‘Dark Winds’ Series Based on ‘Leaphorn & Chee’ Books Greenlit at AMC

Dark Winds Star Zahn McClarnon
Zahn McClarnon to star in AMC Networks’ ‘Dark Winds’

Dark Winds, a series based on Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn & Chee books, has been greenlit at AMC Networks. The series is described as a Western noir thriller and will star Zahn McClarnon (The Son, Westworld, Fargo) and Kiowa Gordon (The Red Road, Roswell, New Mexico).

Graham Roland (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) created the series and executive produces. Vince Calandra (Castle Rock) is on board as showrunner and will also serve as an executive producer along with McClarnon, George R.R. Martin, Robert Redford, Tina Elmo, and Vince Gerardis. The pilot will be directed by executive producer Chris Eyre.

“We’re thrilled by the prospect of authentically telling this story with a group of remarkably talented individuals,” stated 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 appreciate experiencing for themselves. The series order is the product of several months in a writers’ room staffed entirely by Native American writers, and it is a series that will be brought to life by those storytellers, with a cast led by Zahn McClarnon and featuring Native American actors, filmed largely in and around Native American lands, with the full support and blessing of The Navajo Nation. We are so excited about telling this captivating and entertaining story while rendering this vibrant, rich, wonderful culture and community on AMC+ and AMC.”

“I am honored to be asked to star as the lead in this innovative series for AMC and to Executive produce,” stated Zahn McClarnon. “To have the support and to be a part of a team which is led by two iconic visionaries as George R.R. Martin and Robert Redford is something to which I’ve always aspired. I believe as Indigenous people we are in a new era of progress in TV and film representation.”

The series is expected to premiere on AMC+ and AMC in 2022. Season one will consist of six episodes.

“I read my first Tony Hillerman novel in 1986 while filming in New Mexico and was immediately hooked,” said executive producer Robert Redford. “Hillerman is a master storyteller, his writing is full of mystery and suspense, set amidst a background that blends traditional oral stories of Native American culture and landscape. I am happy to partner with George R.R. Martin and AMC on this project, and am especially grateful for the collaboration with President Nez and The Navajo Nation.”

Kiowa Gordon Dark Winds
Kiowa Gordon to star in ‘Dark Winds’ (Photo Courtesy of AMC Networks)

George R.R. Martin stated: “Tony Hillerman was one of the greats, as every mystery reader knows. Down 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 television, I could not agree fast enough. We have great source material in Tony’s novel Listening Woman, a great pilot script from Graham Roland, a great director in Chris… and what a pair of leads, with Zahn McClarnon as Leaphorn and Kiowa Gordon as Chee! Our plan is to shoot in New Mexico, in and around Santa Fe and on the Navajo reservation, and we are bringing in as many Navajo and other Native Americans as possible, as writers, directors, cast, and crew, to capture all the magic and mystery and wonder of the Land of Enchantment. Thanks to AMC for making it possible. Tony Hillerman wrote a lot of amazing books, and it is our dream to adapt as many of them as we can.”

AMC describes season one as a “psychological thriller that follows two Navajo police officers in the 1970s Southwest, as their search for clues in a grisly double murder case forces them to challenge their own spiritual beliefs and come to terms with the trauma of their pasts.”

“We are excited to welcome Chris Eyre, AMC Studios, and the industry’s top executives for the production of Dark Winds, part of which will be filmed on the Navajo Nation,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. “I also welcome my friend, Robert Redford, back to our Nation once again. This week, the Navajo Nation lifted more COVID-19 restrictions to welcome visitors and tourists back to Diné Bikéyah. We look forward to welcoming the film crew and we hope this will serve to draw more interest from production companies and draw more tourists to boost our economy and contribute to the ‘Buy Navajo, Buy Local’ initiative. Thank you to everyone involved in this great venture with the Great Navajo Nation!”

Series creator Graham Roland added, “As a Native American and a writer, the opportunity to work with iconic storytellers like Robert Redford and George R.R. Martin to tell a story in this world, with Native American leads, and do it at AMC, home to some of the most acclaimed dramas of all time, is a dream come true.”