“Outer Range,” the new Josh Brolin-led Western series from Prime Video, aims to twist the well-worn genre at its very roots. To showcase the land of the West in a never-before-seen fashion, the eight-episode series mixes in an element of the supernatural, with mind-bending results.
“It took a very simple, straight-forward genre and then it took extraordinary twists, whether it be metaphysical or whatever you want to call it,” Brolin told Variety at the show’s premiere at Hollywood’s Harmony Gold theater on Thursday night. “It’s uncertain because there are so many directions it can go, and a lot of them can feel really cliché. But I feel like we kept it grounded.”
Brolin serves as an executive producer and leads the cast, playing Wyoming ranger Royal Abbott. When Royal finds a mysterious black hole in his pasture, he and his whole family are sent spiraling. The series co-stars Imogen Poots as Autumn, a curious wanderer who camps on the Abbott’s land. The ensemble is rounded out by Lili Taylor, Tamara Podemski, Lewis Pullman, Tom Pelphrey, Will Patton, Noah Reid, Shaun Sipos, Matt Lauria, Isabel Arraiza, Olive Abercrombie, Morningstar Angeline and Diedre O’Connell.
Brolin hasn’t led a TV series in nearly 20 years, following 2003’s “Mister Sterling,” and he wasn’t planning on coming back until he received the script for “Outer Range.” The material inspired him so much because the story isn’t about the paranormal; it’s exceedingly rooted in the real.
“There’s an element of supernatural in it, but I don’t think it revolves itself around it,” he explained. “That’s not really at the core of the story. It’s what allows everybody to react, but it’s more about the reactions, than what happens in the supernatural.”
Taylor, who plays Royal’s wife Ceclia, echoed the Marvel and “Dune” star’s take.
“This sci-fi feels very real,” she explained. “It’s not so far away from our own experiences. A lot of it is happening with Josh, so it’s like we are experiencing with him.”
Creator and executive producer Brian Watkins explained how he worked to reframe the American West as we know it.
“I grew up out West, so the story is really personal for me,” Watkins shared. “The West is a place where you can walk up to the edge of a tree line and feel like you’re looking into another world.”
Teasing the show’s twisty premise, he added: “The supernatural came from from the land itself. We always say that the sci-fi in the show is not extra-terrestrial, it’s terrestrial. It’s very of the earth, it’s very of the land.”
Pullman, who plays Royal’s youngest son Rhett, also feels a special connection to the region.
“There’s something really spectacular and mysterious and peaceful and terrifying in the West,” he said. “In this show, we have a lot of philosophical questions being tossed around in an environment that maybe we haven’t seen them in. It’s a perfect kind of stage for that.”
Of special note is the series’ relationship with Indigenous identities. Podemski and Angeline play a lesbian couple in the series, and Podemski’s character, Deputy Sheriff Joy, is the first queer Indigenous American woman to run for county sheriff. Through their work in “Outer Range,” the actors aim to upend the racist norms that come with traditional Westerns.
“The Western does not include Indigenous ideas and truths,” Podemski said. “It served a function of conquering the West. There was a mythology to it. And this is really a neo-Western that is turning that mythology upside-down. I don’t think I could’ve gone into a traditional Western world. I’ve been fighting too hard in my fight for representation in television and in Hollywood. This is the work that I’m meant to do.”
Added Angeline: “A part of it is definitely reclaiming and trying to twist the genre. Natives don’t just have to be the horse-riders, but we can also be the other side of these things.”
“Outer Range” launches April 15 on Prime Video with the season’s first two episodes.
Pictured: Back row (from L to R): Amazon Studios’ Albert Cheng, Tamara Podemski, Morningstar Angeline, Lili Taylor, Shaun Sipos, Prime Video & Amazon Studios’ Ukonwa Ojo, Imogen Poots, Amazon Studios Head Jennifer Salke, Matt Lauria, Lewis Pullman, executive producers Heather Rae and Zev Borow, Amazon Studios’ Donna Rosenstein and Vernon Sanders.
Front row (from L to R): Executive producer Plan B’s Jeremy Kleiner, Amazon Studios’ Marc Resteghini, and executive producers Josh Brolin, creator/EP Brian Watkins, director/EP Lawrence Trilling and Robin Sweet.