TV

Are 'Dark Winds' Actors Actually Navajo?

Image credit: Legion-Media

'Dark Winds' was a smash success for AMC in 2022 with the network preparing to say goodbye to 'Better Call Saul' and 'The Walking Dead'. The western/psychological thriller revolves around a group of Navajo tribal police officers attempting to solve a double murder while conflicting with the interests of the FBI.

'Dark Winds' was a smash success for AMC in 2022 with the network preparing to say goodbye to 'Better Call Saul' and 'The Walking Dead'. The western/psychological thriller revolves around a group of Navajo tribal police officers attempting to solve a double murder while conflicting with the interests of the FBI.

'Dark Winds' received critical acclaim while obtaining a cult following. The AMC series ventured into new boundaries telling a narrative from the perspective of ingenious people living in the United States during a modern era. The cast features many Native Americans leading fans to ask if the actors are actually Navajo?

Zahn Tokiya-ku Mclarnon – who portrays 'Dark Winds' most beloved character Joe Leaphorn – is also well regarded for his roles in 'Longmire', 'Fargo', and 'Westworld'. Zahn takes his first name in honor of his maternal great-great uncle, who was an elder of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. Zahn has Hunkpapa Lakota heritage (from his mother's side) and Irish ancestry.

Kiowa Gordon – who stars opposite Zahn McIarnon as Jim Chee – is of nearby Hualapai descent (Arizona). Meanwhile, Jessica Matten (Sgt. Bernadette Manuelito) is actually from Canada yet of Saulteaux-Cree and Red River Metis heritage (from her mother). Matten is an activist for indigenous people and manages her own production company – 7 Forward Entertainment.

The villains of 'Dark Winds' – Jeremiah Bitsui (Hoski) and Eugene Brave Rock (Frank Nakai) also come from Native American backgrounds: Bitsui is the only primary cast member of 'Dark Winds' that is Navajo. The actor, who also portrayed repeat performances in 'Breaking Bad' and 'Better Call Saul' as Victor, also features Omaha heritage. Eugene Brave Rock, his partner in crime, is from Canada and grew up in the Kainai Nation Reserve in Alberta. He attended the Plains Indian Cultural Survival School which led him to a successful stuntman career in Hollywood.

'Dark Winds' also features Noah Emmerich as FBI agent Leland Whitover and Rainn Wilson as "Devoted Dan". The TV series was spearheaded by Robert Redford and George R.R. Martin ('Game of Thrones') who, as producers, also made a point to feature Navajo actors as secondary actors on 'Dark Winds'.

The first season was primarily filmed in New Mexico and Utah yet also features footage from the Navajo Nation. In fact, executive producer Chris Eyre personally thanked the Navajo Nation for presenting the film crew and 'Dark Winds' cast with a warm welcome. According to The Cinemaholic, several pivotal scenes were shot in Kayenta, a census-designated place in Navajo County, Arizona. The massive region, also known as Navajoland, expands into New Mexico and Utah. Thus, the 'Dark Winds' production team also elected to shoot in Cochiti, New Mexico and San Juan County, Utah.

'Dark Winds' was picked up for a second season (six episodes) and is expected to debut in 2023. There is no doubt audiences are anticipating what new cast members and locations will get introduced in 'Dark Winds' season two.

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