More than 200 people showed up at a casting call for the pilot of a new television series on Tuesday.
Local novelist Chuck Greaves and well-known television and film director Félix Enríquez Alcalá of Mancos teamed up to create a television series set in contemporary Montezuma County, called “Badwater.” It focuses on intergenerational conflict, environmental issues and the relationship between Native Americans and white residents in a town on a reservation border.
Greaves and Alcalá will produce the pilot independently in October, then plan to shop it around to networks.
“We never get to see stories like ours,” especially stories “set in places like this and accurate to the American Southwest,” said local actor Taylor Trujillo, who auditioned at the Mancos Community Center.
Alcalá emphasized the television show would film exclusively in Montezuma County.
Kaldurion Pinnecoose and Vansan Viceuti, members of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, went to the casting call to become involved in the production as a writer and a camera operator.
Pinnecoose said he hoped the show would “bring to light the lifestyle we live that you don’t see on television, and the relationship between the different communities.”
If the show is picked up, Greaves said they want to bring a Native writer into the writers room to help develop the show.
“I hope they get as many perspectives as possible for an accurate representation of the ethnic cultures that live here,” Pinnecoose said.
Damon Davidson stood in the long line wrapping from Grand Avenue around North Main Street with a group of friends hoping to get roles.
“Even if we don’t get parts, it will bring income to the town,” Davidson said, as well as tell a story that represents Native American life in Southwest Colorado.
By noon Tuesday, Alaska Native Kirsten Langmade was waiting with 100 others for a chance to audition in front of the writer and the director. She said the television show was exciting because it is a “way for Native people to get their voice heard” and a way to “bring awareness to reservations in the Southwest.”
Her mother’s village didn’t have running water until 2010, so a story about environmental issues on reservations “struck home for me,” she said.
Lyndell Chee, who auditioned with his son, Micah Chee, grew up in Western Colorado near Egnar, and his father was a uranium miner. His parents died of cancer from being near the mines, so the idea for the show “Badwater” resonated with him.
As an actor, he’s seen the film industry in the area explode, particularly in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. With COVID-19, the film industry is “trying to stay away from major cities,” and Southwest Colorado is “beautiful and isolated.”
The two lines down Grand Avenue separated actors with resumes and headshots on one side and people new to acting or production on the other. Both lines were longer than Greaves and Alcalá anticipated. One man played his banjo for about a half-hour to entertain people as they waited.
Hopeful actors and community members entered the community center lobby one by one to have their picture taken and read a brief dialogue from the pilot episode in front of Greaves and Alcalá.
Many children auditioned as well. While there are not yet roles for young children in the show, Alcalá said it was possible they would have roles in the other episodes.
“We are collecting a bank of information, which is critical for us,” Alcalá said, particularly for later episodes. People with and without acting experience were asked to read the same dialogue.
The community members that auditioned ranged from a police officer to an archaeologist to Durango City Councilor Barbara Noseworthy.
The casting call was scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, but by midday Alcalá guessed they would have to stay longer to see the remaining people still waiting under the hot sun.
Joanie Leonard of Four Corners Film helped Alcalá coordinate auditions and handed out water bottles to people waiting in line.
Some residents were excited for the chance to be extras. Others hoped for speaking roles.
Durango resident Mason Harvey said he’s always wanted to be an actor, and he’s been involved in theater productions. The opportunity to work with Alcalá, who directed episodes of the television show “Breaking Bad,” is what drew him to the project.
“It would be huge to get to know him,” Harvey said.
Actor Angelica Kemmish traveled from Omaha, Nebraska, to audition for a role. The project is not only “very timely,” but it will also “increase the economy of a small town and put a spotlight on this beautiful area,” Kemmish said.
For Cortez resident Tara Walker, the community will be in the show no matter what, because it is filmed “in our home.”
Callback auditions will be held in October, shortly before filming starts. Material will be sent to those chosen in advance so they have time to review it before the audition.