We all wish we could be involved with a production in some way, and that is why “Fan Casting” is so much fun. There are an endless list of candidates that every role is narrowed down from, but here, I tried to take some actors that I think would be good for the series, and cast them in some of the remaining roles that do not yet have an actor attached to them. I would just like to point out very clearly that this is MY opinion and thoughts, and these actors are not attached to the production in any way (though I wish they were!). This is my way of having some fun with Hollywood:
John Brown: Lance HenriksenAh, the eternal allure of abolitionist John Brown. Was he a half crazed extremist or a man ahead of his time, willing to go to any length in order to destroy slavery? Like all historical characters, how you define him is in the eye of the beholder. The storyline for To Appomattox will feature only a brief plot involving him, described as “intense” on their official Facebook Group. Had Charlton Heston still been alive and in his 50’s, this role just screams his name. There is something about his performance as John the Baptist in The Greatest Story Ever Told that draws a bit of a parallel between him and a more modern prophet in John Brown. But unfortunately, Mr. Heston is no longer with us, and I would like to see the task fall to Lance Henriksen, who played the title role in The Day Lincoln Was Shot. Put some messy gray hair on him, and you have a spitten image, so the only issue here would be acting ability. I said in an earlier post that his depiction of Lincoln was my favorite, however, everything that embodied that previous character would be the exact opposite here. Lincoln was soft-spoken, kind, and had a touch of humor. Brown was very stern, emotional yet humorless, and extremely outspoken. This would be the job for a veteran actor to undertake (might I throw out there that Stephen Lang also bears a resemblance), and if you look at Henriksen’s career, from historical roles to science fiction and futuristic, he could definitely be a candidate for John Brown.
Jesse Grant: Jeremy IronsOne might not think that the epitome of an English gentleman, Jeremy Irons, would be fitting for a series about 1800’s America, but being a huge fan of his work, I felt that I had to get him in here in some capacity. The character of Jesse Grant, father of Ulysses, would be the perfect place to insert him. The role is not too large, and gives Irons a chance to show his softer and more understanding side, which we have seen with his guest appearances recently on Law & Order: SVU. He can also be the rough-around-the-edges type, with roles in Die Hard: With a Vengeance, and my personal favorite, Tiberius in Kingdom of Heaven. I believe that he and Michael C. Hall, who is currently slated for the younger Grant, can develop some interesting chemistry together, and that would be the forefront of the elder Grant’s character in this series.
There may not be a more colorful character in the years leading up to the Civil War than its aging (and widening) commander-in-chief, Winfield Scott. While being nearly seven feet tall and three hundred pounds, while mounted atop a horse, he must have been a sight to behold. The actor I have selected for such a task? Stacy Keach, who has appeared already in a Civil War mini-series, The Blue and the Gray, back in 1982. He has also played that historical authority figure, when he tackled the role of Sam Houston in James A. Michener’s 1994 TV movie Texas. Keach, like Scott, has seen the days of when he was a lean, mean, fighting machine passed, and is now older, and yes, a little bit heftier. Okay, so maybe he isn’t 300 pounds of pure, unadulterated whoop-ass like Scott was, but how many actors are? There are not many people other than Keach who I think can step in and nail this role. He can play a funny guy too (The Assistants), which is something he might have to add to the character. There is something unintentionally funny about fat people in positions of power (I’m from New Jersey, so I know), and Keach, while not nearly as rotund as Scott, could keep the audience off-guard with a colorful rendition of one of America’s most celebrated military figures.
Originally, I had cast one of my absolute favorite actors, Terence Stamp, in the role of Edwin Stanton, but after some reflection, I felt that I needed to leave my old friend out of it for now. Stanton was not a huge man, but he certainly had a commanding presence in the room, if not for his brains, than for the fearsome beard he was sporting. He, along with J.E.B Stuart and James Longstreet, are the kings of beardom, which is why an always clean-shaven Stellan Skarsgard may seem like a mystery for this selection. Well, there is a method behind the madness, because Skarsgard too has a commanding presence in the room, as well as a very deliberate, almost enforcing style of acting, without being too overly aggressive. With Stephen Lang now officially attached to the production, we must now picture in our minds a bearded Skarsgard working with a much thinner, and soon-to-be lankier (thanks to the wonders of camerawork) Lang as Abraham Lincoln. These two could prove to be a formidable tandem, if only the Swedish-born actor can somehow manipulate Stanton’s Ohio accent.
You may be wondering, how can a man who portrayed a conniving, scheming husband who wants to have his wife murdered ever find himself as the esteemed President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis? Well, it’s simple: William H. Macy is a man who can wear many different faces, and portray many different characters. Aside from the fact that if you put a goatee on him, he would look like the real Davis (they share commonalities in their high cheekbones), Macy can master any role he is given, whether it be a fast-talking, BS-ing car salesman, and emergency room doctor, or a horse racing radio announcer. We have heard him speak with different accents, depending on the demands of his character, and have already seen him nail a Civil War related role, as Colonel Chandler in Andersonville. Thinking back to that helped seal the deal for me, to see him as Jefferson Davis, the once confident, but soon embattled and overwhelmed President of the Confederate States of America (very much like his Oscar-nominated fall from grace in Fargo).