getTV Talks HAWKEYE — An Interview With Sarah Uthoff
Two decades before the American Revolutionary War, a heroic woodsman known as Hawkeye (Lee Horsley) patrols the Northeastern frontier of the New World. Born to white settlers and raised by Delaware Indians, Hawkeye and his foster brother Chingachgook (Rodney A. Grant) navigate the tensions between English and French colonists, hostile natives, and settlers yearning for liberty.
Into this simmering cauldron comes Elizabeth Shields (1970s Wonder Woman Lynda Carter) and her husband William (Michael Berry), proprietors of a new mercantile at a British fort. When William is abducted by Indians — thanks to his devious brother Capt. Taylor Shields (Garwin Sanford) — Elizabeth and Hawkeye begin the search to save him. But neither can deny their growing attraction for one another.
If you enjoy your gunfights with muskets, you’ll love the historical adventure of Hawkeye! And you can see what we mean every weekend, as getTV presents Hawkeye every Saturday and Sunday at 4p ET — part of our expanded Weekends Under the Big Sky lineup of classic Westerns!
Hawkeye was created for television by Kim LeMasters (Wild Wild West), produced by Stephen J. Cannell(The Rockford Files, The A-Team), and based on characters created by James Fenimore Cooper for The Last Of The Mohicans and other novels. And star Lee Horsley is already a favorite of getTV viewers in Guns of Paradise, which precedes Hawkeye at 3p ET!
For some background on this action-packed series, getTV recently spoke with Sarah Uthoff, a podcaster, writer, and historian specializing in American history. Sarah chatted with us from her home in Iowa City, Iowa. The following are highlights of that conversation, edited and condensed for space and clarity.
getTV: When and where does Hawkeye take place?
SARAH UTHOFF: It’s set in 1755 during the French and Indian War, in what is now the Hudson Valley of New York. It’s a very interesting and complicated time in history.
What was happening?
The French Empire and the British Empire were fighting over who was going to control the border area between what is now Canada and the United States. The French were primarily fur trappers, the British settlers tended to be more into farming than trading.
So, these were two international superpowers, living side by side in this New World?
Yes. And it’s not as if they were given a deed that said, “You get this land, and you get that land.” They were fighting over the land. And some of the Native Americans had made alliances with the British and some had made alliances with the French.
So, the conflict was between two foreign powers and multiple native tribes, all with differing loyalties. That’s a lot of drama!
Yes! And settlers who were living in what is now the United States were taking the first steps toward independence, which was only 20 years away. The Hudson Valley region is one of the places where they all ran up against each other.
What’s the literary pedigree of Hawkeye?
Hawkeye was a character in five novels: The Pioneers, The Last of the Mohicans, The Prairie, The Pathfinderand The Deer Slayer. The first book came out in 1823, and James Fenimore Cooper sort of wrote them backwards, from the end of the story to the beginning.
Is Hawkeye a prequel to Last Of The Mohicans?
It was more of the setup to that story, but it’s as if the character takes a different path. In the TV show he’s more settled.
Hawkeye premiered in 1994. Had the character been depicted in other movies or TV shows?
Hawkeye has long had an important role in American culture. His story has been told in multiple silent movies, classic films, a radio show, comic books and even a 1950s TV show. But the most well-known version today is the 1992 Daniel Day-Lewis movie.
How does Lee Horsley compare to previous Hawkeyes?
The Daniel Day-Lewis version of the character was younger, because the whole point of that movie was romance. Randolph Scott in the 1936 film was a little too Superman-ish for the role. Hawkeye needs more cleverness and less square jaw. Horsley shows more of the character’s range, with his cleverness and knowledge of nature.
Is the show historically accurate?
I really was quite impressed with the amount of effort they went to in recreating that world. They have the British fort, the Huron camp, the Delaware camp, plus the French who show up in quite a few of the episodes. But it is a TV show — and people’s hair did not look like that!
So, the average person living in the woods in 1755 was not as handsome as Lee Horsley or as gorgeous as Lynda Carter?
Definitely true. There was no conditioner in 1755!
Who does Lynda Carter play?
Her character Elizabeth was raised on a plantation in one of the elite families of Virginia. She married an older man who bought his younger brother a captainship in the British Army. The younger brother is resentful of how much money William got when their parents died, so he arranges for William to be captured by the Huron tribe. That’s something you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
Elizabeth seems very liberated. Is that an accurate portrayal for the time?
One reason that women went west was to have more freedom. For instance, Wyoming was the first state to give women the vote. That was because they wanted more women to come to Wyoming. Women had more freedom in the frontier.
You mentioned “going west.” It’s weird to think of New York state as “west.”
West moves. As time goes on, west becomes the Monument Valley west that we think of today. But when the country didn’t go that far, west is a lot further east!
Is Elizabeth a character in the books?
No. In Hawkeye, Elizabeth is elevated to co-narrator of the story. The books are pretty much from the male point of view. Women are there to be protected, not to drive story.
Hawkeye aired for one season. Does it tell a self-contained story?
Yes. The feel of the show is almost more mini-series than regular series. There is so much more of a sweep to it. But this is definitely a show about a war. There’s a lot of action.
A lot of action, but also lots of long, lingering glances between Lynda Carter and Lee Horsley.
Oh yeah, lots. And lots of good hair!