March 12, 2014 11:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Bill Paxton, Brendan Fraser Among History's All-Star 'Texas Rising' Cast
History Channel has set an all-star cast for its upcoming Texas Rising miniseries.
From the producers of its ratings juggernaut Hatfields & McCoys, Emmy nominee Bill Paxton, Brendan Fraser, Ray Liotta, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Thomas Jane, Olivier Martinez, Chad Michael Murray, Michael Rapaport and Max Thieriot will star in the new drama, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Oscar nominee Roland Joffe (The Mission, The Killing Fields) will direct.
The eight-hour "event series," from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America and produced by Thinkfactory, hails from Hatfields' Leslie Greif, who will executive produce the mini. Rising, which will premiere in 2015, will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers, the oldest law enforcement group in North America. Part one is written by Greif, Darrell Fetty and Ted Mann, the latter of whom co-wrote Hatfields for History. Nights two, three and four will be written by Greif and Fetty.
Paxton, who earned an Emmy nomination for his role in Hatfields, will star as Sam Houston, the "father" of Texas. Fraser (The Mummy) will play Billy Anderson, a Texas Ranger with Comanche Indian Ties. Liotta (GoodFellas) is set as Lorca, an Alamo survivor seeking brutal revenge. Morgan, is was one of pilot season's most in-demand actors, is "Deaf" Smith, a deaf and grizzled veteran Texas Ranger with an advance case of consumption. Jane (Hung) will portray James Wykoff, a homesteader who finds himself living in the middle of hostile Indian territory. Martinez (Before Night Falls) will be President Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, the tyrant dictator of Mexico. Murray (One Tree Hill) will play Mirabeau Lamar, a spirited Texas soldier who helps win the battle of San Jacinto. Rapaport (Justified) is Sgt. Ephraim Knowles, a would-be deserter and coward-turned-hero. Thieriot (Bates Motel) will play Jack Hays, a volunteer freedom fighter who becomes the youngest Texas Ranger. Additional castings are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
“From Hatfields & McCoysto The Bible to Vikings, History has made a major commitment to high-quality scripted historical dramas,” History exec vp and GM Dirk Hoogstra said. “The Texas Revolution is one of the most gut-wrenching and inspirational events in our history. Doing the story justice will be a massive undertaking and we’re excited to begin production with one of the best teams in the business.”
Added Greif: "It's exciting to be back working with History and Bill Paxton, a team that made television history with Hatfields & McCoys. The battle for Texas independence was epic and really the battle for the future of America. We have Academy Award- and Emmy-nominated talent, a stellar ensemble cast is being set, and with this team, we will seek to even further redefine and elevate the term 'event television.’ "
Greif will exec produce for Thinkfactory, while Hoogstra, Elaine Frontain Bryant and Julian P. Hobbs are set to exec produce for History.
The three-part Hatfields mini broke basic cable ratings records for History in 2012, wrapping its run with 14.3 million total viewers. The mini earned 16 Emmy nominations (including best mini) and took home five, including lead actor for Kevin Costner. Cable networks including History and Discovery have turned to the miniseries as a way to expand into original scripted territory. History has also found success of The Bible, which paired with Hatfield, helped revitalize the mini and "event" series. The success has helped broadcast and cable networks alike lure top-name talent to more limited run fare. For its part, Rising will be a closed-ended eight-episode series, despite its billing by History as an "event" series a la CBS' Under the Dome, the latter of which was renewed for a second season.
The casting brings Paxton back to History after he earned an Emmy nomination for his work in Hatfields. The Big Love alum is repped by UTA and Bloom Hergott.
For Fraser, the role marks his biggest TV commitment to date and comes more than a year after he exited the starring role in TNT's Howard Gordon drama Legends. He's repped by CAA, Brillstein Entertainment and Felker Toczek.
Liotta is repped by UTA and Untitled; Morgan (Magic City) is with UTA, Precision Entertainment and Bloom Hergott; Jane (61*) is with Paradigm; Martinez is represented by Resolution; Rapaport is with Resolution and Brillstein; and Thieriot is with Gersh and McKuin Frankel. Greif is with Kleinberg Lange.
Here's History's official description of Rising: "In 1836, if west of the Mississippi was considered the Wild West then Texas was hell on earth. Crushed from the outside by Mexican armadas and attacked from within by ferocious Comanche tribes -- no one was safe. But this was a time of bravery, a time to die for what you believed in and a time to stand tall against the cruel rule of the Mexican General Santa Anna. From General Sam Houston, to rag tag Rangers to the legendary 'Yellow Rose of Texas -- this is a story of the human spirit rising in the face of insurmountable odds and claiming a piece of history for all eternity."