Night” film at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, and garnered Eyre the highly prestigious, Outstanding Directorial Achievement from the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in 2005.
Eyre has directed and/or produced over fifteen-feature films. Including Eyre’s SXSW award winner for Best Cinematography “HIDE AWAY (2012)” starring Josh Lucas and James Cromwell released theatrically in May 2012.
In 2015, Eyre executive produced the documentary feature film “THE SEVENTH FIRE (2015),” with fellow producers Terrence Malick and Natalie Portman. In 2016, THE SEVENTH FIRE was invited to screen at The White House in Washington, D.C.
In 2017, Eyre was named annual-honorary Chair at the University of Hawaii in memory of the late Senator Daniel Inouye. Later 2017, Eyre’s company created and supervised the cultural team that advised language and Cheyenne Native American culture for the Christian Bale feature film “HOSTILES (2018)” directed by Scott Cooper.
Chris Eyre is currently directing a television series, DARK WINDS with fellow producers George RR Martin (Game of Thrones) and Robert Redford for AMC Networks.
Chris Eyre resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Chris Eyre is represented by Frank Wuliger at the Gersh Agency, manager Andrew Hersh at Thrive Entertainment and attorney Eric Feig in Los Angeles.
Graham is a former US Marine and has written on PRISON BREAK, LOST, FRINGE, and THE RETURNED. Graham would later co-create JACK RYAN with Carlton Cuse, which has already been ordered for a fourth season. In addition to his work in television, Graham also wrote and executive produced MILE 22 for Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda
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