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HomeEntertaintmentMusicDavid Oyelowo talks about what drew him to Lawmen: Bass Reeves

David Oyelowo talks about what drew him to Lawmen: Bass Reeves

David Oyelowo talks about what drew him to Lawmen: Bass Reeves

Lawmen: Bass Reeves
Photo: Lauren Smith/Paramount+

Paramount+ seems to be promoting the heck out of Lawmen: Bass Reeves—its new show from Yellowstone mastermind Taylor Sheridan—but star David Oyelowo wishes people had done more to promote the actual Bass Reeves, and he hopes this show will make up for that a bit. The show is based on a real-life lawman who went from being a slave to being one of the first Black deputy U.S. Marshals after the Civil War (to say nothing of his powerful mustache). But history lessons being what they are (and favoring who they favor), there’s a good chance you never really heard about him.

Oyelowo certainly didn’t, at least not until 2014 or so when the idea of a Bass Reeves TV show or movie first came to his attention. That’s what he told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent chat, saying that one of the things that drew him to this man’s story was that “he wasn’t more widely known.” Oyelowo said he hadn’t seen a movie or a show about Reeves, so he developed an “obsession with rectifying that in some way.” If Reeves had been white, Oyelowo argues, “there would be monuments, there would be multiple movies, there would be graphic novels, everyone would be dressed up as hime for Halloween.”

He’s spent nearly a decade trying to change that, with Sheridan being a part of the project for most of that time, and he told THR that Hollywood was suspiciously reluctant to give Bass Reeves a shot: In 2015, everyone turned it down because “no one is doing Westerns,” and in 2017, everyone turned it down “because everyone is doing Westerns,” which made Oyelowo realize that “something funny” was happening. It wasn’t really until Sheridan proved that there was a big audience for this kind of thing with Yellowstone—and specifically its 1883 spin-off—that Oyelowo was able to actually get things moving.

Surely another aspect of that, which Oyelowo doesn’t directly acknowledge, is that the show has also been preemptively franchised. It’s not just a single, standalone show called Bass Reeves, it’s called Lawmen: Bass Reeves, which Oyelowo does say in the Hollywood Reporter interview is designed to leave the door open for other shows about other lawmen. But also it means that this is being sold (to both Paramount+ and audiences) as another Taylor Sheridan franchise. If you get on board with this and you get on board early, you could be set for life in terms of having TV shows to watch (or TV shows to advertise to people, if you’re Paramount+).

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