National Geographic is looking to spark discussions about America’s history and revitalize interest in the country’s founding by its first European settlers.
“Saints and Strangers” is a two-part, four-hour movie that will air at 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22, and Monday, Nov. 23 on, NatGeo.
The movie follows the 1620 voyage of the pilgrims and adventurers to the new world. It tells the story of the 101 men, women and children – many of them Christians seeking religious freedom – who traveled aboard the Mayflower from England to America and their first Thanksgiving with Native Americans.
Two New Mexico actors are front and center in the movie. Tatanka Means is the war chief Hobbamock and the right-hand man to Raoul Trujillo’s chief, Massasoit.
“Raoul and I really bonded while we were filming,” Means says. “We would get together off set and learn the language we were speaking. It was important for us to be as authentic as we could.”
Filming took place in South Africa for just under three months.
Means says he was approached for the role earlier this summer and he immediately jumped at the opportunity.
“A lot of period pieces come across the table for Native people,” he says. “Not a lot of them were telling this story. It’s a story that hasn’t been told on screen, which is very cool. And Nat Geo always brings in a lot of quality with its projects.”
Means found out he was going to be speaking in Western Abenaki, a nearly extinct Algonquian language.
“It’s really cool that we’re shining light on a language that’s never been on screen before,” he says. “There are tons of efforts to preserve the language and hopefully this will spark interest in keeping it alive. I know I wanted to learn more of my language, which is Navajo and Lakota.”
Being on “Saints and Strangers” is another opportunity for Means to reach a broader audience. Over the years, he’s had dozens of roles in both local and national productions.
“I don’t think I would be here without getting started in film in New Mexico,” he says. “This role was especially humbling because the production sought me out for the role. All of the hard work I’ve been doing is paying off and someone’s taking notice. It means a lot to be from New Mexico and make the entire film industry proud. Working with Raoul, who’s also a New Mexican, is wonderful too. It’s been a blessing.”