National Geographic announced today its new limited series Barkskins will premiere this Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, at 9/8c with back-to-back episodes over four weeks. Barkskins examines the mysterious massacre of settlers in the vast and unforgiving wilds of 1690s New France that threatens to throw the region into all-out war.
Likely suspects abound — the English, the Hudson’s Bay Company and a band of Kanien’kehá:ka (Iroquois) possibly in league with the English looking to drive the French from the territory — but who or what brought these settlers to such a tragic end?
National Geographic’s new eight-part series, created by Elwood Reid and based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Annie Proulx, transports viewers to the wild frontier of the late 17th century. Barkskins is set in Wobik, a small settlement in what is now the Canadian province of Quebec.
As the Catholic Church sends Jesuit priests to convert the indigenous people, France sends indentured servants to populate its territory, along with “Filles Du Roi” (“Daughters of the King”), young women to be matched with husbands, start families and help the colonies prosper. This disparate group of outcasts, rogues and innocents must navigate brutal hardships, competing interests and tangled loyalties at the crossroads of civilization: 1690s New France.
“Barskins is a primeval story of survival and the quest to build a civilization out of the endless forest,” said Reid, creator and executive producer. “The settlers who’ve come to seek their fortune in the vast and unforgiving ‘New World’ – the landless poor, street urchins, religious seekers, rapacious traders and the penniless young women hoping to marry into land and wealth – are met with the brutal reality of their dreams as they attempt to carve their place in it.
“They find themselves in the forest of the world, a dark and uncaring place, long settled by indigenous nations who view their arrival with disdain, and a recognition that an alliance with these disparate newcomers is increasingly necessary for survival.”
The series tells a thrilling story of exploration, adventure and ambition among dreamers and fighters – some with a utopian vision of the world, others crass and conniving, but all navigating the perils of a treacherous new frontier. As tensions escalate, unlikely alliances are forged, old antagonisms deepen and new families are formed against the seemingly endless natural riches and hidden dangers of the new American continent.
Barkskins‘ depiction of the collision between civilization and commerce is timeless, as is its spirit of adventure, natural wonder and survival of the fittest.
Premiering globally in 172 countries and 43 languages, the historical fiction limited series hails from Fox 21 Television Studios and Scott Rudin Productions, and is based on the bestselling novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Proulx.
The series stars David Thewlis as Claude Trepagny, Marcia Gay Harden as Mathilde Geffard, Aneurin Barnard as Hamish Goames, James Bloor as Charles Duquet, Christian Cooke as Rene Sel, David Wilmot as Constable Bouchard, Thomas M. Wright as Elisha Cooke, Tallulah Haddon as Melissande, Kaniehtiio (Tiio) Horn as Mari, Lily Sullivan as Delphine and Zahn McClarnon as Yvon.
Series creator Reid (The Bridge) also serves as showrunner and executive producer. Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men), Garrett Basch (The Night Of), Eli Bush (Lady Bird), David Slade (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) and Proulx are also executive producers.
Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel The Shipping News and the story collection Close Range. Her many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize and a PEN/Faulkner Award. Her story Brokeback Mountain, which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film.