HBO’s Deadwood premiered on on March 21, 2004 and left us way too early on August 27, 2006, after just 36 episodes. There was supposed to be a fourth season, but the mediocre ratings didn’t justify the expense, and HBO cancelled it. Efforts to bring back a shortened fourth season or a two-hour wrap up film never materialized, but for three seasons, Deadwood was groundbreaking television, not just for the lavish production values and incredibly performances, but for the language created by David Milch. It was a phenomenal series that elevated the stature of many actors and actresses who are still considered some of the best character actors around, and there’s hardly anyone in this case who we still don’t’ see regularly on our television sets.
In honor of its 10th Anniversary, I thought we’d take a look back at some interesting facts, not just about the show, but about the town of Deadwood, and the real-life people who inspired David Milch’s characters.
1. It’s not the best reason to watch Deadwood, but it’s a pretty good one: The word “f*ck” is used 2,980 times during the series (or 1.6 “f*cks” per minute). I can only imagine how many times the word “c*cksucker” is used.
2. There are so many brilliant characters actors in Deadwood, one of which is Jim Beaver, who played Ellsworth. The character of Ellsworth didn’t actually have a first name for a long time, and when they finally decided upon one, Jim Beaver chose Whitney, after Whitney Ellsworth, the producer of 1952’s Adventures in Superman with George Reeves (Jim Beaver is such a huge George Reeves nut, he served as a consultant on Ben Affleck’s Hollywoodland).
3. The Deadwood pilot was directed by Walter Hill, best known as the director of Warriors and Another 48 Hours, as well as the screenwriter behind Aliens. Hill won a Directing Emmy for the episode. Interestingly, before Walter Hill signed on, David Fincher had been attached to direct the pilot.
4. Below is the real-life Bullock Hotel, which was built by Seth Bullock, the lawmen and hardware store owner played by Timothy Olyphant. That hotel still stands today.
5. Seth Bullock hailed from Canada originally and married his wife Martha (played by Anna Gunn) in Salt Lake City, before they moved to Deadwood. As in the series, Martha left to live with her mother while Bullock tamed the violence in Deadwood. Interestingly, however, although Bullock witnessed Wild Bill Hickock walk into Deadwood in the series, Bullock didn’t actually move to Deadwood until the day before Wild Bill Hickok was shot dead. In fact, it’s unlikely they ever met.
6. As the series suggested, Jack McCall (Garret Dillahunt) shot Wild Bill Hickok. Why? In real life, because McCall felt insulted after Hickok beat him in a game of poker and then offered him some money to eat. However, during his first trial for the murder of Hickok, McCall claimed that he shot him because Wild Bill had killed his brother. McCall was found not guilty. However, the trial was thrown out because it took place in Indian Territory, and in the second trial, McCall was found guilty and hanged to death. Truth was, McCall never even had a brother.
7. The real life Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) was actually a much worse figure than the character on the HBO series. He lured women into Deadwood with the promise of good jobs as stage performers, only to turn them into sex slaves. He abused the hell out of them. After his saloon burned down for the third time, Swearengen finally left Deadwood penniless. He was killed trying to hitch a ride to Colorado.
8. If you’re curious about the fate of Seth and Martha Bullock, the lived very long lives (Seth died of cancer at the age of 70, while Martha lived to the ripe old age of 88) and were pillars of their community. In fact, Martha helped to have the Deadwood library built. Seth Bullock was actually friends with Theodore Roosevelt (and even rode in his 1905 inauguration), and unlike the Justified character that Timothy Olyphant plays, Seth Bullock never actually killed anyone. You’ll also be glad to know that Seth Bullock never had an affair with Alma Garrett, as she didn’t actually exist (and it’s unlikely that Seth Bullock would have ever cheated on his wife, anyway).
9. When the amazing John Hawkes, who plays Sol Star in Deadwood, told David Milch that he was not Jewish, Milch responded as such, according to Hawkes: “David asked me, ‘Have you ever felt shame or sadness or ostracized?’ I said, ‘Every day.’ And David said, ‘Then you’re Jewish.'”
10. Garret Dillahunt (Raising Hope) played two characters in Deadwood, Jack McCall (who shot and killed Wild Bill Hickok), and Francis Wolcott, an employee of George Hearst. However, Dillahunt originally auditioned to play Bullock, and after he failed to land that role, he was also nearly cast as George Hearst, a role that eventually went to Gerald McRaney.
11. Fourteen members of the Deadwood cast have also starred in Sons of Anarchy, so far. Ten Deadwood actors have appeared on Justified. Ian McShane also had a role in American Horror Story. Basically, FX is where Deadwood actors go to get work these days.
12. In real life, the two two favorite shows of Ian McShane, who plays Al Swearengen, are Family Guy and The Simpsons because they, as he said, “tell you what’s happening in the world. Best shows on television.”
13. I know I mention it every time I talk about W. Earl Brown, but someone new is amazed by this fact every time, so I feel an obligation to remind everyone that Brown — who played Dan Dority in Deadwood — also played Warren in There’s Something About Mary.
14. During this period in Deadwood history, there was so much gold that the average miner brought home $25 in gold per day. As a result, everything was incredibly expensive: A dozen eggs in 1876 Deadwood cost as much then as they do now (several dollars), and it was not uncommon for the miners to spend all their money by the end of each day on food, alcohol, gambling, and prostitutes. Deadwood at the time, however, was not a good place to find a wife: Men outnumbered women upwards of 200-1.
15. Finally, you have not truly lived until you’ve seen a Deadwood gag reel. The one below is from Season 3, and Ian McShane absolutely owns it. He is tremendous (skip past the first one minute, which is a silly Facts of Life mash-up).