A significant part of David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Bass Reeves in Paramount+’s Western series ‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves’ is the titular character’s horse riding. The show gloriously shows Bass riding his greyish-white horse through the valleys and wastelands of the Old West, chasing outlaws and executing the law. In the fifth episode of the series, Bass rides a horse during a storm, which makes the lengths Oyelowo went to perfect his performance evident. The actor trained intensively to learn horse riding for the show, aiming to portray the legendary character authentically!
Honoring Bass Reeves
David Oyelowo trained horse riding for more than a year to play Bass Reeves in ‘Lawmen.’ “The riding, I rode for over a year in practice for this and lots of different terrain and had to learn tricks,” the actor told Yahoo Entertainment. Dedicating his time and energy to perfecting the art of horse riding was one way of honoring the legacy of the lawman for Oyelowo.
“[…] because [Bass] was so proficient at that [horse riding], I didn’t want that to be a moment where the audience was second guessing whether I am someone the likes of which could do the things Bass Reeves could do. […] It was over a year of horse riding. Yeah. It was very involved, but that’s the least I could do to pay homage to who he actually was,” Oyelowo added. One of the difficult lessons he had to focus on involved rearing a horse. “I actually am doing that rearing of that horse [on the show poster], so that’s something I had to learn,” the actor said in the same interview.
The Lone Ranger-esque horse rear was an integral part of Bass’ appeal, which convinced Oyelowo to do it on his own. “I spent months practicing rearing a horse. I wanted the world and my 6-year-old self to see that specific shot,” the actor told USA Today. While training horse riding, Oyelowo also bonded with the particular horse Bass rides in the historical show. “[…] we put him [Bass] on a gray horse, a white horse, partially to wink at the audience for the possibility of [him being the Lone Ranger], but also because that’s a horse that David fell in love with during his training. It felt very synergistic,” creator Chad Feehan told TheWrap.
The Commendable Commitment
Feehan was mesmerized by Oyelowo’s commitment to his craft and character after witnessing the latter’s intense training sessions. “His [Oyelowo’s] dedication to his craft is not like anything I’ve ever seen. It’s something that I admire and aspire to, to be candid,” the creator told Us Weekly. The actor’s training period lasted around eighteen months while the rest of the cast was involved in a cowboy camp only for a week.
Learning to ride horses was not all for Oyelowo. In addition to mastering Bass’ Southern accent, the actor had to learn two Native American languages because the lawman was proficient in the same. “It’s not like French. I’ve heard a bit of French. German, I’ve heard a bit of German. This is just so completely outside of my day-to-day. They’re sounds I just have never made with my mouth,” the actor added to Yahoo Entertainment about the experience.