Home on the Range Ain't What It's Cracked Up To Be
'Comanche Moon' closes out the 'Lonesome Dove' saga
An all-star cast of Val Kilmer, Steve Zahn, Rachel Griffiths, Karl Urban, Linda Cardellini, Elizabeth Banks, Wes Studi and Adam Beach team up in the six-hour miniseries "Comanche Moon," a prequel to author Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" saga, airing in three parts Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 13, 15 and 16, on CBS.
"Comanche Moon" opens with Capt. Inish Scull, Gus McCrae, Woodrow Call (Kilmer, Zahn, Urban) and their team of Texas Rangers pursuing renowned horse thief Kicking Wolf (Jonathon Joss). When Kicking Wolf steals Scull's prized horse, Scull sets off to track him down. But when Scull is ensnared in a trap set by the cruel Ahumado (Sal Lopez), can McCrae and Call bring Scull back alive, or will Comanche chief Buffalo Hump's (Studi) rogue son Blue Duck (Beach) get to them first?
Back home, ex-prostitute Maggie Tilton (Banks) is pregnant with Call's child; Scull's promiscuous wife, Inez (Griffiths), is having more than just tea; and Clara Forsythe (Cardellini) has to decide if she can love Gus.
"She knows he'll never change, and that's part of what she loves about him," Cardellini says. "He's a bit of a rambler. He's a Ranger at heart. He's never going to stay home and raise the kids, and that's something that she wanted. It's terrible for her because he really is her one true love, and I think she is for him as well. But their homes are in two different places. His home is out and about and being a hero and being a Ranger. And her home is somewhere with somebody who loves her and her children."
While Gus faces danger in the wilderness, things don't seem much safer at home for Clara and her family, as fatal illness and bands of Comanche are constant threats.
"Pioneer life as a woman -- that's a tough life," Cardellini says. "There's a lot of emotional stuff. And especially because it's a miniseries, you sort of have the highlights and the lowlights of each person's story, and so there's a lot of emotional stuff there."
There are also a lot of physical challenges. "One day I rode in a carriage that was being drawn by six or eight horses, and the carriage was very old," Cardellini says. "It was pretty authentic. And the feeling of horsepower is unreal. It is such a force. But it was awesome.
"Conditions were dusty and hot. We were wearing pounds of clothing, but it was fantastic, and it was really an interesting project to work on because it was such a different way to work and a different way of living back then."
Cardellini was more than willing to endure the hardships of pioneer life.
"I love Larry McMurtry. 'Lonesome Dove' is my favorite novel," she says. "I had to find out what was happening with Gus. I didn't want to leave that world or those characters. So when they asked me to be in the miniseries, any excuse to continue that life that I loved in the book is just a grand opportunity for me."
Interestingly, it was Cardellini's work on an entirely different kind of Western that led to her role in "Moon." McMurtry and Diana Ossana co-wrote the script for the Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain," in which Cardellini played a role.
"I just really grew to love them as people and as artists," she says. "And when they asked me to be in this, I was delighted, especially because Gus McCrae is one of my favorite character. And to be able to play the love of his life was really fantastic for me. It was really a dream role."