Based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx, Nat Geo’s Barkskins follows a disparate group of outcasts and dreamers battling to escape their pasts while navigating the brutal frontier hardships of the New World. Nat Geo’s EVP of Global Scripted Content & Documentary Films Carolyn Bernstein talked to Cynopsis about how the team ensured a show set in the 1690s would be authentic – and why the story is so relevant today. The series debuts Monday, May 25 at 9p.
What lengths did you go to for authenticity? Why is that important to viewers?
Authenticity is paramount to National Geographic. From the set design to the costumes to the wigs, our showrunner Elwood Reid felt that authentic period details would help fully immerse viewers into 1690’s New France. Our production incorporated input from representatives of all the varied indigenous nations represented in our story, particularly those involved in language and cultural revitalization. Elwood and his team did a ton of research in order to accurately and sensitively portray the First Nations characters; two First Nations writers – David Treuer and Barkskins staff writer Migizi Pensoneau – were also closely involved throughout production to give us guidance and feedback.
What was Nat Geo interested in bringing this region and era to the screen?
While Barkskins is National Geographic’s first historical fictional series, Annie Proulx’s storytelling aligns perfectly with the qualities that we look for in scripted projects. It’s fact-based, wildly entertaining, and it deepens people’s understanding of the world and our role in it. Barkskins is set in the late 1690s in New France; European settlers came to this vast wilderness seeking their fortune, desperate to survive and prosper at any cost, clashing with the native population and plundering the natural resources of this Edenic world in the name of progress. Although the characters and events of our story are fictional, the backdrop is steeped in historical authenticity and opens a window to this fascinating but little-known era in North America’s history.
How do you think this show will resonate in a COVID-19 world?
We have an unexpected opportunity to air Barkskins now, while people are at home and actively looking for new content to watch. Barkskins’ depiction of the exploitation of the pristine natural world in the name of civilization and prosperity feels incredibly timely, as is its spirit of adventure and exploration. We can’t wait for viewers to tune in and see the layered, authentic and compelling world of Barkskins!