“It’s another piece of American madness,” Sam Shepard said today of Discovery‘s first scripted project, Klondike. “You know, another chunk of insanity that we carry around with us, regardless of whether it’s involved in technology or involved in trapping beavers.” In December, Discovery announced its miniseries about the Klondike Gold Rush of 1895, co-produced by Scott Free Television, eOne and Nomadic Pictures and based on Canadian journalist Charlotte Gray’s novel Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich In The Klondike. The script, written by Prison Break creator Paul Scheuring, tells the story of six strangers and their collective fight for survival and wealth in a small frontier town in the remote Klondike. Chris Cooper, cast in February as Father Judge — who has come to Klondike to atone for his violent past on a mission to save souls — exited in March after suffering a minor heart attack. Shepard replaced him.
One TV critic wanted to know if Scheuring was intimidated writing for actor-playwright Shepard. “I wrote it before I knew he was going to be Judge – it’s easy to write in a vacuum.” he responded. That said, Shepard “was willing to collaborate; he had his thoughts,” he continued, adding quickly, “It’s obviously an honor – he’s Sam Shepard!” Shepard didn’t think much of a question about the difference between wearing the “writer hat” and the “actor hat.” “Hats look exactly the same. There’s no difference between The Writing Hat and The Acting Hat,” he said dismissively.
A question about his “motivation” for taking on this role, and whether his motivation for accepting roles has changed over his long career, didn’t play too well either. “Yeah. I was out of work…the landlord was going to kick me out,” he responded.
Tim Roth, cast as the Klondike villain, had more to say about his thought process. “I liked the idea of playing a crooked real estate guy — it was an interesting concept to me,” he volunteered. “For me, there’s nothing really dark and deep — you just muck about, and then you hone in on things that seem to be working and flesh them out. I found him to be incredibly offensive, but also quite fun. And the humor aspect, even if only for my entertainment, that’s what keeps me going.”