If you're looking for a new show to binge-watch over the holiday break, we highly recommend Godless.
Set in the 1880s, the limited, seven-episode Netflix series puts an interesting twist on the Western genre, bringing the women to the forefront and detailing the hardships Americans faced at the time in an original way. Featuring breathtaking cinematography and truly fascinating characters like crazed outlaw Frank Griffin (Jeff Daniels) and his protege turned enemy, Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell), it's hard not to find yourself enamored in the show from beginning to end… even if you're not typically a fan of Westerns.
Godless highlights the town of La Belle, New Mexico, whose male population was almost completely wiped out by a mining disaster, leaving the ladies in charge to fend for themselves and their families. Newcomer Audrey Moore, who portrays Sarah Doyle, tells ET it was "a dream" to pay homage to the Western frontier women, and be a part of an "authentic Western," one that doesn't glamorize the era.
"When Scott Frank first heard from his researcher many years ago that in the West, whole towns of women were left to fend for themselves after all the men died in mining accidents, he knew he had a story that hadn't been told before," she explained. "Women who survived the expansion of the West are my heroes. It's an honor to portray them and to bring to life their history and significance in our current culture."
"The notion that women were simply knitting and sweeping while they pined for independence is just plain inaccurate," she added. "Women were shooting, distilling whiskey, running businesses and keeping their families alive. It wasn't a novelty. It was the identity of the Western woman. She was fierce, brave and independent."
To prepare for the series, created and directed by Scott Frank and executive produced by Steven Soderbergh, the cast had to go through an intensive "Cowboy Camp," where they learned wrangler techniques from real-life cowboys. ET got a glimpse of what that was like when Netflix invited us to a special "The Frontier Is Female" event, where we submersed ourselves in "Godless country." From working with horses to rifle training to laughs they shared on set, here's all the behind-the-scenes secrets we learned from hanging out and chatting with some of the cast.
The Devlin twins, played by real-life brothers Russell and Matthew Dennis Lewis, had particularly big roles in Frank's crew, and were therefore expected to nail the training.
"I'd say I was a little better at the horseback riding," Matthew joked.
Russell chimed in, calling out his brother. "I mean, Matt was thrown off the horse during cowboy camp…"
"Only once!" Matthew exclaimed in defense. "We were trying to find chemistry with which horses we'd be shooting with, and that's not the horse I ended up with. But no, I had a little bit more experience riding than he did, so I was definitely a lot more comfortable, I feel."
"Everyone's horses had cool names like Apollo and Big John," he continued. "And I ended up with Butterscotch. But Butterscotch was the best horse on set. Best trained, best mannered. If you watch the show, you'll see I get pulled off the horse at one point. In a take they didn't use, Butterscotch actually nudged me and tried to help me get back up. It was the cutest thing ever."
Russell said that he was assigned to a few different horses: Ranger, who was "on the younger side" and "liked to act up a bit," H2, who filled in for Ranger when he was acting up, and Burt.
"I had one stunt where I had to ride a horse up the stairs," he explained. "They had a horse trained just for that."
As for the rifle training, Matt and Russell told ET they found that experience a bit easier.
"It was fun," Matthew revealed. "Our trainers were amazing, and informed us on all the different types of guns."
"We did a little bit of gun twirling, but not much because we were told our characters were deemed 'not smart enough' to do that," Russell noted, laughing. "The Devlin brothers would probably kill themselves… or shoot each other!"
Audrey chimed in, telling ET that because there were a lot of British actors on set, like Jack, Michelle Dockery and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, there was also plenty of dialogue training, which they completely mastered.
"I was so impressed by their dialects," Audrey marveled. "Even my family and friends from back home thought they were all from West Texas until they Googled the actors and discovered they were from England!"
"All the Brits were so charming and lovely on set," she continued. "I made it my mission to make them laugh, especially Jack and Thomas. It takes a lot to get a Brit to cackle, and I was determined to get audible laughter out of each of them as often as possible."
Read more from our Q & A below:
ET: It's every actor's dream to be a part of a Western. Now that you've gone through the rigorous training, would you say that's still true?
Matthew: Oh, for sure. It's like cop, astronaut, Western.
Russell: And we got to do it all ourselves! It was so much fun.
It's fascinating that the town of La Belle was actually built from scratch. What can you tell us about that?
Matthew: Yes, all built from scratch. It was amazing! It was like you were actually walking into an actual Western town. The whole town is fully functional. Like, it's weatherproof and all the interior is decorated with wallpaper. And it's still up. They left it there for future productions.
Russell: Everything felt very authentic and real. They did a lot of research on the female-driven towns in the West, and actually copied hundreds, I think thousands, of letters from actual women at the time who were writing about these situations and experiences. That's where a lot of inspiration for the show came from, these letters real women wrote.
We have to talk about that final shootout scene in La Belle. It's remarkable. What was it like filming that? Were you happy with the way it turned out?
Russell: Yes, just amazing. It took us about, I wanna say like, a week and a half.
Matthew: It was just a crazy experience, having 30-40 women in a hotel, 30-40 guys on the street. It was a lot, it was intense!
Russell: It was quite the experience. It was one of those things where you're like, “Wow, this is actually happening.”
Matthew: Plus, there's horses, people falling, running. It was just full chaos. And we had the loveliest view from the dirt!
Fans who've already binge-watched the series have mixed feelings about whether Godless should come back for a second season. Where do you stand on that? What would you like to see for your character in season two?
Audrey: I would love a season two and I know all the ladies would, too! We’ve been dreaming of it since we were on set filming together. I would love to see what happens to La Belle in the wake of the aftermath -- what will become of the town and their relationship to the Quicksilver Mining Company. I know lots of people online also want to know what happens to Alice Fletcher [Dockery] now that she's found a little something on her property.
There are so many storylines that I know people want to see more of, and I would just burst with joy to see what becomes of my character, Sarah Doyle! She's hilarious and yet she finds a real strength and vulnerability at the end.
Matthew: I would love it, regardless whether we're in or not! But it was originally written as a film, then a one-off, limited series, and I think it achieved what it was meant to achieve. If it was to continue on into a second season, I think it should still focus on that strong, female storyline.
Audrey, we hear you and the ladies of La Belle have a text chain going on. What do you guys talk about? What are you all really like off-camera?
Audrey: Oh my goodness, we do have a text chain! How did you find out about that?! We talk about everything -- we are a bunch of ladies after all! The ladies are simply awe-inspiring, both on and off screen. We all felt like we were at camp.
The biggest surprise is probably Michelle and how hilarious she is. Most people don't realize this about her, but she's one of the funniest, silliest and most mischievous ladies I've ever met. People always ask me how she is in real life and I have nothing but profound love and admiration for her and how she welcomed all the girls. She always invited us all out to drinks and dancing and we tore up that little square in Santa Fe. When you’re a lead on a show, you really do lead it in the way people treat each other on set. Our group bond is a direct effect of her graciousness.
You're originally from New Mexico. How fun was it to be in your home state and show the cast and crew around?
Audrey: It meant a lot to me. I showed them where to get the best green chili and I took many of them to the local Native American reservations to buy jewelry and take part in the native food and culture.
Everyone is talking about Godless' amazing landscapes. Who knew New Mexico was so beautiful? What was it like actually being on set, racing the clock to capture those perfect settings?
Audrey: It was remarkable. Often we'd be filming and look out into the remarkable sky and think, “That landscape is doing all the work for us.” Our cinematographer, Steven Meizler, really took every opportunity he could to capture the right scenery for the right shot. He's an incredible craftsman and artist and it really helps tell the story of the frontier.
It's beautiful out there on the frontier, but it's also dangerous. I would often think to myself, “It'd be so easy to die out here if you were unprepared.”
In more Godless news, the nominees for the 2018 SAG Awards were announced on Wednesday, with Jeff Daniels scoring a nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries.