AMC's 'Dark Winds' Actor Jeremiah Bitsui Talks Complexity of Character, Reveals Personal Inspiration Behind Role (Exclusive)

AMC's Dark Winds is a thrilling crime series with deeply complex characters, not the least of which is the series villain Hoski, played brilliantly by actor Jeremiah Bitsui. Recently, Bitsui sat down with PopCulture.com to talk about the series, including the complexity of his role. He also revealed some personal inspiration behind the way he chose to approach portraying Hoski.

Speaking about the role, Bitsui explained that Hoski "is a character deeply conflicted, kind of layers of trauma." He continued, "Things that we do see, it's very realistic to what we see kind of back home. A lot of the trauma goes untreated, so this is kind of what bubbles up from it. I think of it like a multi-layered cake. You have his childhood, which was kind of the first layer of trauma. He went to Catholic school. A lot of these boarding schools back in the good old days, you couldn't speak your native language. They were very... Let's say they reinforced in a very tough way behavior and assimilation. So his character had deep trauma from the abuse growing up and having to go through that, which was, again, very authentic, very real."

Bitsui added, "And then the next layer is him then going into Vietnam. So rolling all of that trauma and kind of PTSD, and then coming home and not really... That battlefield and that state of mind that he's still in, rolling that into to his everyday life. Which back home there's a group called the Buffalo Society, and he takes that lead and just runs with it, and has a plan, and has specific objectives. But keep in mind, this is kind of a ticking time bomb. His character is dealing with a whole lot and never got treated. So on a more social side, it's definitely something that's prevalent, I think, within our culture and within American culture, young men who don't really speak their feelings or ever get treated."

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Speaking about how his personal experiences informed the way he took Hoski from page to performance, Bitsui explained, "I grew up on the res up until the age of 10, and I think it's much different now, the Navajo Nation, with the problems that are being faced and the socioeconomic issues, but that's more objective. I guess, the subjective part, the part of his character and the minutiae of everything that's melding together, it's relatable in the sense that I think at this particular period of time, there's so much going on. I mean, I'm talking about in our everyday life currently here in America, I think there's so much going on."

He continued, "And to be where he is I could relate in a sense that there's all of these things that you're trying to deal with. And for me, there was so much in my personal life: adapting, new life, new things, and sometimes it's hard to just check in and feel where are you really at. And so on the militant side, definitely he has the training from being a veteran. He has that formal training. And he's implementing that into this Buffalo Society with his partner. They're very harshly kind of creating this crux, which isn't really about money. Money is not an objective of, 'Hey, we're going to go and sip pina coladas and sit on a beach somewhere.' They have a very deep mission of what they're trying to accomplish, and vengeance as well."

Finally, Bitsui shared that his uncle was Russell Means, "one of the founders of the American Indian Movement, and so I grew up knowing a lot of that. I don't know if I can say this, but there's times where I would be playing hide and seek in his house — I guess it's widely known — and there'd be fuses and other things that were locked away. But he was definitely militant and military-minded in that sense, and it had a lot of similarities. So I would say there's things that you draw from as an actor, real life, and then there's things that you, of course, can kind of allow yourself to create brand new and fresh. Dark Winds kicked off June 12 on AMC and AMC+, with new episodes debuting weekly on Sundays until the finale on July 17.