Casting Couch: Scalped
Scalped, from writer Jason Aaron and artist R.M. Guéra, was a 60 issue Vertigo series that followed the life of Native American’s on the Prairie Rose Reservation. It was a gripping look at life on the reservation, and what people had to do to survive. To say that this would could be adapted into a television series would be an understatement, if on the right network it could be an amazing show. Think HBO original series…. Scalped. No need to edit it for violence, sex or nudity. Everything in the comic could be tackled in the series. Limiting Scalped to a movie would be a mistake because there’s so much to tell. This would also be the perfect vehicle for highlighting all the Native American actors that don’t get enough recognition.
What is Scalped?
After fifteen years of absence, undercover FBI agent Dashiell Bad Horse returns to the “Rez” to weed out the corruption that’s gripped it for decades. His family has a long history with the movers and shakers of Prairie Rose, especially the omnipresent authority figure Lincoln Red Crow who acts as Sheriff of the Tribal Police, President of the Oglala Tribal Council and owner of the local casino.
Dash’s initial doubts about the undercover operation are exacerbated when he and his partner, Officer Falls Down, are sent by Red Crow to raid a meth house without backup. Bursting into the house, the pair are ambushed by a gang of gunmen, which succeed in wounding Falls Down but are all killed by the ruthless Dash. From there Dash’s life experiences one downfall from another. The beauty of Scalped is experiencing the various characters and how their lives intertwine and the ripples felt throughout the reservation.
Dashiell Bad Horse (Sunkawakan Sica) – Michael Spears: Reckless, stubborn and completely out of control, Dash is a full-blooded Oglala who left the Prairie Rose reservation at the age of thirteen before returning with a vengeance 15 years later. He resents his mother for sending him away, believing she chose activist causes over the welfare of her only child. The fifteen years in between were spent on contact sports and serving with the U.S. military in the Kosovo before becoming an FBI agent. I’d cast Sioux actor Michael Spears. Spears might be best known for his role as Otter in Dances With Wolves, Spielberg’s Into The West and as a tribal police officer in the indie feature Imprint.
Chief Lincoln Red Crow (Kangi Sa) – Russell Means: One of the most popular Native American actors in modern cinema, it doesn’t hurt that he’s also a great actor. Means also appeared in one of my favorite movies ever, The Last of the Mohicans. A bullish Lakota elder in his fifties, Red Crow’s professional demeanor conceals a cold determination to elevate his Reservation beyond their dire surroundings, no matter the cost. A “big man” on the reservation with fingers in many pies, he is President of the Oglala Tribal Council, Sheriff of the Tribal Police Force and Managing Director of the Crazy Horse, his chief project since leaving the Native American Rights movement. Means has the ability to bring Red Crow to life, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s Oglala either.
Gina Bad Horse – Irene Bedard: Dash’s estranged mother, and a longtime activist pushing for the rights of Native Americans. Gina plays a key part in his return to the reservation, but Gina has a significant role and arc of her own in the series. She and her band of protesters oppose Red Crow’s plans to open the casino. Irene Bedard would be a great choice for the modern-day scenes, referencing her work in Into The West.
Officer Franklin Falls Down – Graham Greene: The only good guy in a town gone bad. Falls Down was one of my favorites in Scalped, and Graham Greene embodied him to an absolute t. Greene is famous for his roles in Dances with Wolves, The Green Mile, and Defiance among many others. He looks perfect for the role and we know he’s got the acting chops to pull it off. I don’t think there’s anyone better to play Falls Down.
Catcher (Arthur Pendergrass) – Rodney A. Grant: A man of Red Crow’s generation. His reactions to other characters are particularly insightful, as he believes he can see their spirit animals. Catcher is a strange man who needs someone who can pull off his eccentricities. Grant, who’s best known role is in Dances with Wolves, has had many bit roles, but always played them well. This is a chance to let him shine. Add a little grey to his hair and he should have no problem pulling off Catcher.
Shunka (Uday Sartana) – Eric Schweig : Chief Red Crow’s bodyguard and closest associate. He’s a closeted homosexual who has to deal with widespread homophobia in his line of work, including from Red Crow himself. Shunka is distrustful of Dash and their rivalry heats up as the series progresses. Though he is always referred to his nickname, which is “dog” in Lakota, his mostly unknown real name suggests he was born elsewhere. Schweig would be a good casting choice, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s from one of my favorite movies, The Last of the Mohicans, and he’s a good actor.
Carol Ellroy – Q’orianka Kilcher: Carol is the childhood friend of Dash. She resents that he was able to leave the reserve and left her there. She also happens to be Red Crow’s daughter, and she despises him. She’s married but unfaithful. She becomes intimately involved with Dash early in the story. Kilcher would have to play a bit more down-and-dirty than she’s used to in previous roles, but I’d love to see her sink into that and make it work.
FBI SAC Baylis Earl Nitz – Walton Goggins: A vengeful, unscrupulous and amoral FBI Agent who was present at Dashiell’s birth and had had his eye on him for some time, insisting that he be made an FBI Field Agent when it seemed his mother’s record would prevent that. He is driven by a desire to see Red Crow behind bars for murder, something that has eluded him since the seventies. He will do anything to get what he wants, even if it means sacrificing Dashiell. Goggins has been amazing in Justified and about any other role he plays. He’d be a perfect fit for Nitz.
Diesel Engine (Britt Fillenworth)– Kevin Durand: Gina Bad Horse’s boyfriend/companion, a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, with a reputation for violence and erratic, near-sociopathic behavior. It is often remarked (generally contemptuously) that he is white, although he reacts badly to this, claiming to be 1/16 West Texas Kickapoo. It would be interesting to see Kevin Durand step out of his type-casting as a straight up bad guy and play this more nuanced role.
Dino Poor Bear – Eddie Spears: Dino’s a young man struggling to make a living on the reservation who wants a better life for himself and his daughter, and would like to leave the reservation. He works as a janitor for the Crazy Horse casino and eventually gets money from Red Crow to fix up his car. He is eventually pressed back into a life of crime as a drug-delivery boy. Eddie Spears, little brother of Michael Spears, would be a good choice for this role. He can currently be seen on AMC’s Hell of Wheels.
Sheriff Wooster T. Karnow – Clancy Brown: The sheriff of neighboring White Haven, Nebraska. Claims to have played for the Cornhuskers and been a member of a special forces group but has a propensity for gross exaggeration. Doesn’t care about the methamphetamine being run out the rez so long as it doesn’t affect his liquor sales. After a U.S. Marshal demonstrates Karnow’s incompetence, Karnow begins to crack down on Red Crow’s criminal side activities. Clancy Brown has the look for Karnow, as well as the ability to portray the role of a buffon, who then starts getting serious.