Bass Reeves: Sherrill Lynn is Based on Several Actual Lawmen

Sherrill Lynn is a deputy marshal who seeks Bass Reeves’ help to capture a criminal in Paramount+’s Western series ‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves.’ Lynn is a veteran marshal who has dealt with countless thugs, which has solidified his mind and compassion. While Reeves follows the marshal’s footsteps with consideration and empathy, the latter immerses himself in pessimism. Their contrasting approaches to life and law form a significant storyline in the series. Lynn’s arrogance, confidence, and strength make him an archetypal lawman, which makes the character rooted in a period in history we are familiar with.

A Combination of Real Lawmen

Sherrill Lynn is a fictionalized combination of lawmen who worked along with Bass Reeves in reality. Creator Chad Feehan and his team of writers researched extensively into Reeves’ life and conceived a character who represents the several law enforcement officers who were a part of the lawman’s career. Lynn thinks and acts exactly the opposite way of Reeves, which adds tension to the narrative, making the same “compelling” as Feehan envisioned. The second episode of the series offers a glimpse into their contrasting natures as Lynn tries to kill a wanted man on the run while Reeves tries to capture him without threatening his life.

“He [Lynn] is someone this job has chewed up and spit out. He throws himself into these battles hoping that he won’t make it because he’s seen it all and he’s lost it all. There’s a wild irreverence to Sherrill,” Christina Voros, one of the directors of the series, told Vanity Fair. This irreverence is what sets Lynn apart from Reeves, who joins the force with utmost vigor and enthusiasm. While Reeves accepts the challenges of being a marshal wholeheartedly, Lynn leads a life that’s the result of dealing with the same challenges for years. He has grown numb after fighting the “bad guys” and encountering death time after time, which enables him to burn a man down.

Two Sides of a Coin

Lynn and Reeves can be seen as two sides of a coin. Since the character is not strictly modeled after a single person or particular group of people, the writers did take an immense amount of creative liberty with the veteran marshal to depict how a person can be affected by the job behind the gun. “He [Lynn] is not worried about doing the right thing or saying the right thing or being the right thing,” Voros added. Reeves, on the other hand, believes that he is answerable to his own conscience, the God he believes in, and the people he serves. Through these contrasting character portrayals, the show succeeds in emphasizing what sets Reeves apart.

Although Lynn is a fictional character, he is the creation of the horrors that really existed in the country in the late nineteenth century. The presence of numerous outlaws that plagued the western and southwestern states during the period troubled law enforcement officers of the time. In reality, Reeves reportedly made around three thousand arrests during his career, which spanned decades. Such a number makes it evident that lawmen were constantly hunting down felons who must have threatened the former group’s lives. Lynn’s coldness is rooted in this life-and-death game he has to play every time he is up against a potent criminal.

“His [Lynn’s] state of mind has come from the horrors he’s experienced that have made him an angry, hateful person. So, he sets up very early on what this job can do to a person if one gives their life over to it,” Voros said in the same Vanity Fair interview. Therefore, the fictitious Lynn is integral to learning the reality behind Reeves’ engrossing and, at times, astounding true story.

Read More: Bass Reeves’ Family Tree: A Deep Dive into the Lawman’s Lineage