TV Picks: The moody and taught new drama “The Red Road” on Sundance Channel.The Sundance original new series “The Red Road” is the latest crime drama on the scene which will take an entire season to resolve.
That’s the gold standard in TV drama these days as seen in the hits “Broadchurch,” “Top of the Lake,” “The Bridge” and “The Killing.”
Sundance Channel entered 2013 with scripted dramas like the New Zealand mystery miniseries “Top of the Lake,” the life-after-prison series “Rectify” and the superb, restrained horror of the French series “The Returned.” It set the channel apart as one to expect smart adult entertainment, elevating the medium with top notch fare.
“The Red Road” is rural New Jersey where racial tensions run high between a local Native American tribe and the townsfolk. Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones, Conan the Barbarian) plays Phillip, a dangerously volatile ex con whose crime spree upon returning to his hometown intersects with various issues that arise within the Jensen family.
Created by Aaron Guzikowski, the series takes place in a fictional New Jersey township where tension between the whites and their poor Indian Lenape community is on a strong simmer. Martin Henderson plays Harold Jensen, local cop, father of two teenage girls, and husband to Jean (Julianne Nicholson), the alcoholic daughter of a powerful politician.
The “red road” is a Native concept of the right path in life, and he is not on it.
Monsters and Critics spoke with Jason Momoa from New York about this evocative and moody series.
Jason Momoa – That’s part of the beauty from crossing over from film into television like this. This is like making a six hour film instead of a two hour film. I’d rather do The Red Road and shoot for four months and not shoot for 9 months (as in a regular TV series). I love it, it’s exciting.
M&C – Phillip is a charmer but he’s lethal, even depraved. I’m assuming you’re not, so how much of a challenge is he?
JM – I relate to him like the older boys I used to see skateboarding when I was growing up. I idolized them and they were kind of bad but really entertaining. The music, the way they dressed just everything about them. I wanted to be them. Phillip is really complex. His father is the local drug dealer and his mother abandoned him as a child. His life was dark and it made him the way he is. I’m not that guy.
He returns to the tribe and they don’t respect him and he doesn’t respect them but he has to return to his roots. His father made mistakes, his mother made mistakes and he feels the repercussions. So there are reasons why he’s the way he is.
M&C – The show has many layers, there is a lot going on.
JM – I directed a film about American Indians that’s coming out in July called “Road to Paloma.” It’s about the Mojaves, the American natives and a crime that takes place on a reservation. I learned the language, the traditions, the dances and songs and customs, and it was about a good man. In the case of “The Red Road,” I wanted to do the polar opposite on this series about a guy who is not someone you could be proud of. He’s layered and complex and he’s such a head case.
M&C – Your partner Lisa Bonet is in “The Red Road” and “Road to Paloma.” How does she figure in “The Red Road”?
JM- She plays Sky Van Der Veen who Phillip knew at school. They grew up together and she had a crush on him but he didn’t know because they never talked. They both left town and she became a lawyer. She comes back to defend the Ramapo tribe in its bid to be recognized by the Federal government, and gets involved in the case of the young boy hurt by a hit and run driver. She is the opposite side of the coin.
M&C – There is so much depravity in the series, it’s kind of scary. How do you cope?
JM - You’ve seen two episodes? Oh my gosh, wait until you see the rest. Your jaw will drop. When I was reading the script my jaw literally hit the floor. Some of the scenes were really creepy but I just separate myself from it. It’s fun to play.
Jason Momoa Stars in The Red Road
Premieres on Sundance Channel US and Canada
Thursday February 27th at 9 p.m