“Dark Winds,” AMC+ and AMC’s new miniseries, brings back Tony Hillerman’s bestselling Navajo murder mysteries.
It’s the early 1970s, the period when Hillerman wrote and set them, where Tribal Police officers Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee collaborate on crime solving while navigating racism and bigotry.
This dynamic duo are the stars of 18 Hillerman Navajo novels. Previously they’ve been portrayed in the Robert Redford-produced 1991 movie “The Dark Wind” and a three-part PBS series over a decade later.
Zahn McClarnon (“Westworld”) is now Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Kiowa Gordon (“The Twilight Saga”), Jim Chee.
Kiowa Gordon stars as Jim Chee in ‘Dark Winds.’ Photo Credit: Michael Moriatis/Stalwart Productions/AMC
“Jim’s a real go-getter. He basically assimilates into white society and goes to college — he doesn’t go to ‘Nam.
“But when he comes back on the reservation, it’s a conflict,” Gordon, 32, said. “When he left this place, he thought it was for good. Now it’s opening up these old wounds.
“As he’s going along, he has these ambitions to be Number One, Special Agent — but then he finds himself conflicted again. He’s met Joe and really he’s trying to find himself. He’s having an identity crisis and gets to a point where he’s going to either turn his back on all of it or he’ll see who he is.”
There are no doubts about Joe Leaphorn, McClarnon, 55, said. “He is an original American hero with dignity, decency and a moral code. His task is to solve this double murder and bank robbery and try to mend some of his own trauma and personal wounds from the past.
“It’s a beautiful journey that Joe goes through, trying to heal from the death of his son and now navigate a new relationship with this young deputy Jim Chee, who becomes like a new son to Joe.”
Gordon notes the appeal of not updating the story.
“I got this (vintage) El Camino and it’s amazing to see these old roads where not a lot of infrastructure is built. You had to have a lot of skill to survive in that time.
“And because we don’t have a lot of technology, like the forensics we didn’t have, to do our detective work, analyzing things, everything moves like a snail’s pace.
“Also, we don’t have cell phones! I think it’s more endearing for an audience to watch that and not just have this kind of a cop-out to be, ‘Oh, everything could have been solved so much easier if we had the technology of today.’
“It’s great to be true to the time and place in the novels.”
“Dark Winds” streams Sunday.