AMC has given the green light for an ambitious new crime drama based on a beloved book series and with several batting skills attached.
The network ordered Dark winds, which is based on the iconic books by author Tony Hillerman Leaphorn & Chee, which follow two Navajo cops through the 1970s Southwest.
The series is created and produced by Graham Roland (Jack Ryan from Tom Clancy) and stars Zahn McClarnon (Fargo), who is also an executive producer, and Kiowa Gordon (The red route). Vince Calandra (stone castle) is the showrunner and also executive producer. Chris Eyre (Smoke signals) will lead the pilot and executive producer. Other executive producers include George RR Martin, Robert Redford, Tina Elmo, and Vince Gerardis. In a rare move, the production obtained permission to film on tribal lands in New Mexico.
The first season will follow the officers’ search for clues in a gruesome double murder case that will force them to question their own spiritual beliefs and come to terms with the trauma of their past.
“We are excited to be telling this story authentically 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 enjoy experiencing for themselves. The series commission is the product of months in a Writers’ Room comprised entirely of Native American writers, and it’s a series that will be hosted by these storytellers, with a cast directed by Zahn McClarnon and featuring Native American actors, filmed largely in and around Native American lands, with full support and the blessing of the Navajo Nation. We are delighted to tell this compelling and entertaining story while bringing this vibrant, rich and wonderful culture and community to AMC + and AMC. “
Redford added, “I read my first Tony Hillerman novel in 1986 while on set in New Mexico and I was immediately hooked. Hillerman is a master storyteller, his writing is full of mystery and suspense, against a backdrop of a mixture of traditional oral histories of Native American culture and landscape. I am happy to partner with George RR Martin and AMC on this project, and I am especially grateful for the collaboration with President Nez and the Navajo Nation.
Martin added, “Tony Hillerman was one of the greats, as any mystery reader knows. 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 TV, I couldn’t agree quickly enough. We have excellent sources in Tony’s novel Listening woman, a great pilot script by Graham Roland, a great director in Chris… and what a pair of leads, with Zahn McClarnon in Leaphorn and Kiowa Gordon in Chee! Our plan is to shoot in New Mexico, in and around Santa Fe and on the Navajo Reservation, and we’re bringing as many Navajo and other Native Americans as we can, as writers, directors, actors and crew, to capture the whole magic and mystery and wonder of the Land of Enchantment. Thanks to AMC for making this possible. Tony Hillerman has written a lot of amazing books, and it’s our dream to adapt as many as possible. “
McClarnon added, “I am honored to be invited to star in this innovative series for AMC and to executive produce. Having the support and being part of a team led by two iconic visionaries like George RR Martin and Robert Redford is something I have always aspired to. I believe that as Aboriginal people we are in a new era of advancement in television and film performance.
Eyre added, “For the past 25 years, my goal has been to celebrate the telling of Native American themed stories from a Native American perspective with characters we can all relate to too. With this TV series and the support of AMC, the Great Navajo Nation and George and Bob, we are creating opportunities behind and in front of the camera while creating great entertainment in the beloved American Southwest.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez also released a statement: “We are delighted to welcome Chris Eyre, AMC Studios and the top executives in the industry to the production of Dark winds, part of which will be shot on the Navajo Nation. I also welcome my friend Robert Redford back to our nation. This week, the Navajo Nation lifted more COVID-19 restrictions to welcome visitors and tourists to Diné Bikéyah. We look forward to welcoming the film crew and hope this will serve to attract more interest from production companies and attract more tourists to boost our economy and contribute to the “Buy Navajo, Buy Local” initiative. . Thank you to everyone who participated in this great endeavor with the Great Navajo Nation! “
The first season will consist of six episodes and is slated to air on AMC in 2022.