Last week, I was asked to join the list of historical consultants for the upcoming mini-series To Appomattox. The series is being written and produced by Michael Beckner, who has been the driving force behind a number of popular movies and television series. The series is intended to focus on the people who fought the Civil War, and not necessarily on the battles themselves. The series has Ulysses S. Grant as its focus, but it is as comprehensive a look at the Civil War as any eight-hour series could hope to be. All of the major engagements east of the Mississippi River are covered, some in more detail than others.
There has been some criticism of this series because it will include cameo appearances by a number of NASCAR drivers and country music performers. I have to admit that I had some of the same questions then too, but I now understand. The NASCAR drivers and country music performers are all folks who have a deep and abiding interest in the Civil War, and many, if not most, of them have ancestors who fought. They’re enthusiastic supporters and participants in order to pay tribute to their ancestors, and I respect that motivation a great deal. None of them will have a major role; serious, talented actors like William Petersen will play the important roles.
The cast associated with this series largely consists of A-list talent. Again, many of them had ancestors who fought, and many are involved to pay tribute to those ancestors. As just one example, Bill Paxton, who is a well-respected actor, has been cast to play Stonewall Jackson. If you didn’t know the back story, that casting choice might be easy to criticize. However, when you learn that Bill Paxton had an ancestor who fought under Jackson in the Stonewall Brigade, then the choice makes a lot of sense. My understanding is that he asked to play Jackson as a result. I believe that may of the other cast members have the same or similar motivations.
Some of the best known names presently working in Civil War history have signed on as historical consultants for this series, including Ed Bearss, Gordon Rhea, Scott Hartwig, Mark Snell, and lots of others, and my good friend and writing partner, J. D. Petruzzi, is the primary historical advisor. All of us are determined to make certain that this story is told as accurately and as fully as possible within the operative parameters. I know that’s my primary motivation here, and I likewise know it’s J.D.’s because we’ve discussed it at length.
I have read the scripts of all eight episodes and have provided feedback on all. I can’t get into specifics, so I won’t. You will just have to take my word for it that I’m impressed with Michael Beckner’s devotion to getting it right and to telling the story as accurately as possible. In some places, some literary license sis needed to keep things moving along, and I’m sure that some hardcore Civil War buffs will be bothered by that. However, while I have pointed out a few things, I am generally very impressed with the level of accuracy involved and with how well Mr. Beckner has portrayed the interpersonal relationships between the key players to this Greek tragedy.
Filming begins in April and will continue for several months. The series is planned to air in 2013. I’m honored to have been asked to be part of it, and I have taken my responsibility of trying to insure that the story is told as accurately as possible very seriously. As more details become available, I will pass them along.Scridb filter