How Taylor Sheridan's "Magic Storytelling Dust" Brought the Bass Reeves Story to Life

chad feehan, executive producer, and david oyelowo as bass reeves in lawmen bass reeves, episode 3, season 1, streaming on paramount, 2023 photo credit emerson millerparamount
'Lawmen: Bass Reeves' Is Your New Favorite WesternEmerson Miller - Paramount
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."

Though the era of Yellowstone is coming to a close, Taylor Sheridan is still telling the stories of the American West in new ways. Lawmen: Bass Reeves isn't another Yellowstone spin-off like 1923 or 1883, but it tells the untold story of and important figure in the Western frontier with the same caliber of storytelling and authenticity that fans love from Sheridan. The series, which will highlight a new person each season, premieres exclusively on Paramount+ on Sunday, November 5 with episodes 1 and 2.

Who is Bass Reeves?

Bass Reeves was a real person who lived from 1838 until 1910. He was born into slavery, and the series highlights the triumphs of his life as the first Black deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi river. Over the course of his life, Reeves captured more than 3,000 outlaws in modern-day Oklahoma and Arkansas, all while Black Americans experienced extreme prejudice and hardship. "Bass Reeves was a very interesting subject in the fact that at the time period we chose for the story, he is a Black man in the 1800s with a gun and a badge. Weren’t that many Bass Reeves types walking around, Damian Marcano, director of episodes 4, 5, and 6, told Country Living.

demi singleton as sally reeves, lauren e banks as jennie reeves, and damian marcano, director, in lawmen bass reeves, episode 5, season 1, streaming on paramount, 2023 photo credit lauren smithparamount
Damian Marcano on setLauren Smith - Paramount

The story behind Lawmen: Bass Reeves

The story of Bass Reeves, both legend and fact, has been told for generations, and he is even rumored to be the inspiration behind the Lone Ranger. David Oyelowo caught wind of the story of the legendary lawman and has been fighting to tell Reeves's story in an authentic way for years. "Taylor Sheridan recommended me to David Oyelowo who has been trying to tell this story for 8 years. I sat down with David at dinner and he explained to me all the things that I didn’t know, and explained to me where the myth both converged with and separated from reality. I immediately got hooked about Bass Reeves, and was determined to support David in any way that I could in honoring his legacy," Chad Feehan–Lawmen: Bass Reeves writer, show runner, and executive producer–told Country Living.

Of course, to do his extraordinary story justice, Feehan and his team of writers, producers, directors, and consultants dove into every research material they could find mentioning Bass Reeves, from podcasts to books to historical records to documentaries. No amount of research can fill in every single gap in a person's life, so that's where Feehan and writers came in to "fill in the in-between with our imaginations, and try to create the most compelling narrative that we could," Feehan explained.

david oyelowo as bass reeves and chad feehan in lawmen bass reeves, episode 8, season 1, streaming on paramount, 2023 photo credit lauren smithparamount
David Oyelow and Chad Feehan Lauren Smith - Paramount

The end result is a trip back in time where viewers can see firsthand who Bass Reeves was and what made him so extraordinary. The show dives into every aspect of his life, from his role as an officer of the law to his life at home with his wife and children. "I think that audiences today need to see stories of triumph, and he is a man that embodies that triumph of spirit perfectly. I think, hopefully audiences are craving that, I know that I certainly am. As well as this idea that we’re all connected by this universal experience of being a human being, and hopefully that will start to break down some of the perceived divisions that exist amongst us," Feehan said.

The story of Bass Reeves is one that has been told time and time again, but has always left consumers wanting for a true authentic depiction, one that draws even unassuming viewers in with its narrative storytelling and Old West appeal. "It’s a real prideful moment for me, and I think a lot of people have really expressed to me like they’ve been waiting for this. I had no clue, I’m a guy from the islands. So, I didn’t know that many people were waiting on something of Bass Reeves, but more importantly it’s a story that I have seen now attempted so many times," Marcon explained.

As for Taylor Sheridan's involvement, it's clear that the Western genre is his niche and he pours his heart and soul into every project he touches. It's an effect that Feehan described as "magic storytelling dust." As Lawmen: Bass Reeves enters into his Western machine, Yellowstone loyalists can breathe as sigh of relief, as they'll have a new show to fall in love with all over again.

You Might Also Like