The cast of ‘Reservation Dogs’ deserves Emmys attention this year

The best thing about FX Reservation dogs is that depending on the episode, one of the four stars of the series – Devery Jacobs, D’Pharaoh Woon-A-Tai, Lane Factor, Paulina Alexis – could be in the foreground, like each of the young actors until Strangers have already proven their ability to anchor episodes with creators Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi’s distinctive blend of quirky humor and heartfelt heartfelt.

The Worst Thing About FX Reservation dogs, at least approaching the show through an awards-obsessed prism, is that it’s a pure ensemble, uninterested in inviting easy “leader”/”supporter” classifications and one without a single performance in small groups; they are four.

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One week, the spotlight is on Woon-A-Tai as a bear, whose search for a positive male role model leads him to comedic interactions with a kindly uninspired spirit guide or sadly pinning his hopes on his father. hilarious.

Then, next week, you’d think the show was built around Elora de Jacobs, mourning the recent loss of her best friend and the decades-old wounds of her mother’s death, with Jacobs deftly and emotionally in one-on-one with guest stars like Gary Farmer and Bill Burr.

Boasting perfectly sui generis comedic timing, Alexis gives each of Willie Jack’s lines a unique reading, and the “Hunting” episode, with the exceptional Jon Proudstar as Willie Jack’s father, is perhaps the richest of the first season.

And speaking of wonderful two-handed characters, Factor’s Cheese, seemingly able to bond with all the older characters, really blossoms in “Come and Get Your Love,” an episode he shares with the great Zahn McClarnon. as Big, who is part of the native police on their reservation. Obligate.

Together, the four actors and their instantly indelible personas form a group of well-meaning hooligans, committing petty crimes to get out of their seemingly hopeless community. They’re all shaped by a Hollywood they can’t really relate to — see the show’s cheeky title or Bear’s dad’s music or Elora’s. willow-inspired name – and looking for a connection to a tribal past that is either being assimilated or disappearing altogether. It gives each actor the chance to feign toughness and embody vulnerability in a way that’s universal to all teenage experience and entirely specific to Harjo’s Oklahoma roots.

Much of the credit goes to casting director Angelique Midthunder, who scoured the United States and Canada for Indigenous and First Nations actors. Reservation dogs is Factor’s sole credit. Woon-A-Tai and Alexis had been seen mostly on Canadian television and together in indie Beans. Jacobs has had bigger roles on shows such as american gods and Rutherford Falls, but it’s that part that has raised her profile to the point where she has a big Marvel series to come. Add discoveries like scene stealers Lil Mike and Funny Bone as local rappers Mose and Mekko, never-better Sarah Podemski as Bear’s hardworking mother, and so many underutilized Indigenous actors in top form, and Reservation dogs is exactly the kind of project for which casting awards should be given.

This story first appeared in a standalone June issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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