Jason Momoa Studied with New York’s Ramapo Tribe for Role on Sundance’s ‘Red Road’
Next on Sundance Channel‘s growing list of stellar original programming is The Red Road, a drama about two warring communities, starring Martin Henderson (Off the Map) and Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones / Conan the Barbarian).
The series focuses on Harold Jensen, a weathered sheriff played by Henderson, who struggles to keep his family together while policing tension between a small New York town and a Native American tribe in the neighboring Ramapo Mountains.
Momoa stars as Phillip Kopus, a man freshly released from prison who is a member of the tribe but has ties to both worlds.
“It’s an interesting world people haven’t seen before,” co-creator Aaron Guzikowski (Prisioners) said. “This particular Indian tribe lives close to New York City, close to the modern world, and yet is still living off the land. It’s a small tribe that doesn’t have federal recognition. There are a lot of things that make them unique. That was a hugely attractive place to set this story.”
Executive produced by Bridget Carpenter (Friday Night Lights), the series was initially pitched to HBO before Sundance quickly picked it up.
“It’s an unfamiliar place we wanted to explore deeply. And it’s also America; it’s hugely specific, and the place of it told a deeply American story. We felt it was fresh; Aaron’s writing turns familiarity on its head,” Carpenter said.
Though the tribe depicted on the show is not real, it’s based on a real community that resides in the Ramapo Mountains, which was consulted by producers. The set also had an adviser from the community to ensure its authenticity.
“I learned about the tribe when I lived in New York City and read about it,” Guzikowski said. “I had ideas for different kinds of stories I wanted to tell about families and thrillers that have to do with human relationships, and that seemed like the perfect setting for it.”
Momoa, who is of Hawaiian, German, Irish, and Native American ancestry, said it was “extremely important” to play a Native American and revealed he studied with the Ramapo to prepare for the role.
“Fantasy and sci-fi is fun, and there are no limitations in those worlds. But when this came along, like Drogo, I knew this was for me,” he said. “There’s a lot in my personal life that I want to explore, and I wasn’t raised as this guy. … This is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.”
The show also stars Julianne Nicholson (Boardwalk Empire / Masters of Sex), Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan / Black Hawk Down), Tamara Tunie (As The World Turns / Flight), and Native actors Kiowa Gordon (Twlight), Zahn McClarnon (Longmire), and Victor Gage (Anchorman 2).