Outlander author responds to casting of actor with assault record
An actor with a history of domestic violence appeared in Sunday’s episode of Outlander as a Cherokee who thanks Jamie [Sam Heughan] for killing a former tribal member who “laid with his woman against her wishes.”
Will Strongheart, who played an English-speaking Native American named Tawodi in the episode titled “Common Ground,” was reportedly convicted in 2010 of two counts of assault causing bodily harm, according to CBC news. His criminal record resurfaced in April when his movie Indian Horse was set to hit theaters in Canada. In a since-deleted Facebook post, victim Melanie Rope detailed the assault and accused Strongheart of harming other women.
In an email response to CBC, Strongheart said, “I would like to address the story and photos that have resurfaced, and most importantly, offer my sincere apologies to those affected by my actions — especially to the women and their families who I have hurt resulting in pain and suffering that they did not deserve. To those I have wronged, and caused undue grief and anguish, I wish to extend the hope of reconciliation and healing with you.”
He also wrote how he caused “tremendous pain and trauma to women” while he was battling alcoholism and drug abuse. Strongheart, who calls himself an enrolled member of the Keeseekoose First Nation of Saskatchewan, told CBC that he has been sober since 2010.
A spokeswoman for Starz declined to comment about Strongheart, whose character tells Jamie “that is not our way” when speaking of the ex-tribal member who sexually assaulted a woman.
After “Common Ground” dropped on the Starz app early Sunday morning, fans went on the Facebook page of Outlander author Diana Gabaldon to question Strongheart’s casting in light of the #MeToo movement and to ask whether she knew about the actor’s criminal past. Gabaldon serves as a consultant on the Starz drama.
“I have absolutely nothing to do with the casting,” Gabaldon said in response to a fan. “Sometimes, they’ll tell me ahead of time who’s going to play a particular part, if it’s an important character and they want me to announce it here when whichever media outlet they/ve chosen break it, but not otherwise. And no, they didn’t tell me about any of the Native American actors except Tantoo Cardinal [who plays a healer within the Cherokee tribe].”
Gabaldon also went on to write that “naturally I don’t think it’s good that this happened. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask the production people to investigate the backgrounds of every actor they hire for a minor part.”
It is not customary for scripted shows to check the backgrounds of episode actors like Strongheart, who only appears in two episodes this season. Strongheart’s other credits include the role of Crazy Horse in the miniseries The American West and a part in TNT’s The Alienist this year. The CBS reported that Strongheart served 18 months time for his conviction.
To depict the Native Americans whom Claire [Caitriona Balfe] and Jamie encounter and ultimately befriend, production cast, flew in, and housed roughly 200 indigenous extras from Canada to portray the inhabitants of a Mohawk village, which was constructed in a public park in Scotland.
“It’s funny,” Executive Producer Matthew B. Roberts told EW. “Scotland has a right to roam, so we couldn’t actually close the park. You can only ask people to wait while we film. It’s an authentic Mohawk village that’s populated with people in costume. I remember a few dog walkers coming around the bend on a trail. They looked around like, ‘Wait a minute, what just happened?’ It’s almost like they touched the stones and went through time.”
Outlander airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Starz.