It’s time for George R.R. Martin to attach himself to a new project so he can have yet another excuse for not finishing the next A Song of Ice and Fire book. That new project is an AMC series called Dark Winds, an adaptation of the Leaphorn & Chee book series by Tony Hillerman. To bring Dark Winds to life, Martin is teaming with Graham Roland (Jack Ryan) and Robert Redford (yes, that Robert Redford). Zahn McClarnon (Westworld) will star.
Today, AMC announced it has greenlit Dark Winds, a new series inspired by a series of books by Tony Hillerman. The show is created and executive produced by Graham Roland (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, The Returned, Almost Human, Fringe), and stars Zahn McClarnon (Fargo) and Kiowa Gordon (Roswell, New Mexico).
Vince Calandra (Castle Rock, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Sharp Objects) will serve as showrunner and will also executive produce. Other executive producers include McClarnon, George R.R. Martin, Robert Redford, Tina Elmo, and Vince Gerardis. Chris Eyre will direct the pilot and also serve as an executive producer. Since there is a whole list of executive producers here, I’m guessing Martin won’t have that much involvement with the show. But you have to admit that it’s pretty funny that the author keeps on attaching himself to new TV projects instead of finishing his Song of Ice and Fire book series.
Dark Winds is described as “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.” Season 1 will include six episodes and is expected to premiere on AMC+ and AMC in 2022.
Tony Hillerman wrote a whole series of books featuring Navajo Tribal Police characters Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. At first, the Joe Leaphorn character appeared on his own before Hillerman then introduced Chee and soon had the duo working together. There have been a few adaptations of these books before. In 1991 there was the film The Dark Wind, which starred Lou Diamond Phillips as Officer Jim Chee and Fred Ward as Lt. Joe Leaphorn. Legendary documentary filmmaker Errol Morris helmed that adaptation. And three of the other books, Skinwalkers, Coyote Waits, and A Thief of Time, were adapted for TV as part of the PBS series Mystery!
A Rich and Deeply Unsettling Psychological Thriller
“We’re thrilled by the prospect of authentically telling this story with a group of remarkably talented individuals,” said Dan McDermott, president of original programming for AMC Networks and AMC Studios. “This is a rich and deeply unsettling psychological thriller set in a world we know viewers will appreciate experiencing for themselves. The series order is the product of several months in a writers’ room staffed entirely by Native American writers, and it is a series that will be brought to life by those storytellers, with a cast led by Zahn McClarnon and featuring Native American actors, filmed largely in and around Native American lands, with the full support and blessing of The Navajo Nation. We are so excited about telling this captivating and entertaining story while rendering this vibrant, rich, wonderful culture and community on AMC+ and AMC.”
“We are excited to welcome Chris Eyre, AMC Studios, and the industry’s top executives for the production of Dark Winds, part of which will be filmed on the Navajo Nation,” added Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “I also welcome my friend, Robert Redford, back to our Nation once again. This week, the Navajo Nation lifted more COVID-19 restrictions to welcome visitors and tourists back to Diné Bikéyah. We look forward to welcoming the film crew and we hope this will serve to draw more interest from production companies and draw more tourists to boost our economy and contribute to the ‘Buy Navajo, Buy Local’ initiative. Thank you to everyone involved in this great venture with the Great Navajo Nation!”
Robert Redford said: “I read my first Tony Hillerman novel in 1986 while filming in New Mexico and was immediately hooked. Hillerman is a master storyteller, his writing is full of mystery and suspense, set amidst a background that blends traditional oral stories of Native American culture and landscape. I am happy to partner with George R.R. Martin and AMC on this project, and am especially grateful for the collaboration with President Nez and The Navajo Nation.”
George R.R. Martin added: “Tony Hillerman was one of the greats, as every mystery reader knows. Down here in the Southwest, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are as iconic as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Philip Marlowe, and Travis McGee. When my friends Robert Redford and Chris Eyre asked me to help bring Leaphorn and Chee back to television, I could not agree fast enough. We have great source material in Tony’s novel ‘Listening Woman,’ a great pilot script from Graham Roland, a great director in Chris… and what a pair of leads, with Zahn McClarnon as Leaphorn and Kiowa Gordon as Chee! Our plan is to shoot in New Mexico, in and around Santa Fe and on the Navajo reservation, and we are bringing in as many Navajo and other Native Americans as possible, as writers, directors, cast, and crew, to capture all the magic and mystery and wonder of the Land of Enchantment. Thanks to AMC for making it possible. Tony Hillerman wrote a lot of amazing books, and it is our dream to adapt as many of them as we can.”
“I am honored to be asked to star as the lead in this innovative series for AMC and to Executive produce. To have the support and to be a part of a team which is led by two iconic visionaries as George R.R. Martin and Robert Redford is something to which I’ve always aspired. I believe as Indigenous people we are in a new era of progress in TV and film representation,” said star Zahn McClarnon.
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