Bass Reeves streaming series in the works; no word on film location sites

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 2,225 views 

Photo of Bass Reeves and his monument in downtown Fort Smith.

Paramount+ has plans to produce a Bass Reeves limited series as part of its “Yellowstone” spinoff “1883.” State and local officials are mum about any chance all or parts of the series will be filmed in or near Fort Smith, which was the home base for the legendary U.S. Deputy Marshal.

The streaming service’s plans for the project were announced Wednesday (May 18) by officials with MTV Entertainment Studios. Actor David Oyelowo was named to play Reeves in the series. His lengthy list of acting work includes “Interstellar,” “The Cloverfield Paradox,” and most notably portraying Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma.” Other companies announced as part of the production team were Taylor Sheridan’s Bosque Ranch Productions, Oyelowo’s Yoruba Saxon, and 101 Studios will produce.

Reeves was a U.S. Deputy Marshal under U.S. Federal Judge Isaac C. Parker. Reeves was born a slave in Texas in 1838 and died in Muskogee, Okla., on Jan. 12, 1910. Reeves was an African-American and illiterate, but captured more outlaws than anyone else, according to the book, “Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves,” written by Art Burton. Burton wrote that Reeves was an expert tracker and detective, and was able to memorize the warrants for every lawbreaker he was to arrest and bring to trial. Reeves was the first African-American inducted into the Great Westerners Hall of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City in 1992.

A 25-foot tall monument of Bass Reeves was unveiled in downtown Fort Smith in May 2012. It was created by sculptor Harold T. Holden. The larger-than-life statue of Reeves also includes his horse, Blaze, and his trusty dog, named simply “Dog.”

Christoper Crane, film commissioner for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said he was aware of the project but details about film locations were unknown.

David Oyelowo (photo from NPR)

“That project is not a public project for Arkansas yet,” Crane told Talk Business & Politics, adding that he could not discuss a timeline for when location decisions might be made by the production companies.

Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, declined comment on any talk about filming locations, but did say the chamber is working to be ready in the event western Arkansas and/or eastern Oklahoma are included in the production.

“The chamber is eager to work with the state of Arkansas and the film commission. We’re set to help make it happen if or when a project is announced,” he said.

Larry Foley, professor and chair of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas, and accomplished filmmaker and documentarian, said “there is always talk about a Bass Reeves film,” but with Paramount+ behind it he’s confident the series will happen. Foley said actor-director Taylor Sheridan’s involvement in the series is also a good sign. Sheridan’s directing work includes some of the popular original “Yellowstone” series and episodes of the “Mayor of Kingstown.”

“With Taylor Sheridan’s name tied to it, that’s big-time credibility,” Foley said.

Foley’s work includes a documentary of Judge Parker.