‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves’ Creator Chad Feehan Is Hopeful for a Season 2: ‘I Would Love to Tell That Story’

And yes, he also has plenty to say about the big reveal of Mister Sundown

Lawmen Bass Reeves
Paramount+

“Lawmen: Bass Reeves” just wrapped on Paramount+. And while the streamer has yet to announce whether it will be coming back for another season, the show’s creator Chad Feehan is absolutely ready to come back.

“I intentionally left some meat on the bone in case we got to this point. Bass’s life is so incredible and it’s so expansive, there is no way that we could hit every major benchmark in his life in 8 or 10 hours or else it would’ve felt almost like a procedural,” Feehan told TheWrap.

And noting the story of the real-life Reeves being forced to arrest his own son in part to save his life, Feehan adds, “I would love to tell that story.”

“Lawman: Bass Reeves” is based on the life of Bass Reeves (played on the show by David Oyelowo), a former slave who became the first Black deputy U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi River and has been cited as an inspiration for the Lone Ranger.

Following the finale, theWrap spoke to Feehan about the show’s mixture of western and other genre tropes, its unflinching commentary on racism and policing, working with Oyelowo — and the possibility of a season 2.

If you haven’t finished the season, consider this a spoiler warning.

The show is so interesting because it juggles so many tones and subgenres – there are vague supernatural overtones, elements of a serial killer thriller, so much. What was it like for you juggling all of that?

It could be challenging at times, but I was just always sort of led by Bass, like what is best for Bass, what is the best narrative to honor his legacy, what is the best arc, and so I recognized the tonal shifts that happen. But for us, I’m not going to say it was easy, but it wasn’t confusing, if that makes sense. It was sort of like, Okay, we know that we want to start with his enslavement, and then we know that we want to end with what the world’s about to revert back to and how do we carry Bass through that arc, essentially.

What was it like figuring out the character with David?

You know, David is the most dedicated craftsman I’ve ever been around, which is why I’m so excited he’s getting these accolades. I’ve worked with a lot of great actors but there’s something that reminds me of an athlete almost in terms of preparation in every conceivable element, taking those head-on, and, again, just completely submersing himself in, whether it’s his dialect, whether it’s the horseback riding, whether it’s the firearms, whether it’s the research that I obviously did a lot of, but he was right there with me finding these nuggets of historical record and then presenting them to me and be like, “Dude, this is horrifying,” or, “This is incredible,” or whatever.

To be able to create with somebody like him has been a highlight of my career, just because I don’t consider myself the most naturally gifted, but what I can control is how hard I work, and I found that in him as well, and that was a great relief to know that… It was a little embarrassing at times that there’s somebody outworking me but it was also a great relief to have him there and really know that he was as dedicated as he was.

Was there any aspect of this story that was really tough to crack?

Yeah, you know, some of the action sequences were tough to break. When you’re making a show, and we had enormous resources, I’m not going to pretend that we didn’t, but when you’re dealing with period and you’re dealing with animals, and you’re dealing with, as you mentioned, a show that takes place over the course of 15 years, you have to figure out how to be crafty with some of your action sequences. And economical. And you also wanted to pay homage to some of the written record that does exist. Some of those things were challenging. Figuring out the whole web sequence at the top of five was a challenge, wanting to honor that story, but also recognizing some of the embellished nature of it. I mean, the reins were shot out of Bass’s hand, and a button was shot off of Bass’s coat, and I don’t pretend that I’m an expert in firearms, but I grew up hunting because I grew up in Texas, and that’s impossible to do. And so trying to find things that were exciting and honored the story but also base it in realism.

It must also be fun though to engage in the more mythic aspects of the show, with a big siege towards the end of the season that is straight out of “Rio Bravo.”

Yeah, early on, the only actor other than David that I met with while we were writing was Barry Pepper. And Esau was sort of a kernel of an idea when I met with Barry, and talking to Barry and talking about some of the themes that we explore in the show, it really blossomed into becoming the big bad of the season. And early on, you mentioned “Rio Bravo,” which is a great reference, but early on, I was like, “What would it be like if Bass Reeves walked into Colonel Kurtz’s house of horrors?”

And that was what we were pushing toward. There’s obviously so many stories that we know of, what was happening to Black men and women as Reconstruction was ending, and one of those stories is the story of the Imperial Sugar Company in Sugarland using the convict leasing program to basically re-enslave Black men, and then in 2018, they were excavating some land in Fort Bend to build a school and found all these bones that belonged to Black men that were part of the convict leasing program. And so that was as stark of an example of reconstruction ending and where the country was headed with Jim Crow, and so we paid homage to that in a sense.

What’s great about the show, too, is that there are all these stars that pop up and disappear just as quickly so when Barry Pepper comes back towards the end of the season it’s a genuine shock.

Yeah. I mean, with Barry and Esau in particular, it was definitely intentional to sort of subvert the expectations to a degree about who we would see again and who Mr. Sundown was. You know, I’m proud of how effective it was. I was a little pessimistic about how successful it would be but I’m glad that it worked. And bringing characters in and out was partially to service the narrative, but it was also to subvert those expectations of Barry coming back and being the big bad.

In terms of working with these actors, I mean, I’ve admired Barry since 1996. I remember seeing “Saving Private Ryan” in a theater in Fort Worth, Texas and that’s one of my favorite movies ever. And he was such a presence in that movie that when I think about “Saving Private Ryan,” I immediately think about him praying as he’s about to take the sniper shot against the other sniper that’s in the tower. And he had such power and had such power effortlessly in that movie and it was a dream of mine to someday get to work with him and so when David suggested Barry as a potential actor in the show and asked what I thought about Barry, I was like, “Please, can we talk to him today?”

And then with Donald [Sutherland] and Dennis [Quaid], I grew up in the ’80s, so again, it was very surreal. One of my first movies that I remember watching on repeat was “Innerspace” and to be with Dennis Quaid was certainly surreal and I’m very grateful that they participated in the show and did such a good job with the roles that they had. And Dennis in particular, what I would say about him is that he brought a wink and a smile to the show that I think was desperately needed and I think he knocked it out of the park in that sense.

How are you feeling now about season 2?

If David’s game, I would love to do another season. I intentionally left some meat on the bone in case we got to this point. Bass’s life is so incredible and it’s so expansive, there is no way that we could hit every major benchmark in his life in 8 or 10 hours or else it would’ve felt almost like a procedural.

And so the story of his son, I would love to tell that story. I don’t know if you know, but his son, who’s the youngest in the show, Bennie, the little boy, he ends up arresting much later in life for murder and went and pursued his son because he was worried that during the era of Jim Crow, that he would be killed in the process of arrest, and so took it upon himself to peacefully arrest his own son and bring him into Fort Smith. That’s a story I would love to tell. There’s a Black outlaw named Bob Dozier who had a real cat-and-mouse-type relationship with Bass, that would taunt Bass, that I would love to explore that. There’s plenty of stories that I’d love to tell, and again, if David is game, sign me up.

You can watch all of “Lawmen: Bass Reeves” on Paramount+ right now.

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