Lewis and Clark, the upcoming HBO series portraying the westward journey of American explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, is set to resume filming in Alberta this Spring. The six-hour miniseries will star Casey Affleck as Lewis and Matthias Schoenaerts as Clark.
The script for the series is based on 1996 book Undaunted Courage by Stephen E. Ambrose, and dramatizes the mission that US President Thomas Jefferson tasked Lewis and Clark with following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Lewis and Clark were to survey the territory gained by the deal with France, which now expanded American territorial claims from the Mississippi river to the western Rockies.
That territory may have been unknown to eastern Americans, but it was known and occupied by numerous Indigenous peoples. Relations with those groups would prove vitally important for the two explorers, if they were to be given geographical guidance and necessary supplies en route. Assisting them most directly was the famous Sacagawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman who acted as guide and interpreter for the “Corps of Discovery” led by Lewis and Clark. Having first begun in 1804, the group reached the Pacific Ocean in November of 1805, returning to St. Louis, Missouri, by September 1806. Tanaya Beatty, from the Da’naxda’xw First Nation in Canada, will play Sacagawea.
One interesting historical – and dramatic – footnote to the first year of the expedition is that Spain, which claimed territory south of the Louisiana Purchase, learned from a paid informant, U.S. General James Wilkinson, that Lewis and Clark could cross Spanish territory. The Spanish Empire mobilized a force of over 50 men to intercept the Corps, leaving Sante Fe (in New Mexico, today) in August, 1804. The group was led by the French explorer, Pierre “Pedro” Vial. However, when the force reached what is now central Nebraska, they learned from a local Pawnee group that Lewis and Clark had already gone by and were now some 100 miles away. It will be interesting to learn if the miniseries will include this chase.
One of the more famous depictions of the Lewis & Clark expedition is the above 1904 painting by Edgar Paxson, entitled Lewis and Clark at Three Forks. Moving from left to right, the following individuals are portrayed: John Colter, guide; Clark’s African-American servant, York; Captain Lewis; Captain Clark; Sacagawea; Toussaint Charbonneau (Sacagawea’s husband). An important event happened with the members of this group in late November of 1805, when the expedition voted whether or not to move camp across the Columbia River in modern-day Oregon. Both Sacagawea and York were included in that vote and historians contend this may have been the first American-specific example of the franchise including women and slaves. Again, will the series include this significant occasion?
Westernsreboot.com will continue to track developments with Lewis and Clark (with more hopefully more success than the Spanish expedition above, ha). The miniseries brings considerable resources to the project, counting among its executive producers Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, and Edward Norton.
(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)