‘Godless’ Cast and Crew Answer Burning Questions, From Gunfights to Ghosts


[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from the Netflix limited series “Godless.”]

Scott Frank first conceived of “Godless” because he loved the Western genre. In an interview with IndieWire, he said, “It’s the romance of living in that time, everything from the horses to the guns. There’s a very romantic notion, the kind of surviving through all of that and living out there in those days. A lot of people look back on that and wish we were sort of there again, in many ways.”

“It’s not just the negative aspects, like the violence and sort of the being caught out in the elements. All of that are certainly part of it, but it’s also just the quiet, giant, empty spaces that we don’t have anymore, or we certainly don’t experience every day anymore.”

On Netflix’s limited Western series “Godless,” a sharp-shooter named Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell) flees from the gang of outlaws he used to run with and ends up in La Belle, a town populated mainly by women. As his erstwhile adoptive father Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels) tracks down Roy, the town must hunker down to prepare for the coming battle. Leading the women is Mary Agnes McNue (Merritt Wever), a widow whose brother Bill (Scoot McNairy) and whose husband had died in the mine.

“Godless” delivers some of the usual Western tropes such as a sequence for breaking horses and a big shootout at the end. But many other elements are more surprising. In a previous story, Frank revealed that La Belle is his fictionalized take on actual mining towns in which most of the men were killed. Below, he and cast members Jeff Daniels, Jack O’Connell, Merritt Wever, and Scoot McNairy answer burning questions about the series and reveal behind-the-scenes secrets on how it was made:

That Native American and His Dog

Scoot McNairy and Jack O'Connell, "Godless"

Scoot McNairy and Jack O’Connell, “Godless”

Ursula Coyote/Netflix

When Bill McNue follows the outlaws through the countryside, an older Native American from the Shoshone tribe pops up intermittently with his loyal dog to offer commentary. Near the end of the series, the Shoshone and the dog both appear again, at which point Roy tells Bill that the two were already dead. It’s not clear if Roy’s information is correct, but if he is, it calls into question what exactly Bill has been seeing — a vision or a ghost?

O’Connell isn’t sure what that means. “I don’t know whether it was just imagined,” he said. “I never really perceived him as an actual ghost, as we’d call it. I think it was a vision.”

McNairy is a bit more philosophical about the vision. “I just think that gives it the mystical element of the town,” he said. “Bill is a bit of a poet, sort of a deep thinker, it gives him a little bit of closure before heading into the Battle of La Belle.”

Meanwhile, Scott Frank, who also wrote the series, didn’t land on a definitive answer. “You don’t know if he’s a ghost or not,” he said. “The one who was sort of following him was also looking after him, protecting him. I wanted to give [Bill] someone to talk to. That guy just started showing up in my brain one day. He’s just one of those creative things.”

The Massacre Frank Survived


Jeff Daniels, “Godless”

Ursula Coyote/Netflix

At one point, Frank Griffin describes his traumatic childhood in which his family and many other families were attacked by white men masquerading as Native Americans. While most of the 100 or so family members were killed, a handful of kids were spared, including Frank, who was then raised by one of the men who perpetrated the massacre. Although this incident gives insight into Frank’s twisted view of the world, it was actually inspired by a true event.

“I wanted a guy who was good but was also running from his past, and I had read a lot about the massacre at Mountain Meadows where they massacred the Fancher party when they were coming from Arkansas,” said Scott Frank. “This is a very controversial massacre because the Mormons were ultimately responsible, but for many, many years until very recently, they said they weren’t responsible and they blamed it on the Paiutes who were duped into being involved with that.”

“[The Mormons] massacred their families, and stole all the property of the richest wagon train in U.S history at the time,” he continued. “It was full of all kinds of gold and livestock and they stole it all and they let about [17] of the children live, and raised them as their own kids until someone came down from Arkansas came and got them. But I kept thinking, what if they forgot one of them? And that would be Frank.”

Scott Frank added, “There’s a great book by Sally Denton called ‘American Massacre’ about the massacre in Mountain Meadows. [It’s a] beautifully written book, and she had all this great dialogue in it, these great quotes from the actual guys who participated in the massacre. A lot of that I gave to Frank.”

The Chaotic Shootout

Michelle Dockery and Merritt Wever, "Godless"

Michelle Dockery and Merritt Wever, “Godless”

Ursula Coyote/Netflix

It’s pure pandemonium when Frank Griffin’s gang faces off with the women of La Belle holed up in the only building that can’t be burned down. Besides everyone shooting from every possible vantage point (including Mary Agnes from the roof of the building), in the middle of it all a couple horses storm the building, one makes it up the stairs and jumps out of the building, and then Bill and Roy even walk into town and start shooting.

“Me and Michelle Dockery were up on a roof so we were literally above the fray,” said Wever. “They also built a fake roof lowered down for when the horse comes up and stuff like that. That [was the only] one special effects shot when we were on the fake one. So, we got to see all the choreography and it was really a sight to behold. It was beautiful. It was really impressive.”

Since McNairy was in the thick of it, he had a completely different experience. “We took two-and-a-half, three weeks to shoot it,” he said. “It was crazy with all the fans and the smoke and the dust. It got to a point where you could shoot for the first 30 to 40 seconds, or something like that and then you couldn’t see anything. And then you’d stop, let it clear and start it back up again. With that being said, seeing the final version of it, how they pieced it together, it was definitely worth it — a great payoff.”

Bill’s Desperate Act

Scoot McNairy, "Godless"

Scoot McNairy, “Godless”

Ursula Coyote/Netflix

Bill McNue has been losing his vision, which makes his decision to leave La Belle to try and take on Frank Griffin’s gang seem like a suicide mission.

“[Bill and his wife] had an amazing relationship. He lost her during childbirth, and that’s the root of the relationship he has with Trudy. It’s his daughter and he loves her, but he always blames her for his wife’s death,” said McNairy. “I think, all in all, the death of the wife, as well as the crumbling of the town, and collapsing of the mine… he’s beaten.”

“I think Bill’s lost. He is clawing at his last stance to be somebody, to do something that’s memorable and to do something good before he can’t see anymore,” he continued. “He just sort of sees the future of his own existence evaporating slowly cause he is losing his vision. He also sees the world around him, the town around him starting to fall apart. He’s frustrated he can’t see, he doesn’t know what to do with this.”

How Jeff Daniels Played a Man With One Arm

Jeff Daniels with Russell and Matthew Dennis Lewis, "Godless"Godless

Jeff Daniels with Russell and Matthew Dennis Lewis, “Godless”

Ursula Coyote/Netflix

After Roy shoots Frank Griffin in the arm, the wound is serious enough to require amputation (and subsequently, riding around with the severed limb tied to his saddle). While most of the series Jeff Daniels is able to disguise his loss of limb more easily with clothes and angles, in the final showdown in the meadow with Roy, Frank removes his shirt so that Roy can see the stub of his arm.

Read More: ‘Godless’ Spoilers Review: Let’s Talk About Jeff Daniels, the Women of La Belle, and That Glorious Gonzo Gunfight

“We had a green sleeve that wore in the meadow,” said Daniels. “In New York in May — I didn’t show up to the set until September — I went downtown to do a big life cast of the arm. So they built the false arm. They also built a stub. I don’t remember if I strapped that. I don’t think so. I had to just basically tuck from behind and tuck here like that in the meadow, and then with a computer, they would do it later. We had a special effects guy worked with me there: ‘You gotta hold it like this, not like this, otherwise we can’t make it work.’ The hard part was you get to the arm amputated in Episode 1, so you’re doing a lot of horseback riding with one arm.”

The Best Cowboys in the Cast

Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Scoot McNairy, "Godless"

Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Scoot McNairy, “Godless”

Ursula Coyote/Netflix

While Daniels had to learn to ride a horse with his balance compromised, McNairy had an easier time of it having grown up in Dallas.

“I grew up riding horses as a kid and I grew up in Texas,” he said. “I felt very comfortable on the horse, and it was definitely more so that I was excited about than I was hesitant about.

“Guns are always something I’ve always been familiar with and been around and practiced gun safety and whatnot,” McNairy added. “Regardless of what you think, when you get there and you start working with people that this is all they do, there’s a plethora of education that I got from working with the horse wranglers as well as with Joey Dylan. And also the history he knew of all the revolvers and guns, what certain times they came out, and why this person would carry this particular weapon, was all incredibly informative as well. The guy knew the entire history of steel.”

O’Connell had perhaps the biggest challenge among the cast. Roy Goode was a true gunslinger who had incredible aim — such as when he shot the snake that was about to bite a baby — but also had a way with horses. When he’s working to break horses, there are many scenes in which he has to ride bareback.

“I just hung out with real cowboys maybe like two months prior to shooting,” he said. “The gunslinging stuff was pretty difficult — the twirling stuff, the gunslinging was pretty difficult. I just had to work at it.

“[Riding] was very difficult to begin with also,” he said, “because you’ve only really got the mane to hold onto. I had a couple falls, but I got off lightly. I just tried to hang out with these cowboy dudes as much as possible, and get a feel for it …roping cattle, and steering them, learning how to drive cattle, and stuff. It was not very [difficult], because I was just kind of following the lads that knew how to do it. I definitely struggled on my own.”

”Godless” is currently streaming on Netflix.

Jack O'Connell, "Godless"

Jack O’Connell, “Godless”

Ursula Coyote/Netflix

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‘Coco’: Michael Giacchino’s Score Unifies Pixar’s Día de los Muertos Saga



Music was integral to “Coco” as Pixar’s love letter to Mexico and Día de los Muertos tribute. “Everything musically comes out of this world like a tapestry,” said Pixar go-to composer Michael Giacchino, who reached back to his own childhood memories of Mexican music in crafting the score.

“Coco” concerns 12-year-old Miguel (newcomer Anthony Gonzalez), an aspiring guitarist from a rural Mexican town called Santa Cecilia, whose family of shoemakers has banned music. After borrowing the guitar from the tomb of his great-great grandfather and musical icon, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), Miguel gets transported to the Land of the Dead during Día de los Muertos, where he tries to reclaim his family heritage and return home with the help of trickster skeleton Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal).

COCO - Concept art by Armand Baltazar and John Nevarez. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.


Strategically, the Oscar frontrunner was organized by an organic melding of Giacchino’s flavorful score, traditional source music (popular songs indigenous to the region), and original songs (including the signature ballad, “Remember Me,” by “Frozen” Oscar winners Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez). It’s a winner.

A Personal Score

Giacchino was affected personally by “Coco” and everything in his score was road-tested on the guitar. But rather than starting with his usual musical suite, he immediately honed in on Miguel and Hector.  For Miguel, Giacchino came up with a joyous melody, in contrast to a waltz for Hector, whom he thought of as a traveling salesman.

“It took me back to my childhood in a couple of ways,” Giacchino said. “Listening to Mexican music that my dad had in his varied record collection, which was melodic, soulful, but told a story. And also because it was connected to family — your past, your heritage. That was a big thing in my family.

“We didn’t necessarily have an ofrenda [collection of objects], but my mother had pictures of every relative that ever existed up on this one wall,” added Giacchino (an Oscar winner for Pixar’s “Up”). “And I never thought about that at all until this movie. So it was a chance for me to explore — and almost correct — that moment in my life where I wish I had paid more attention.”


The buoyant Miguel leitmotif progressed into two family themes, Giacchino said, one devoted to remembrance and the other to a more expansive one about family in general: “You have to explore your own self to do it and that can be uncomfortable sometimes. It’s not fun feeling sad but it’s important.”

Instrumentally, Giacchino worked with songwriter-composer Germaine Franco, who co-wrote additional songs with “Coco” co-director Adrian Molina (including the upbeat “Un Poco Loco”). They used a guitarrón, folkloric harp, a quijada, sousaphone, charchetas, jaranas, requintos, marimba, trumpets, and violins. This enabled the score to play off a range of Mexican musical styles.

The Sounds of Mexico

Meanwhile, for the authentic source music, Molina, Franco, and musical producer-arranger Camilo Lara went to Mexico to soak up the diverse sounds found in town squares and plazas in the cultural capital of Oaxaca.  They encouraged local musicians to riff on such popular songs as “La Llorona,” “La Petenera,” and “La Paloma,” mixing familiar mariachi with banda (brass and percussion), jarocho (folk combos),and peteneras (African rhythms and Spanish guitars).

“We tried to pick several songs that were particular to the region, and also songs that told stories, and, texturally, we wanted to have a big variety,” Lara said.

NO MUSIC – In Disney•Pixar’s “Coco,” which opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2017, aspiring musician Miguel challenges his family’s generations-old ban on music, spending time with a local mariachi. But his grandmother Abuelita promptly puts a stop to it. “Coco” features Lombardo Boyar as the voice of the mariachi, Renée Victor as the voice of Abuelita and Anthony Gonzelez as the voice of Miguel. ©2017 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.



“It was fascinating to watch all the layers come together,” said Giacchino. “For me, it’s about the idea that your life should be lived looking with one eye to the past, one eye to the future, to remember who you were, where you’re going, and who you could be.”

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John Lasseter Allegedly ‘Groped’ Pixar Executives, and New Details Suggest Disney Knew of Sexual Harassment


New details have emerged about the alleged workplace sexual harassment by Disney/Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter, including evidence suggesting Disney knew of and worked around the misconduct. According to multiple sources who spoke anonymously to Deadline, the Pixar co-founder attended warp parties with a handler “to ensure he would not engage in inappropriate conduct with women.”

Citing “missteps,” Lasseter announced last week that he would be taking a six-month “sabbatical” from his role: “I especially want to apologize to anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of an unwanted hug or any other gesture they felt crossed the line in any way, shape, or form. No matter how benign my intent, everyone has the right to set their own boundaries and have them respected.”

On former Pixar employee recalled Lasseter’s “obsession” with the young actresses portraying Disney fairies as promotion for a line of Tinkerbell-themed toys. “He was inappropriate with the fairies,” she told deadline, referring to Lasseter’s lingering hugs. ““We had to have someone make sure he wasn’t alone with them.”

Another anonymous source witnessed Lasseter “pull [a] female executive tightly to him and move his hands over her body.” Visibly uncomfortable, the executive laughed it off at the time, joking that she didn’t think her job should include “being groped by John Lasseter.”

Following the earlier allegations, a Disney representative issued the following statement to IndieWire: “We are committed to maintaining an environment in which all employees are respected and empowered to do their best work. We appreciate John’s candor and sincere apology and fully support his sabbatical.”

Read the rest of the new details here.

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Mariska Hargitay and ‘I Am Evidence’ Want to Eliminate the Rape Kit Backlog


When Mariska Hargitay landed the role of Detective Olivia Benson on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” she had no idea that it would turn her into an activist for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. But in 2017, almost two decades after the long-running show began, she’s helped spearhead a mission to eliminate the rape-kit backlog in the U.S. — and has produced a documentary with HBO and her former SVU coworker Trish Adlesic called “I Am Evidence” that helps bring the issue to light.

“What ‘SVU’ has done is really started a conversation,” Hargitay said after a screening of the film at the International Documentary Association’s annual screening series. “Half of my fan mail says, ‘I wish you are the cop on my case,'” the actress confessed, tearing up.

That’s why she started her Joyful Heart Foundation in 2004, and why, when she found out in 2009 that there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits just sitting in storage rooms across the country, she made the elimination of that backlog her main mission.

“I’ve seen this film many times and each time I’m so humbled,” she said at the Q&A. “I feel so incredibly privileged, especially at this moment in history, to have a part of igniting change [and] sparking the conversation [and] continuing the conversation and hopefully being a part of how society responds to sexual assault and domestic violence. That’s what we sought to do here.”

Rape is the only crime in which collected evidence isn’t investigated — and the attitude toward victims is generally unhelpful, Hargitay and Adlesic said. Not only are they angling to eliminate the testing backlog, they’re also hoping police and medical professionals are better trained on how to treat victims.

“The rape-kit backlog is just a perfect microcosm for how women and these crimes are regarded, and so through excavating and digging you really see those victim-blaming attitudes,” Hargitay said. “It’s painful to watch, but it’s something that needs to be uncovered and a big, bright, bright light needs to be shined on it, so that’s what we’re hoping to do. In this watershed moment we’re hoping that the tides turn.”

The film follows several women whose rape kits went untested for years, and Adlesic, who directed the film alongside Geeta Gandbhir, said that’s why it took three years to make.

“It took a long time to build trust,” she said. “I think after people have been so horrifically let down by the very entities that are in place and paid for by our tax dollars — to trust anyone isn’t easy after sexual assault, but then to trust a filmmaker where you don’t even know what’s the intention, are they really going to get it right?”

Even just speaking about their experiences, however, seemed to help the women process what had happened to them, said Hargitay.

“One of the things that people underestimate is the power of bearing witness…and it’s been incredibly powerful for survivors to have their voices matter,” she said. “The healing power in being heard, having someone listen to you, believe you…that cannot be underestimated.”

Watch clips from the Q&A below:

“I Am Evidence” will premiere on Dec. 8 at LA’s Laemmle Playhouse, and will be broadcast on HBO in 2018.

The IDA Documentary Screening Series brings some of the year’s most acclaimed documentary films to the IDA community and members of industry guilds and organizations. Films selected for the Series receive exclusive access to an audience of tastemakers and doc lovers during the important Awards campaigning season from September through November. For more information about the series, and a complete schedule, visit IDA.

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