Gil Birmingham Took the Road Less Traveled

“They share a real love for the land, and an intent to keep the land the way it is,” said Birmingham, who when we spoke was preparing to fly to Montana to shoot Season 5. The way Rainwater sees it, he is just trying to take back what was stolen from his people.

Birmingham considers himself fortunate to have Sheridan, who also cast the actor in the film “Wind River,” in his corner. He is an ally when it comes to casting Native actors, Birmingham said. On top of that, he added, he’s just a great writer.

“His work is unpredictable, and it’s so soulful,” Birmingham said. “It speaks in such a poetic language to the hearts of the characters.”

“I’ll ride with whatever he writes,” he added.

Birmingham is old enough to remember watching the likes of “Bonanza” and “Rawhide” during their first television runs in the ’60s. “They had horrible portrayals of Native people, with a lot of red facing,” he said, using a term for when white actors colored their skin to played minstrel versions of Native characters. He remembered his pleasant surprise at seeing “Dances With Wolves” in 1990, which brought dignity and several speaking roles to Native peoples. (And he appreciated the humor in its having starred and been directed by Costner, his “Yellowstone” adversary).

Now Birmingham looks around a sees a different, fuller landscape. There’s “Yellowstone,” and there’s “Under the Banner of Heaven.” There’s the FX comedy “Reservation Dogs,” about four Native teens growing up an Oklahoma reservation, and there’s “Dark Winds,” the upcoming AMC series about two Navajo police detectives, starring Zahn McClarnon and created by Graham Roland, whose is of Native heritage.

“Now we have projects and productions that are telling our story,” Birmingham said. “I think that’s the thing we’ve been waiting for, this opportunity to be able to tell our own stories from our own point of view.”

Source: NY Times

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