I have been reading and reviewing Southern Bastards ever since Image Comics published the first issue in April 2014. In the 14 months since, the series’ writer Jason Aaron and its artist Jason Latour have crafted a suspenseful and harrowing tale of BBQ, football, and southern crime drama. Now, as reported by Deadline, the series is being developed for the television network FX. With Aaron and Latour, along with Scott Rudin, heavily involved in the development of this television series, I cannot wait to see how things pan out. However, developing a television series is very difficult work, especially when it comes to casting the right actors for all the rich and colorful characters the comic series has featured. With that in mind, we’re here to help them out with a little fancasting.
That’s right, I’ve pored over the pages of each of the nine issues Southern Bastards’ has encompassed so far, and I’ve picked out all the most important characters. Then I scoured my encyclopedic knowledge of actors–along with some assistance from the more encyclopedic knowledge of Wikipedia–and found those I feel could be just what this series needs to make it really shine.
Before you go any further, be warned: there will be spoilers from all nine of the issues of Southern Bastards which have currently been published. Don’t read below, if you don’t want to see those spoilers.
Nick Nolte as Earl Tubb
Earl Tubb begins the series as what could be termed a prodigal son, but he doesn’t quite enjoy the fact that he’s back in his hometown of Craw County, Alabama. In fact, he wants nothing more than to get the hell out and back to Birmingham. As the case may be, he ends up getting roped into a bit of a spaghetti western situation; wielding his big stick and walking tall like an amalgam of Roy Hobbs, Dirty Harry, and Buford Pusser.
Nick Nolte is a legend, having starred in films like The Prince of Tides, The Thin Red Line, and North Dallas Forty: just to name a few, but what made me choose him for this role is the film Warrior. It’s about two brothers who end up in an MMA fight against each other; the brothers are played by Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, and Nolte plays their alcoholic father. Fantastic movie, and Nolte really nails it as an older man trying to finally be a father to his grown sons who both resent him for his alcoholism. Being that Southern Bastards deals a lot with father/son issues, it seems like a great fit.
Michael Parks as Coach Euless Boss
Coach Boss is an asshole. We learned this in Southern Bastards‘ first arc “Here Was a Man”. We later learned he has lots of unfortunate reasons to be an asshole, but he is an asshole nonetheless. Besides being an asshole, he is also the coach of Craw County’s Runnin’ Rebs high school football team, and he rules the town with a gridiron fist, often dealing in murder, coercion, and BBQ. Thus far, he is the main antagonist of the series, and he carries the majority of its weight.
Michael Parks is another legend, and he has been working in film for 50 years. The stuff that I know him from, though? From Dusk Til Dawn, Kill Bill, Red State, and Tusk. He is an exceptional actor who can deliver dialogue like no other, which I’d imagine is why he has gained favor with such dialogue-friendly directors as Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and Kevin Smith. I would absolutely love to see him tackle (no pun intended… okay, maybe a little) this role. He’s 77, so the more physical scenes might be interesting, but fuck it; we’ll make it work.
I also considered Jon Voight for this role, and I’m sure he could easily do it. You know why I’m so sure? He basically already did in Varsity Blues. Now, when I first thought of him for the role of Coach Boss, I wasn’t thinking of Varsity Blues; I was actually thinking about how Showtime would probably be a good network for a television adaptation, and Voight came to mind because of Ray Donovan. When I remembered the Varsity Blues role, I was like, “Well, of course he would do well with Coach Boss…”
Danny Glover as Coach Big
In the series’ second arc “Gridiron”, Coach Big comes to a young Euless Boss’ aid and teaches him how to play the fuck out of football. Big is a ballboy, until Boss becomes head coach of the team–through unethical means–and makes Big the team’s defensive coordinator, a position Big keeps for several years, until he quite literally gets “too old for this shit”. Oh, and he also happens to do all of this while being blind.
Danny Glover is known as being the sane half of the Lethal Weapon duo, but honestly, my Danny Glover movie is Angels in the Outfield. I’ll fight anyone who says anything! Anyway, he’s also been acting forever, starring in movies like The Color Purple, Grand Canyon, and Blindness (also no pun intended). You’re going to laugh, but this is true: what made me think of Glover for this role is the movie Gone Fishin’, co-starring Joe Pesci. I think it’s the way the character dresses and how he stands. Anyway, I would be remiss if I didn’t include the fact that Glover is also a legend, so he could easily play this role, and I just want to see him more.
The first actor I thought of for this role was John Goodman, but he wouldn’t work for obvious reasons. I think my mind went to him because Southern Bastards is very akin to Coen Brothers’ films, and Goodman is a mainstay in those films.
Michael K. Williams as Sheriff Hardy
First, I’m pretty sure his first name is “Hardy”, but I don’t believe we’ve gotten his last name (if we have, I’ve forgotten it), so I’ve taken to calling him Sheriff Hardy. So, he’s the town plumber–no, he’s clearly the sheriff. We’re first introduced to him in “Here Was a Man”, where he tries his best to get Earl Tubb to just let things be the way they are. He begins “Gridiron” being instructed by Coach Boss to investigate Earl’s murder (which Boss and everyone knows doesn’t need to be investigated). He then begins the series’ third arc “Homecoming” as the central figure of its first issue, again being instructed by Boss to investigate a murder they both know doesn’t need to be investigated. This is a role, given Earl’s limited stay, that is primed to play a part for quite a while. Hardy has history with Boss, having been wronged by him in a similar fashion to how Boss was wronged by his coach, and appointed to his current role as sheriff. He has every reason to be bitter and depressed… other than the family he has at home, which he apparently doesn’t give a shit about. Very layered character.
Michael K. Williams is, of course, best known for having played Omar Little on The Wire. Outside of being an integral part of what is widely considered one of the best television series of all time, Williams has also starred in films such as Gone Baby Gone, Miracle at St. Anna, and 12 Years a Slave; as well as another critically acclaimed role on another HBO show Boardwalk Empire. He has the pedigree and the presence to potentially carry the series at some point in the future, if that is something in store for the character down the line.
Another option here was Erik King. The reason I ultimately didn’t go with him is like the situation with Jon Voight: he kind of already did a very similar role on Dexter. Quite frankly, every time I see Sheriff Hardy, I can’t help but think of King’s James Doakes; it just happens. King is a great actor, so he could also do this; I’m just not sure he or the show would want to have him always reminding viewers of Dexter.
Stephen Dorff as Esaw Goings
Esaw Goings is basically Coach Boss’ number-one henchman. He began his relationship with Coach Boss as a player under Boss’ supervision, having also been a teammate of Hardy. Goings now serves as one of Boss’ coaches (special teams, maybe?) but spends most of his time beating the shit out of/killing people who’ve crossed the Boss. He’s basically a terrible person, so it’s nice to see him get the shit kicked out of him by Earl Tubb a few times. I say that knowing the next issue (#10, as of this publishing) will feature Esaw, and if previous events are any indication, this issue will probably make me empathize with Goings on some level… but he’ll still be a dick.
Stephen Dorff plays these kinds of characters all the time. I know that sounds like a contradiction to the above statements about both Jon Voight and Erik King, but it’s not (that comes later). This is an instance of just knowing that an actor excels at a certain thing. Cecil B. Demented, Shadowboxer, Public Enemies: dude just does this well, so why not cast him? It doesn’t hurt that I will continue to believe Esaw was modeled after Dorff, until I’m definitively told otherwise.
John Hawkes as Olis Boss
Olis Boss is seen in “Gridiron” and plays a pivotal part in his son, Euless “Coach” Boss’ origin… I mean, other than just the usual “being his father” thing. Beyond that, Olis is a pretty terrible person and the main reason you, as a reader, begin to feel sorry for Coach Boss. Seeing what he was born into, he kind of did his best; unfortunately, his best is taking in his father’s criminal footsteps.
John Hawkes is fantastic. He’s had a bit of crossover with previous actors on this list, having also starred in From Dusk Til Dawn and Miracle at St. Anna. Hawkes has been acting since the ’80s, and I had seen him in things like From Dusk Til Dawn, Rush Hour, and The Perfect Storm, but the movie that really made me a fan was 2005’s Me and You and Everyone We Know, Miranda July’s subtle, quirky, and borderline mumblecore examination of falling in love. Ever since then, Hawkes has been on a tear, starring in the films: Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Sessions, and Winter’s Bone. You remember how I said contradiction was coming? This is it. Hawkes played a very similar character in Winter’s Bone, the meth-addict uncle to Jennifer Lawrence’s character. Frankly, though, I don’t care; that’s why this contradiction is here. John Hawkes could rock the fuck out of this role. Another option I had in mind was Clifton Collins Jr. He’s also played similar roles, and I also don’t care because I want to see him do more, and he could also rock the fuck out of this role.
Jeff Kober as Mozel
Mozel is basically Coach Boss during Coach Boss’ childhood. Mozel is running the town and is the one always treating Olis Boss like shit. What interesting–well, a lot about this character is interesting, but the main thing–is that Mozel doesn’t seem to be like Coach Boss. Mozel is more like Esaw in his actions (as well as his appearance). He seems too focused on his criminal business; whereas, when Boss eventually takes over, he seems to have more focus on the team. I think it allows him more of an opportunity to be a more presentable presence in the town–which, coupled with the importance of football, is likely how Boss managed to become as powerful as he now is.
Okay, so Jeff Kober is another willful contradiction. When I saw Mozel, I immediately thought, “He looks like Joe from The Walking Dead“, and Kober played Joe on The Walking Dead. It’s as simple as that. I’m assuming we’ll be seeing more of Mozel in coming issues, as we learn more about how Coach Boss came into his current power, and that means Mozel will be featuring heavily. Given Kober’s long career and roles on shows like The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy, he could easily play the role of Mozel, no matter how large or small it eventually is.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Roberta Tubb
Not much is known, as of right now, about Roberta. All we know is Earl spent all of “Here Was a Man” leaving her voice messages and wanting her to call him back. I hope so much those scenes remain in the television adaptation because we learned so much about Earl in what he chose to say to the, at the time, mystery person on the other end of the phone. She wasn’t able to call him back until it was too late. It wasn’t until the end of “Gridiron” that we finally learned Roberta’s identity, when we see her in active duty with the military. She’s is currently on her way “home”, presumably after having heard about her father’s death. I’m expecting two things: for her to be in Craw County by the end of the current story arc “Homecoming” and for her to kick all kinds of ass when she gets there.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw has done quite a bit in the past 10 years, from a small role on Doctor Who to the female lead on the Kiefer Sutherland series Touch, and lots of Shakespeare on the stage. She seems primed to explode in films, any moment now, and she was recently cast as Plumette in the upcoming live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, so that may be the big breakout role for her. I’m not sure of her ability to kick any ass, as I assume Roberta will be doing in the near future, but I’m sure she could learn. I mean, could Danai Gurira kick ass when she was first cast as Michonne? I don’t actually know the answer to that question, so I’ll just assume it’s “No”.
Louise Brealey as the Compson twins
I wasn’t going to include this role because the Compson twins haven’t really been a big part of the story, yet, but this list was too much of a sausage fest, and I’m sure the Compson twins will be more important in the future. Right now, all we know is they own the local bank and one of them was in a relationship with Hardy when they were in high school. That’s pretty much it for them, so far.
That’s right; two actresses from across the pond playing characters in a crime drama series set in the American South! Take that, The Walking Dead! Brealey is the star of Sherlock. Yes, I know: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, but Brealey steals every scene she’s in (which is criminally too few). She’s done lots of theatre, radio, and television in England, but not a lot on a global scale. She also had a bit part in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Honestly, if I could somehow influence just one of these casting decisions, it would be this one because I want this show to get her in more things, dammit!
Well, that’ll just about do it. What do you think about this casting choices? What are your casting choices? Let me know in the comments, so I can tell you how wrong you are and/or steal your ideas.