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When the script for Texas Rising landed on History general manager and EVP Dirk Hoogstra‘s desk, he had just one note: “F—ing awesome.”
The cable network’s upcoming eight-part miniseries details the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers, the oldest law enforcement group in North America. The first episode, premiering Memorial Day 2015, opens at end of the Alamo in 1836 when Santa Ana comes into conquest, and goes on to chronicle the state’s fight for independence.
“We all know the Alamo,” said executive producer Leslie Greif (Hatfields & McCoys) at the Television Critics Association semi-annual press tour on Friday. “But no one knows what happens afterwards. The Alamo was not the end of the story, it was only the beginning.”
Bill Paxton leads the cast as General Sam Smith, with Olivier Martinez as General Santa Ana. Brendan Fraser, Ray Liotta, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Thomas Jane, Chad Michael Murray, Kris Kristofferson and Max Thieriot also star in the western, which was filmed in Durango, Mexico.
Greif continually referred to the miniseries as a ‘movie’ throughout the mid-morning panel because it was shot in 6k and CinemaScope with a 2.35:1 shooting ratio that makes it look like a major motion picture and allows it to be broadcast in widescreen format. In fact, Rising will be the first television program to have a theatrical preview by showing the first episode in AMC and Cinemark theaters a week ahead of the TV premiere. “We made a film, it’s just airing on TV,” added Greif.
Acknowledging that winners usually write history, the cast and creators emphasized their effort to create a balanced story. “We had a false reality of what that world was and what history was as this Anglo vs. Mexican story,” said Paxton. “This is a story that’s more inclusive than you’ve seen before. It’s about two cultures, but they’re not against each other.“
A prime example of the new depth the drama hopes to bring to the historical account is the character of Santa Ana. “He’s a rich, complicated and interesting character that’s very much a product of his culture,” said director Roland Joffé (The Killing Fields, The Mission). “By creating fully dimensional characters, you begin to understand in which people lived — and what this story does for Santa Ana is not cliché at all. It puts him in line with some very powerful historical men.”
Texas Rising is produced by A+E Studios and ITV Studios America in association with Thinkfactory Media.
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