'Dark Winds' to blow into NM: AMC series to bring Tony Hillerman's Leaphorn and Chee to life

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Jul. 11—The Navajo Nation and Santa Fe will be the backdrop to the new AMC series, "Dark Winds."

The series has more New Mexico ties than just its location, the series is based on the Leaphorn & Chee book series by Tony Hillerman, and has New Mexico residents George R.R. Martin and Robert Redford signed on as executive producers alongside Tina Elmo and Vince Gerardis.

Santa Fe-based filmmaker Chris Eyre (Cheyenne, Arapaho) will helm the pilot episode, as well as executive produce.

Eyre is known for his Native film classic "Smoke Signals" and his work at The Film School at Santa Fe University of Art and Design before it closed.

"Over the past 25 years, it has been my goal to celebrate the telling of Native American-themed stories from a Native American perspective with characters we can all relate to," Eyre says. "With this television series and the support of AMC, the great Navajo Nation and George and Bob, we are creating opportunities behind and in front of the camera while making great entertainment in the beloved American Southwest."

"Dark Winds" is a psychological thriller that follows two Navajo police officers in the 1970s Southwest, as their search for clues in a grisly double murder case forces them to challenge their own spiritual beliefs and come to terms with the trauma of their pasts.

According to AMC, season one will include six episodes and is expected to premiere on AMC+ and AMC in 2022.

Starring in the series will be Zahn McClarnon and Kiowa Gordon as Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, respectively.

Martin jumped at the chance to work with Redford and Eyre on the project.

"Tony Hillerman was one of the greats, as every mystery reader knows. Down here in the Southwest, Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee are as iconic as Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Philip Marlowe, and Travis McGee," Martin says. "Our plan is to shoot in New Mexico, in and around Santa Fe and on the Navajo reservation, and we are bringing in as many Navajo and other Native Americans as possible, as writers, directors, cast, and crew, to capture all the magic and mystery and wonder of the Land of Enchantment."

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez is looking forward to having the production on the Navajo Nation.

"The Navajo Nation lifted more COVID-19 restrictions to welcome visitors and tourists back to Diné Bikéyah," Nez says. "We look forward to welcoming the film crew and we hope this will serve to draw more interest from production companies and draw more tourists to boost our economy and contribute to the 'Buy Navajo, Buy Local' initiative."

Redford, who lives in New Mexico, says he read his first Hillerman book in 1986 while filming in the state.

"Hillerman is a master storyteller, his writing is full of mystery and suspense, set amidst a background that blends traditional oral stories of Native American culture and landscape," Redford says. "I am happy to partner with George R.R. Martin and AMC on this project, and am especially grateful for the collaboration with President Nez and The Navajo Nation."

SEND ME YOUR TIPS: If you know of a movie filming in the state, or are curious about one, email film@ABQjournal.com. Follow me on Twitter @agomezART.

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