Playing the enigmatic “Father Benjamin” is a tricky balancing act for the Arizona-born actor.
Whether you call him Father Benjamin, the soft-spoken priest who tries to insinuate himself into a 1971 Navajo Nation community, or Hoski, the radicalized leader an extremist Native American group that resorts to robbery and murder while pursuing its goals, the complex character Jeremiah Bitsui portrays so impressively on the hit AMC series Dark Winds is one doggone slippery fellow. And that, Bitsui says, is one reason why he has enjoyed the challenge of playing the part.
Mind you, this isn’t the first rodeo for the Arizona-born actor — who, by the way, actually did grow up on the rodeo circuit with his competitive parents (mom was a barrel racer and trick rider, dad was a bareback rider). After earning his spurs with small roles in Natural Born Killers (1994), Into the West (2005), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), and other film and TV productions, he grabbed serious attention as another enigmatic character — Victor, the enforcer for a high-level drug distributor — on the AMC drama Breaking Bad. After that, he earned rave reviews for his performance as Sickboy, a self-indulgent incorrigible who tries to pull himself together and become a provider in Drunktown’s Finest, a 2015 indie film set in and around a Navajo reservation near the town of Dry Lake, New Mexico.
More recently, Bitsui has guested on Longmire and Yellowstone, provided the voice of Eagle Flies for the video game Red Dead Redemption II, played a continuing role on Bosch, and reprised his role as Victor for the series Better Call Saul. You’ll soon see him alongside co-stars Martin Sensmeier and MorningStar Angeline in Frybread Face and Me, the first dramatic feature directed by Dark Winds writer Billy Luther. Right now, though, you can see and hear him in the C&I Studio.
And no, your ears aren’t playing tricks on you: At one point, I do mistakenly address him as Benjamin. That should give you a good idea just how impactful he’s been on Dark Winds.