Deadwood was a vulgar, violent, and fascinating look at the Old West. The HBO series was set in the titular lawless town that was filled with dangerous individuals looking to make their fortunes at any cost.
The series is filled with interesting characters, many of whom are based on real people from this era. There is Al Swearengen, the foul-mouthed and murderous saloon owner. There's Seth Bullock, the angry yet noble lawman. And, of course, there’s Calamity Jane, the drunk and short-fused legend. With all these amazing characters, there are plenty of hidden details that add to the enjoyment of rewatching this epic series. Here are some of the hidden details about the main characters of Deadwood.
10 Wild Bill's Death
Wild Bill Hicock is one of the most famous figures to appear in Deadwood. The former lawman is a significant character in the first season seen at the end of his life. He is finally killed by a man named Jack McCall who shot him in the back of the head while Hicock played poker.
Hicock's real death occurred in much the same way, even down to the hand of cards he had at the time of his death. A character mentions Hicock had a pair of black aces and black eights. Following Hicock's death, that hand was known as the “dead man’s hand” and is considered bad luck.
9 W. Earl Brown
W. Earl Brown plays Dan Dorrity on the show and is another great character and performance. Dan is Al Swearengen's most trusted associate and shows that he is willing to do the ugly things needed to maintain their power position in Deadwood. He is also a character with a lot of heart despite being capable of violence.
Aside from playing Dan, Brown is also the only cast member to have also written for the show. He is credited as the writer of Season 3 episode entitled "A Constant Throb." Given the quality of the writing on the show, this really speaks to Brown's talents.
8 Sol Starr's Political Career
Sol Starr is one of the more level-headed people on the series. He seems to spend most of his time diffusing situations and trying to calm irrational people down. He has to first deal with his partner, Seth Bullock, who is known to lose his temper. Then when he starts a relationship with Trixie, he is often forced to put out her many fires.
Though Sol makes an unsuccessful run for mayor of Deadwood, that proved to be just the start of his political career. As Al suggests a career in politics to him, it is a nod to the fact that the real Sol Starr became mayor and later a state senator.
7 Garret Dillahunt
Garret Dillahunt is one of the most underrated character actors working today. He has appeared in memorable roles in films like No Country for Old Men and 12 Years a Slave as well as countless television appearances. Dillahunt certainly seemed to make a good impression while working on Deadwood as he played two separate and significant characters in the show.
In the first season of the show, Dillahunt played Jack McCall, the drunken and pathetic man who cowardly killed Wild Bill Hicock. Dillahunt then returned in Season 3 as Francis Wolcott, an associate of George Hearst with a dark secret. Dillahunt even played a third role as a random drunk in Deadwood: The Movie.
6 Richardson The Cook
Richardson the cook is one of the few truly likable characters on the show. He is the dim but innocent employee at E.B. Farnum's hotel and is constantly insulted and demeaned by his cruel boss. However, Richardson’s childlike nature means he doesn't get angry and keeps his head down.
The unusual character came about purely by accident. Actor Ralph Richeson was an extra on the show who creator David Milch enjoyed greatly. He kept putting him in more and more scenes until he ultimately created a role specifically for him.
After starring as Seth Bullock in Deadwood, Timothy Olyphant would go on to play another lawman with anger issues in the excellent neo-Western Justified. Olyphant played Raylan Givens, a U.S. Marshal dealing with the various criminals and organized crime in Kentucky.
Olyphant must have enjoyed his time Deadwood because he brought a lot of his co-stars over to his new series in guest-starring roles. Sean Bridge (Johnny) played a man seeking revenge on a judge in Justified. W. Earl Brown (Dan Dority) played a convict in the middle of a hostage situation. And Jim Beaver (Ellsworth) played a sheriff with a hidden past, among many other Deadwood alum.
Jewel is another character on the show that is pretty easy to like. She is a disabled and mentally handicapped woman who works in the Gem Saloon. Though she is regularly insulted by people, including Al, she remains strong and proud. She is a refreshingly positive character and another one who was written into the show by chance.
David Milch happened to meet actor Geri Jewell in a cafe. After talking for a short time, Milch decided to create a role specifically for her, even naming the character after her. The result is a rarely seen and honest depiction of a disabled person from this time period.
3 The Hearst Legacy
Though there are plenty of bad people in Deadwood, the true villain of the series was George Hearst. The rich and powerful businessman shows up in town during the third season. As Hearst attempts to gain control of various gold claims in the area, he does not hesitate to threaten, injure or kill those who stand in his way.
George Hearst was known as a ruthless businessman but the show’s villainous depiction of him was largely fictional. However, the Hearst family name has made a lot of headlines over the last hundred years. William Randolph Hearst was famously the inspiration for Citizen Kane while Patty Hearst became infamous for her odd kidnapping saga.
2 Stories Of Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane is another famous Old West figure who appeared on the show and was one of the most memorable characters. She was portrayed as an alcoholic and angry woman who secretly had a kind heart. Jane was an easy character to cheer for despite her rough personality.
Although she was based on the real-life character, the show's depiction of Jane was largely fictional. She was said to have done things in her time in Deadwood that would make her decidedly less sympathetic. Actor Robin Weigert was even told to avoid reading the various legends of Calamity Jane since Jane was known to lie about her own exploits.
1 Al Swearengen's End
Deadwood is very much an ensemble show, it's hard to deny that Ian McShane as Al Swearengen steals the show. He is so gripping to watch as he fights with every ounce of his energy and against any adversary to stay in power.
In Deadwood: The Movie, we see a slightly more subdued Al who is on his deathbed. We last see him quietly passing away surrounded by loved ones. The real Al (who was really not a good person) did not have such a peaceful end. After his Gem Saloon burned down, Al fell into poverty and reportedly died trying to jump aboard a train.