Into the West - An epic 6 part mini-series coming to TNT in June
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This six part mini series airs on TNT beginning on June 10, 2005.
One family is the Wheeler clan, a Virginia family of wheelwrights making their trek westward. The other family is a plains Native American family hailing from the Lakota tribe.
It tells the story of a white settler family and an Indian family whose children marry and follows generations of the family.
Throughout the series, the two families will experience the historical and cultural events that led to an epic clash of culture, often coming in contact with notable figures and events from the era.
The story of the opening of the American West is given epic treatment in Turner Network Television (TNT)'s 12-hour original limited series INTO THE WEST, produced by TNT in association with DreamWorks Television and executive producer Steven Spielberg.
This dramatic tale of the adventurous exploration of the American wilderness, the clash of two cultures, the rush to riches in a new land and the building of a new civilization features a starring cast headed by Matthew Settle (U-571, Band of Brothers); Skeet Ulrich (Miracles, As Good as It Gets); Michael Spears (Dances with Wolves, TNT's Broken Chain); Tonantzin Carmelo (King Rikki, 187 Shadow Lane); George Leach (DreamKeeper, After the Harvest); and Zahn McClarnon (TNT's Crazy Horse and Cooperstown).
"INTO THE WEST is the most ambitious original production TNT has ever undertaken," said Michael Wright, senior vice president of original programming for TNT. "Producing something of this size and complexity would be impossible without the amazing talents and passionate hard work of those who are bringing it to life. We are fortunate to have some of the most talented people in the industry working on what we believe will be the television event of the year."
For decades Hollywood portrayed Indians as savages, enemies and losers. Now a generation of Native American filmmakers and actors is trying to overturn stereotypes and tell its own truth. This series showcases the glaring differences in perspective as seen through not only the eyes and teachings of the dominiant culture, but also as it was and is seen from the american indian perspective.
Currently shooting in Calgary and New Mexico, INTO THE WEST is slated to premiere on TNT on June 10, 2005. Check local listings for exact time.
Native Cast Members from the Into the West 6 part mini series:
Michael Spears, a member of the Lakota Sioux Lower Brule Tribe of South Dakota, first got the acting bug when as a ten year old, he was cast in "Dances with Wolves" as a boy whose life is saved by Kevin Costner's character. Michael has since appeared in seven TV and film productions, including "Skins" by native director Chris Eyre. His brother, Eddie Spears, has appeared in eight films, including Hallmark's "Dream Keeper," and Rick Schroder's new film "Black Cloud." Visit the official Michael Spears website.
Tonantzin Carmelo was born and raised on her ancestral land, (the Los Angeles Basin) and is a graduate of UC Irvine. Her ancestry is Tongva/Mexica. Tonantzin's acclaimed stage roles include Anita in Exmagare, Christina Khalo/Paula in Frida Khalo, and multiple characters in Malinche. She is in national commercials and starred in the feature film King Rikki with Jon Seda and Mario Lopez. Carmelo is a traditional Aztec dancer and pre-columbian musician, recording 3 CDs with Canyon Records. She is an Emerging Voice with the California Indian Storytellers Association and a mentor for the Native Voices Youth Playwright Project.
George Leach is a member of the Sta’atl’imx Nation in Lillooet, British Columbia, Canada. An accomplished actor, George has appeared on screen in ‘This Is Wonderland’, ‘North of 60’, ‘PSI Factor’ and ‘La Femme Nikita’. However, George is bettter known as a soulful rock-driven musician. At the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards 2000, he won Best Male Artist of the Year and Best Rock Album and was nominated for Best Song Writer. Read the story behind the feather he has on his guitar when he performs here. Visit the official George Leach web site.
Zahn McClarnon is Standing Rock Sioux (Hunkpapa Dakota) and Irish. His mother lives on the Rosebud Resrvation, but he was raised by his grandparents near the Blackfeet Reservation at Browning, Montana. At age 11 McClarnon began participating in sweat lodge ceremonies and Sun dances. Zahn has appeared in many television series, including Baywatch, Chicago Hope, Dangerous Minds, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Murphy Brown, Walker, Texas Ranger and NYPD Blue. Film work includes a co-starring role with Richard Dreyfuss in the film Silent Fall, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Skins, directed by Chris Eyre, and a documentary called Need 4 Speed. McClarnon discovered drugs and alcohol at an early age and for 20 years McClarnon was drug and alcohol addicted. He has been clean and sober for three years now, and credits his AA 12-step program and sweat lodge ceremonies for recovering his sobriety. McClarnon says he would be more than happy to speak to schools and programs about his experience.
Simon Baker plays the part of Loved By The Buffalo in Episode One. He is a First Nations Cree from the Cowesses Band in Broadview,Saskatchewan, Canada. Simon has a long list of television and fim credits including I, Robot, Smoke Signals, Dreamkeepers, Buffalo Dreams, North of 60, A Distant Drumming, and the documentary Canada: A People's History. Visit the official Simon Baker website.
Jay Tavare appears in Episode Two. Jay comes from a multi-ethnic background of White Mountain Apache, Navajo and Latin. He had roles in the films Cold Mountain, The Missing, which was directed by Ron Howard, Adaptation, El Padrino, Unbowed, Dreamweaver, Escape to Grizzly Mountain, Streetfighter, and Executive Decision.Jay has adopted several Navajo elders along with a Navajo family from the Adopt-a-Native-Elder program which feeds and supports elderly Navajo on 3 reservations. Jay is also involved in both the WolfDog Rescue and the Samoyed Rescue of Southern California in rehabilitating and rescuing wolfdogs and samoyeds on death row. Visit the official Jay Tavare website.
Nathaniel Arcand appears in Episode Three in the role of Brings Horse. Nathaniel Arcand was born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and is Plains Cree (Nehiyaw) from the Alexander First Nation Revserve. He has played many roles on television and in films, including the role of William MacNeil on the television drama series, North Of 60, Skins, Black Cloud, American Outlaw, Grey Owl, Wanchese in Legend of Two Path, Crazy Horse, Tonto in a new pilot for The Lone Ranger, and as Broken Lance in the Hallmark mini-series Dreamkeeper. Nathaniel attends many youth conferences for native children and teens to talk about self-esteem and self-empowerment and how to break into the acting business. Nathaniel strongly believes that the children are our future, and adults should show them the best paths to follow to make this world a better place for everyone.Vist the official Nathaniel Arcand website.
Irene Bedard appears in Episodes Three and Four. She is best known to audiences as the voice of the title character in Disney's animated feature Pocahontas. Irene's heritage includes Cree Indian and Inupiat. Her mother is a full-blood Inupiat, and her father is half Cree/half French Canadian. Irene has had roles in many films such as Smoke Signals and Edge of America directed by Chris Eyre, Naturally Native, Crazy Horse, Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee, for which she won numerous acting awards, Navajo Blues, and Squanto: A Warrior's Tale. She has also released a music CD with her husband, musician Deni Wilson, named Warrior of Love, under the band name Irene Bedard and Deni. Irene was named one of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People In The World in 1995. Irene Bedard helped found "Guardians of Sacred Lands," a group formed to bring awareness to Native issues and educate the public about sacred lands. Visit the official Irene Bedard website.
Gil Birmingham appears in Episode Three. He is half Comanche. Born in San Antonio, Texas, Gil spent his formative years in a military family that moved around the country, living in Texas, Alaska and Hawaii before settling in San Francisco. After relocating to Southern California, Birmingham graduated from USC in business administration and worked as a petro-chemical design engineer. His lifelong passion for music culminated in work as a professional guitarist while perfecting his craft as an actor. On stage, Birmingham has played the lead in Roundball, Dark of the Moon, and Of Mice and Men, and he had a supporting role in How We Talk in Boston. On the small screen he was the lead actor as Peter Sweeney in Gentle Ben I and Gentle Ben II. He also starred as Greyhawk in Family Law and was a featured actor in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. On the big screen, Birmingham starred in Dreamkeeper, Skins and Doeboy, was the lead in Lone Ranger, and was a featured actor in Wild Wild West.
Veteran actor Graham Greene plays Conquering Bear in Episode Three. Graham is an Oneida Indian from the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada. In 1997,Graham Greene was hospitalized after a suicide attempt and a stand-off with police. He has since gone public to discuss his battles with clinical depression. He's currently in pre-production for his latest movie, The Spirit Bear. Visit the official Graham Greene site.
Wes Studi appears in Episode Four. Wes was born in Nofire Hollow, Oklahoma and attended Chilocco Indian School. He is Cherokee. A veteran actor, Wes Studi has a long list of film credits including 500 Nations, Big Guns Talk, Broken Chains, Crazy Horse, Dances With Wolves, Deep Rising, The Doors, Geronimo, Heat, Highlander, Ice Planet, The Killing Jar, Lone Justice 2, The Last of the Mohicans, Mystery Men, Ned Blessings, and Pow Wow Highway.
Russell Means appears in Episode Three. The L.A. Times has described him as the most famous American Indian since Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Born an Oglala/Lakota in 1939 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, he was a co-founder and the first national director of the American Indian Movement. (AIM). He has been an american indian activist for more than thirty years. Russell has spoken at all major universities in the United States and England. In 1991, Russell began his career in Hollywood. He has had parts in numerous feature films, wrote his autobiography, recorded two albums, and started his own production company. Visit the Russell Means Home Page.
Born in Keshena, Wisconsin, actress Shelia Tousey was born and raised on both the Menominee and Stockbridge reservations. She began her career as a child, performing Native American dances. Upon graduating from the University of New Mexico, Tousey enrolled in the graduate acting program at New York University. Since then she has appeared on Broadway in Saint Plays: Wholly Jones/The Freak and In the Summer House and off-Broadway in Woyzeck and Efiginia and Other Daughters, for which she received a Drama Desk Nomination. Her acting credits include the role of Emma Leaphorn in the movie Coyote Waits, and roles in Thunderheart, Silent Tongue, Backroads, Ravenous, All the Winters That Have Been, and Grand Avenue. Her television credits include the PBS production Living and Working in Space and the CBS movie of the week Medicine River, in which she starred. She narrated the American Masters episode Coming to Light: Edward S. Curtis and the North American Indians. In addition to her work as an actress, she has co-produced the romantic comedy Christmas in the Clouds.
Additional cast for night four, as well as cast lists for nights five and six will be announced soon.