‘The Son’ Showrunner on ‘Carefully’ Depicting Race and War at the Turn of the Century

“It’s cheap to hide behind the curtain of historical accuracy,” Kevin Murphy tells TheWrap

The Son

AMC’s new drama “The Son” follows generations of a prominent Texas family from the 19th century onwards, who are embroiled in various bitter wars over land, power and resources at the still-new U.S.-Mexico border.

It’s a potentially-fine line to walk when telling stories from such an era, and the show — based on the bestselling novel by Philipp Meyer — did so “carefully,” according to showrunner Kevin Murphy.

“It’s cheap to hide behind the curtain of historical accuracy,” he told TheWrap. “Just because something actually happened a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s socially responsible to market it on television as mass entertainment, and I think we have to be very careful as a culture in how we approach it.”

When “The Son” starts, the younger version of Pierce Brosnan’s character, Eli McCullough (played by “Mud” star Jacob Lofland) goes through a traumatic experience when his family is slaughtered and he is kidnapped by the Native American tribe the Comanches.

“The Comanche are very tough, they’re very brutal and I think, depending on your perspective, they can seem very cruel,” Murphy explained. “That perspective broadens as the season goes on … when you meet the white Texas Rangers, the Buffalo hunters who are destroying the Comanche food supply, you meet the Tonkawa tribe, who were the longtime enemy of the Comanche, you sort of realize, oh, it’s not that the Comanche were so awful, it’s that world of the Texas North Plains is so horrifyingly brutal that this is the only way to survive, by being this tough and this draconian.”

The team employed members of Comanche Nation as consultants, and the show’s Native American cast members were also involved in discussions about various storylines, along with the show’s producers and directors.

One rape scene, designated for a future Season 1 episode, was cut due to these conversations.

“Even though it’s absolutely historically accurate that captives got raped, that’s just how it happened, in choosing what we select of all the different things we can show of the Comanche lifestyle, we realized we were leaning too heavily into the aggression on women,” Murphy said. “That was a case where if everybody didn’t feel comfortable enough challenging what we had on the show, we probably would have left it in. It was compelling footage, but it would have been wrong to leave that in. So I think we’re just trying to be really careful … Anything with violence with people of color, odds are we’ve had a lot of conversation about where our line should be.”

“The Son” will premiere Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.