Deadwood bids farewell to beloved characters

Raymond de Asis Lo - The Philippine Star
Deadwood bids farewell to beloved characters
Timothy Olyphant (left, as Sheriff Seth Bullock) with David Milch (writer and creator) on the set of the film

HBO and David Milch, the creator of the series, are bringing back the iconic town and its cast of memorable characters in a two-hour movie that will fittingly give what is now considered to be one of the greatest TV shows of all time an ending it deserves and a closure that will satisfy fans.

MANILA, Philippines — Deadwood, the highly-regarded HBO series that debuted in 2004 and ran for three seasons, returns to television this month to formally bid farewell to the beloved characters that fans of the series have been clamoring to see again after they were left devastated by the sudden cancellation of the show in 2006.

There won’t be a full series, however. HBO and David Milch, the creator of the series, are bringing back the iconic town and its cast of memorable characters in a two-hour movie that will fittingly give what is now considered to be one of the greatest TV shows of all time an ending it deserves and a closure that will satisfy fans.

In the new movie, the story jumps forward 10 years into the future and will see many of its major characters reunite to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

Deadwood started streaming on HBO GO yesterday, June 1, and premieres on the HBO channel tonight at 9. The large ensemble cast, led by Ian McShane, Timothy Olyphant, Molly Parker, Paula Malcomson, John Hawkes, Anna Gunn, Dayton Callie and Brad Dourif, among others, will be there to welcome the fans back to the frontier town.

This writer had a jumpstart on everyone when I joined a small group of journalists to a tour of the set of the movie at the Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita, California November last year. They were filming a very important scene the day we visited. We were asked not to reveal the scene.

Producer Gregg Fienberg and production designer Maria Caso accompanied us on our tour and shared anecdotes from the first day back on the set to the inspirations behind the new look of the town.

“It was a very emotional moment for everybody,” Gregg said, recalling the atmosphere on the set when the cast and crew gathered for the first time after more than a decade. David Milch spent the first hour on the set welcoming everyone back. “He didn’t just welcome the actors back and talked about the scene, integrated into that was welcoming everybody back together after all this time, with all the hope we’ve had that it would happen someday.”

Gregg likened the long journey it took for Deadwood and its characters to return to the screen to the emotional theme at the core of the new movie. “In its own weird way, it’s about time, the passage of time and what it does to people and the communities.”

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for the actors to get back in character. “The amazing thing is everyone slipped right back into character like they never left. Everybody is very excited to be back.”

Gregg added that when the series ended, it ended so abruptly that the cast and crew never had a chance to say goodbye to each other. “Here we are, all back together again for the first time, without ever having a chance to have said proper goodbyes.”

There was always a plan to come up with a movie to properly end the series. Why it took this long is something that’s not really unusual in the business. Between 2006 and 2018, there were numerous alternating stories about the movie being greenlit and then being cancelled permanently. In July 2018, the confirmation that many fans have long wanted to hear finally came. The movie was finally going to be made. And the original cast and crew were just as happy as the fans.

“I don’t think people really believed it, even when it started really happening!” Gregg said. “I got all kinds of calls. ‘It’s not really happening, is it? No, it’s happening! No, really? Then don’t be available in October or you won’t get to do it.’”

Award-winning production designer Maria, who won an Emmy for her work on the series, was one of those people happy to be back on the set and build the town of Deadwood that’s on the verge of modernization.

The original series charted the growth of what once was a camp for gold miners to a town that would soon be called Deadwood. The show combined historical facts with fictional elements and created a modern-day American western that drew wide acclaim from critics and fans alike.

“The show was set in 1876 and everybody came to town and they were living on the street and tents,” Maria recalled. “So 10 years later, we wanted to show the progress in the town.”

Maria and her team built the set for the new train. The town would also have electricity running now. There would also be one telephone. “We wanted to show progress, but maybe progress not in a great way because people have come in and there are signs everywhere and there’s advertisements everywhere!”

The movie was shot in the same studio where Westworld is also being filmed. This writer previously visited the set of Westworld and found familiar structures dressed up differently for Deadwood. It is quite an experience to visit the set, touch the props, open the doors, look out the windows and walk the same streets the characters from these iconic films and TV series walk on.

Before we concluded our visit, we were invited to witness the filming of one of the crucial scenes in the film. That scene would likely run less than two minutes in the movie but it took the production more than an hour and several takes to complete. As stated earlier, we were asked not to reveal the scene but am inclined to give one clue: Nearly all the major characters are in the scene. Wink!



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