Comic Book Casting: The SCALPED Television Series

It doesn’t have to have cowboys to a western. Nor does it have to be set in the 1800s.

Following in the lines of other contemporary westerns like Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia and the El Mariachi movies, the comic series Scalped eschews the stereotypical western storyline and instead carved a new line right up the gut of Native American portrayals in western fiction. Although still possessing the hallmarks of the western genre with a rebellious lead character, American desert landscapes and gun battles, Scalped focused on the modern-day lives of a tribe of American Indians living on a reservation and dealing with their faltering society, rampant crime and their place in American cultural quilt of life.

Earlier this year creators Jason Aaron and R. M. Guéra brought the series to a close at its 60th issue, telling a twisting sidewinder of a story about Daishell Bad Horse and the people of the Prairie Rose reservation. And now with it done, it’s an excellent, albeit overlooked, goldmine for a potential live-action adaptation.

The Concept:

Like the Biblical story of the prodigal son gone bad, Scalped follows an undercover FBI agent named Dashiell Bad Horse who returns to his hometown to weed out the corruption that’s gripped it for decades. His family has a long history with the movers and shakers of Prairie Rose, especially the omnipresent authority figure Lincoln Red Crow who acts as sheriff, president and owner of the local casino. It’s one half Carlito’s Way and one-half a classic Peckinpah story, and an ideal source for a gripping television series.

And in television there have been a spate of westerns cropping up, from the more classic Hell On Wheels to more contemporary ones like Justified and Longmire. But doing a show with a primarily Native American cast could be troublesome on paper, but I (and I hope readers) learn through doing this at the startling array of actors available that could make Scalped a television reality.

The Showrunners:

Telling a story like Scalped and doing it both authentically, brutally and engagingly, is a tough task. To do that, I’d pair feature film director Jim Jarmusch with one of the main writers and executive producers of Sons of Anarchy, Dave Erickson. Erickson is a key part of running SoA second only to Kurt Sutter, and just as Sutter graduated from The Shield into doing his own show with SoA, so could Erickson. As for my choice of Jarmusch, I’d point directly to the excellent film he did with Johnny Depp, Dead Man, and his later film Ghost Dog. Both show a brutality, but also an adherence to facts not only in set pieces but in approach. I’d love to see Jarmusch pair with Erickson to create a collaboration akin to Frank Darabont and Gale Ann Hurd on The Walking Dead or the way Walter Hill set the tone in Deadwood directing the first episode for David Milch.

The Cast:

Dashiell Bad Horse – Michael Spears: Dashiell is a unique kind of character, a firebrand and someone who brings about change — not unlike fellow Vertigo stalwart Jesse Custer. To play this role in a serialized television drama, I’d turn to Sioux actor Michael Spears. Spears might be best known for his role as Otter in 1990’s Dances With Wolves, but since then he’s grown to be more than just a child actor but a great character actor as seen in Into The West and as a tribal police officer in the indie feature Imprint. Spears is one of those actors waiting for that breakout role, and I think playing Dashiell could be the best thing for him and for Scalped.

Lincoln Red Crow – Graham Greene: Arguably one of the most popular Native American actors in modern cinema, it helps that Graham Greene is also a great actor. Like Spears he was an alum of Dances With Wolves (and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor), but it’s in his larger body of work that I found reason to cast him here. His role as an inmate in The Green Mile, as Ishi in The Last of His Tribe in the two Coyote Waits movies really shows a broader depth than just being the stereotypical wise Native American. Greene has a significant onscreen presence that I’d to see twisted and turned as Red Crow, and his ties to the American movie-goers would make this a must-watch portrayal.

Gina Bad Horse – Irene Bedard: Dashiell’s mom Gina plays a key part in Dashiell’s return to the reservation, but Gina has a significant role and arc of her own in the series. Irene Bedard would be a great choice for the modern-day scenes, referencing her work in Into The West and also voicing the lead character in Disney’s Pocahontas movie.

Agent Nitz – Robert Knepper: Ever since I first noticed Robert Knepper in Prison Break, I’ve been fascinated by his work. Cut from a similar cloth as Walton Coggins, Knepper plays it with a bit more ire and brimstone. He might not fit Nitz’ character on paper in terms of age, but I think it’d be worth expanding horizons to get someone like him on this.

Officer Falls Down – Adam Beach: The only good guy in a town gone bad. Falls Down was one of my favorites in Scalped, and seeing Adam Beach step into that would be some inspired casting. I first noticed Beach in Flags of our Fathers, and enjoyed earlier cop role in Law & Order: SVU.

Carol Ellroy – Q’orianka Kilcher: This was the hardest role for me to cast, with me finding several choices that were never quite right. That is until I remember Q’orianka Kilcher’s performance in Terrence Malick’s The New World. She’s had small parts on TV shows like The Killing and Sons of Anarchy since then, but like Michael Spears seems to be waiting for the next big leap to a higher pedigree of gig. Kilcher would have to play a bit more down-and-dirty than she’s used to in previous roles, but I’d love to see her sink into that and make it work.

Diesel – Kevin Durand: Flipping through Scalped in preperation for this edition of Comic Book Casting, I was riveted by the way R. M. Guéra drew Gina’s boyfriend Diesel. Not quite hero and not quite villain, I’d love to see Kevin Durand step out of his type-casting as a straight up bad guy and play this more nuanced role.


  1. This may be my favorite iFanboy casting yet. I could see each of these actors nailing the heart of their characters… actually has me really excited to see that movie. Dammit.

    (I don’t remember Diesel being Gina’s boyfriend?! Is that right? He always seemed to be one of the most straight-up bad guy characters to me. But I read it in issues & have forgotten a lot.)

  2. Perfect… While reading the series I kept thinking Graham Greene would be amazing as Red Crow. I also think Ron Pearlman could play the Sheriff of the neighboring town.

    • Eric Schweig is my choice as Red Crow… watch “Blackstone”, and some of the other movies he played roles in and you’ll see why… Ron Pearlman as Sheriff Wooster, nice pick, but to intelligent, in the comic he was a big bullshitter, said he was in Nam’, played College Football at Nebraska… But my first pick was Gary Busey, then somebody who was both Roscoe P Coltrane & Boss Hog put together. My pick for Carol Ellroy was Tonantzin Carmelo. But that role I have alot of choices… The choice for Gina Bad Horse is a excellent pick, because my first pick was Sheila Tousy, among others… Catcher played by Wes Studi, the only other choice…John Trudell. Graham Greene in my choices was to play the role of Dash’s dad or Red Crow’s friend who runs against him for Chief of the Tribe. Now we’re getting to the top…. Diesel, in my opinion would have been played by a lesser known actor, Christian Kane. I liked his acting in the TNT series”Leverage”. And he’s does have experience in other Native American films. But Kevin Durant is an amazing pick!! Fucking Kudos!! Now, the role of “Shunka”, has to be Rick Mora, I wanted a young Rodney Grant, but there are alot of Native American actors, something people didn’t know(like the Dumbass casting “The Rock” in a Native American role). And finally, my choice for Dashiell Bad Horse is… After I’ve personally met this man, My first choice,.. Chaske Spencer.

  3. Awesome article! I love all the choices and I see your reasoning for them but, I would like to see somebody playing Red Crow to be a little more intimidating. When I think of Red Crow I think of a bad motherfucker who’s got cold killer eyes and a larger than life presence. Red Crow is like Darth Vader and Tony Montana rolled in to a Native American badass. He is my all time favorite villian. I would love nothing more than to see this character portrayed on television.

  4. Perfect casting for what I think is the best comic series of all time.

    ManBearTed nailed it with his Ron Pearlman suggestion for Sheriff Karnow.

  5. You’ve REALLY outdone yourself this time, Chris. Every one of those is SPOT ON. Spears is PERFECT for Dash. I had to do a double take, as he looks a lot like the actor on Hell On Wheels. I did a quick search and found out that they’re brothers.

    I’ve long thought that Robert Knepper would be a perfect choice for Nitz, too. And my boy ManBeardTed hit the nail on the head with Pearlman as Wooster Karnow.

    I feel like even if this book did get picked up as a series, it might be subject to the same fate as “Terriers”. A brilliant show, but under-viewed and subsequently canceled. I don’t think America is ready for a show that doesn’t really have any white people in it, unfortunately. But boy does this article sure make me want to see a Scalped show more than ever.

    • “I don’t think America is ready for a show that doesn’t really have any white people in it, unfortunately.” Now that’s funny & your probably right, but “Blackstone” is a hit in Canada. I guess when I sat down and was reading the Graphic Novels of “Scalped”. My questions started off as… Vertigo is owned by DC, which is owned by Warner Bros. which in turn has many smaller studios that could produce this. Next Question, Would this be a series, mini series, really low budget/ no budget independent movie, straight to dvd movie, nice sized budget(tens of millions), or big budget($50 million+) movie? And if it was a series, how much violence can we see? Like, who would pick it up or be sold to… Showtime, HBO, AMC, FX… At this point HULU plus could do it. If it was one film, does it go to a studio like Twisted Pictures or do you put it the category as the other films Vertigo did, like “Red”&”Losers”? A lot of critics compare it to some other show, But I believe this will stand on it’s own, and even when there is a backlash from the Native community. This film,movie,series,mini-series would be an amazing film, just as the writing in the book. In my mind, the idea would come from Drama, Thriller, Suspense, and Action of an untapped world. Break stereotypes, cross lines, push envelopes, create controversy, and most importantly be directed by a Native American, starring Native Americans, and be Epic!!! The Influences for my version would come from, in no particular order… Robert Rodriguez, Quentin T., F.Gary Gray, Micheal Mann, Antoine Fuqua, Tony Scott, Coen bros., John Woo, Brian DePalma, & M.Scorsese. Just to give any person an idea… Thank You, Jason Aaron for the work you have done.

  6. It’s funny you referenced Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, because in my dream casting Warren Oates would play Nitz.

  7. If I could pick one series to make into a TV drama, is would be scalped. The western meets the sopranos. Man, this would be sweet.

    I want to see some more characters casted….

    How about Wes Studi (from last of Mohicans and others) as Shunka? And would play Catcher?

    • I think Studi would be good as Catcher, actually. I think he’s too old for Shunka (who I picture as closer in age to Dash).

  8. I was thinking Edward James Olmos for Red Crow, but this was an inspiring article. How great would it be if HBO put this together. OR AMC!

  9. Man I miss scalped.

  10. I made this fan poster a long time ago with “The Rock” as Bad Horse