January 11, 2014 11:01am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Jason Momoa: Sundance's 'Red Road' 'Most Challenging Thing I've Ever Done'
Sundance Channel expands its roster of original scripted programming with The Red Road, a drama about two clashing communities, starring Martin Henderson and Jason Momoa.
The series centers on Henderson's weathered sheriff who struggles to keep his family together while policing two clashing communities: the folks in the small New York town in which he grew up and those in the neighboring Ramapo Mountains. Momoa co-stars as a member of the Native American tribe freshly released from prison who has ties to both worlds. The Red Road was created by Aaron Guzikowski (Prisioners) and executive produced by Bridget Carpenter (Friday Night Lights).
"It's an interesting world people haven't seen before," Guzikowski told reporters Saturday at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour. "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."
The creator/writer/co-EP noted the series was initially pitched to HBO before it landed at Sundance, with the cabler quick to get the premise. He stressed that the network was still finding its feet with original programming, which allowed producers to explore new territory.
"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.
While the tribe featured in the series is not real, it is based on a community that resides in the Ramapo Mountains. Producers consulted with the tribe and had an adviser on the series 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."
Game of Thrones and Conan the Barbarian alum Momoa, meanwhile, was instantly drawn to the project and was searching for a project in which he could demonstrate everything he could do as an actor.
"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 Hawaii-born actor who was raised in Iowa said it was "extremely important" to play a Native American and revealed he studied with the Ramapo to prepare for the role. "I don't have a lot of stuff that demonstrates the things I do on the show. I auditioned and I wanted it. And when I want something, I'm going to get it," he added with a laugh.
The Red Road bows Feb. 27 on Sundance. Check out the trailer, below.